Let’s Level the Playing Field

Not that long ago, I was having a conversation with a friend about all the women’s achievements highlighted in the media recently. It probably had to do with the fact that we noticed it during March, which is generally a month of women’s celebration. After going down the rabbit hole of comments on social media, it got me thinking.

The fight for equal rights between men and women is unfortunately not a recent one. And although I wholeheartedly believe that equality is a great thing, I think that equity is even better. If you think that I am splitting hairs in four or always thought that the two were pretty much the same,  let me try and do my best to explain my reasoning.

Social Change UK, a social research and campaign company based in the UK,  defines the difference between the two concepts as follows: Although both equality and equity promote fairness, equality achieves this through treating everyone the same regardless of need, while equity achieves this through treating people differently depending on need. 

In more practical terms, let’s say there’s a box placed on a two-meter high shelf and my cousin and I are tasked with retrieving it. I am 177cm tall and she is 163 cm tall. To help us achieve our goal we are both given a 20 cm footstool. We are both being treated equally but I still have the same advantage over her I had before, and that is how equality works.

If we approach the same situation with equity in mind, we may be given the same opportunity but rather than giving us both the same height footstool she gets one that puts her at the same height I would be in with mine. That is why for me equity should always be part of the conversation. If we treat everybody equally it does work, but only to a certain point because it does not account for some of the individual difficulties that we may face, and that makes the journey a bit harder on some of us.

Going back to Women’s rights, asking to be treated to the same standard is not a threat to our male counterparts. Full disclosure I consider myself a feminist, although I sometimes feel weird saying it out loud, just because of the preconceived idea of what feminism is. According to Oxford languages, “feminism is the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes”. Plain and simple.

But like anything in life it can be interpreted according to people’s own personal beliefs and experiences and just like religion it has different streams. For some people, feminism has to do with trying to obliterate men from the surface of the Earth, denounce feminity and is generally a woman vs man thing. To each their own, but I disagree with that idea.

In a 2016 interview with Glamour, Barack Obama talks about the feminist he is. Chimamanda Adichie Ngozie wrote several essays about feminism including “We should all be feminist”. It’s a really quick and nice read, but you can also give her Ted talk a try if reading is not really your thing. The 2014 UN HeforShe Campaign aiming to fight gender inequality had the same premise, deep down, gender inequality affects us all (men and women)  and we should tackle it together, although women have it harder out there.

I personally feel like somewhere along the road, one important word stopped being heard and it created confusion. That word being “RIGHTS”. If you know what the fight is about you may not need to be reminded, but I feel like today, be it men or women, many stop at the word equality and lose sight of the bigger picture.

I personally am not trying nor do I want to be equal to a man. Now… hold off your horses, I’m only speaking from the most basic biological standpoint here and in reaction to the preconceived idea that in order for her to succeed a woman has to imitate men as much as she can. I think we can all agree that men and women are anatomically built differently and that’s about that. Gender being a social construct, it comes into play later.

It is true that back in the time of cave people, roles in society were given according to said biological differences, but I think that these differences were complementary and not necessarily reasons for discrimination. Unfortunately at some point in human history, someone, somewhere decided that these anatomic differences were reason enough to view women less than their male counterparts.

I wonder who came up with the term “weaker sex” when referring to women. It always infuriates me and makes me laugh at the same time that we are referred to as the weaker sex, when our bodies have to go through so many many painful and sometimes traumatic experiences in our lives, but in spite of that we still find a way to keep it pushing and thrive.

Yes I do believe that men and women are not the same from a biological standpoint, and that’s okay as it serves a specific purpose, but we’re not talking about equality from a physical or biological standpoint, we are talking about equality of RIGHTS. 

I guess this whole idea of weaker sex resulted in fewer rights altogether for women. For the longest time, we were denied the basic agency of our lives and bodies. We thankfully have come a long way but the fight still is not over. When you think about the fact that some of the major milestones in the fights for equal rights for women were achieved following the Second World War, I really hope that we won’t need another event of that kind to get to where we need to be.

It’s around that time that women started to take on more “manly” activities such as working in factories to make up for the men that had been drafted and sent to the front. I would assume that the wage inequality started right then and there. We have come a long way from that time but we are still struggling with that gap.

When we ask to have the same rights, we are not asking for favours. We are asking for the same opportunities for both men and women and in order to get those same opportunities, we need to level the playing field. The ability of a person to grow a full human being inside of them should never be held against them while looking for a job… if anything it should be more valued.

A lot has been done over the years and we should celebrate that, but there is still so much left to do. To circle back to one of the comments I saw online, under the post of a woman celebrating her achievements, someone asked why the fact that she was a woman was emphasized so much. I believe that’s because we all know that the road to get there was harder for her than it would have been for a man. I think it also comes from the need to show that if she can do it then so can all the other women out there who want to try.

One day we’ll get to a point where someone’s sex won’t matter. We will all be given the same chances, the same opportunities and we won’t have to speak about it as loud as we do now. But until we get there, we’re going to keep celebrating women that trailblaze and pave the road for the rest of us to follow.

 

Header Image Credit: Cara Mia (@caramia)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Deborah K
Writer - Deborah K

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Born and raised in France with a Congolese background, I'm a picture taking and travel lover currently based in Edinburgh, Scotland.

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