In 2013, the U.N. came out with a Women’s Google Ad Campaign to highlight gender inequality. I wish I could say that this was years ago, that things have changed, that the world has self-corrected. But I would be lying if I said that.
The world hasn’t changed. In fact, if you think gender inequity doesn’t affect you– you’re wrong.
Gender inequity exists and gender inequity affects us each every single damn day. It is ubiquitous in our daily lives, and it is about time we did something about it. It’s time we spoke up and had our voices heard.
Why are girls supposed to study humanities and boys supposed to study STEM? Why does she set the table and he mow the lawn? What if she wants to grill the burgers and he wants to buy his daughter’s ballet slippers? What if he wants to study dance and she wants to study mechanical engineering?
That is why I am part of an inaugural initiative at my school to promote women empowerment and gender equity. We are the GAP Team, and we are done being OK with these “societal norms” because there is nothing normal about them.
We call it GAP Week; GAP stands for Gender Advocacy and Progress.
GAP also captures the essence of the problem: the gaps we encounter every day. The wage gap, the education gap, the equal opportunities gap, the list goes on. Together, a coalition of students, faculty, student groups, programs, and outside organizations are banding together to start a conversation and make advances toward gender equity.
For a week, there will be campus wide events from musical performances to workshops to keynote speakers. We’re holding a talk on masculinity and the gender divide, bringing an award-winning play on sexual assault to a conference by HerNetwork, a women’s business club on campus. These are just a few of the many events we have planned for GAP Week. We want to educate the student body.
We must stand together and fight for what we believe in. Furthermore, we must fight for what we know we deserve.
Speaking of what we deserve, you may have noticed my using the term gender equity as opposed to equality. Gender equality is based on the idea of equality of opportunities. Gender equity denotes equivalence of life outcomes of women and men.
Gender equity acknowledges that women and men have different needs, preferences and interests and, therefore, may require different treatment across genders. Gender Equity better captures the problem plaguing our society.
Emma Watson said it perfectly, “It is time that we all see gender as a spectrum instead of two sets of opposing ideals. We should stop defining each other by what we are not, and start defining ourselves by who we are.” She goes on to press us, “I’m inviting you to step forward, to be seen, and to ask yourself…If not me, who? If not now, when?”
This past week Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, posted an influential link to her page.The link was to a laundry advertisement in India, but it is so much more than just an ad. At the end of the clip we see the following text: “Why is laundry only a mother’s job? Dads #ShareTheLoad.” What a powerful message. As expressed through Sandberg’s sharing of this ad, gender equity is a global issue-it is not concentrated, it is not only felt by some, it is everywhere and the problem belongs to all of us.
So how can you fight this pervasive issue on your college campus?
Start an initiative. Find out if there are already people working on one at your school. Grab a group of friends and explain to them why this is a problem (it shouldn’t be hard). Strike up a conversation with a Women and Gender Studies professor at office hours. Start a club.
But none of these things will account for anything unless we continue to fight until we have achieved gender equity. I may be part of this week on my college campus, but once the week is over is when the real work begins.
Once we have publicized that this is a problem that is not going away, we must take a stand and continuously push for the outcome we want: equity and equality across genders, campuses, states, countries, and continents.
What is so easy about fighting this fight at your school is also what makes it so scary: that the problem exists everywhere. There is no running-it is time to unite forces and fight for what is right.
Inequality exists everywhere, the time for change is now. How do you plan to fight for gender equity?
image via celina timmerman