One word. Feminism.
What does it mean to the millions of women across Britain? Is it a stance for equality or is it an organisation of power-hungry women who want to be seen as the more superior sex?
The truth is that feminism has been glamorised by the likes of Beyoncé and Victoria Beckham. The fact that there are only a mere 147 female MPs in comparison to 503 male counterparts is often overlooked and is an issue which has only recently gained some limelight. Young women are poisoned with social expectations in our society, which claim that women should be fashionable, intelligent, pretty and thin. Agree or disagree, but society has embedded these predicates of a ‘perfect’ woman into us.
Despite the horror of many women in light of Kirstie Allsop’s article about women raising a family then going to university, she raised a pertinent and necessary issue. We all know that it wasn’t until 1918 that Emmeline Pankhurst led women to gain the vote; prompting the illusive revolution of women’s “equality”. Aesthetically, women gained the right to vote, were able to own property and were motivated to climb to the top of the career ladder- but did we tackle the real issue of the burdens women were expected to carry? We obviously didn’t if still in this day women are expected to support a family and take care of the house, assumptions that make ‘housewives’ a stalwart of our cultural rhetoric.
And what have politicians done to help the equality of women? In a society where boardroom positions still exhibit a divide between the net incomes of men and women. Mr Cameron has recently declared himself a feminist, so what progress have we made under this coalition government? The blunt fact is not a lot at all, apart from Mr Cameron and Mr Miliband both presenting themselves surrounded with female MPs during Prime Minister’s Questions, seemingly degrading and satirising the issue rather than making any substantial progress.
Political observations aside however, why are women still vulnerable to such discrimination in modern society? Women nowadays have the resources available to break free from the expectations of society, and many do, but are women their own enemies? Is how we portray ourselves our downfall? Many would say that if women choose to sacrifice a career for a family they have made an informed decision to do so. They have been aware of the options and have opted, using their own free will, to pursue a certain path. Yet aren’t these paths conditioned by the societies in which these women exist? The decisions they face are subject to the expectations of our culture; expectations that place the careers of women below those of men.
The whole situation is undoubtedly very complex. In order to identify and solve the true issue of gender inequality we need a deeper insight into the issues we face, and this can only be achieved by communication between women who are representative (of all groups) and decision makers who can take action. We need to realise that it isn’t a straightforward issue but something which will take possibly generations to truly conquer.
By Waheeda Ratyal