The Layers Of Inequality

I’ve been staring at an empty page for the last 5 minutes because I have no idea where to start. I am known for writing long, rambling blog posts, but this one seems an impossible task. There is so much to say, that I can’t possibly say it all without boring the reader to tears or my fingers dropping off. To call this post the tip of the iceberg would be an understatement of titanic proportions.

Inequality exists in all walks of life, I know that. I can only talk about my experiences. My ethnicity is Indian and I live in a predominantly white country, but luckily, and I realise how lucky I am to live in London specifically, I’ve rarely experienced direct racism. It’s not something I think about most days or have to consider in my day to day life. I know this isn’t the case for all people of colour, especially young black men and Muslims. I’m extremely lucky. Racism for me, is often more of an issue when I’m challenging Asian people about their views.

What I do worry about, experience on a daily basis and have to consider at all times, is sexism. Even in this country, at this time, with how much progress we’ve made, nearly half of the population is almost certainly experiencing it on a daily basis, sometimes without realising it. It’s everywhere, from how people look at me, address me, talk to me, judge me, ignore me and on the odd occasion, put their hands on me without my permission.

We think of it as an issue that is prevalent in other parts of the world. India, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, all have a terrible human rights record when it comes to women. What’s worrying, is it perpetuates the myth that things are better in the western world. That it’s no longer an issue, or certainly not a big issue. It may not be as visible, but for me, that makes it more dangerous. It is accepted that the countries I mentioned need to make changes, so they make headlines, there are protests, we shake our heads in disgust and point the finger at their old fashioned, sometimes barbaric justice for women. We don’t have stoning in this country. Women aren’t flogged. We have the freedom to choose who we marry, we can drive and work.

And yet..the pay gap still exists. Domestic violence still exists. Page 3 still exists. We are still not proportionally represented on television, in politics, in the arts and countless other fields. Worse, we are told not to talk about it because “You should see what it’s like in Saudi Arabia, love. What more do you want?” That was the response from several men on a talk show about sexism. The subtext being that because I’m not being lashed for falling in love, or forced to cover up from head to toe, I should somehow be grateful for my lot. It’s that mindset that I find the most dangerous of all, because it’s not an extreme example, so it’s overlooked, but it still runs deep. I saw an RT on twitter a few weeks ago about how women don’t understand they don’t need to be opinionated and vocal to be strong. Women specifically. What they ‘want’ wasn’t factored into this quote because no, I don’t ‘need’ to be vocal or opinionated, I choose to be. It is my right. I don’t see quotes about how men should be quiet.

If you have any doubts about it, just choose an article at random about feminism and then read the comments underneath. There is something about women talking about their right to live in an equal society, that makes a lot of men retaliate with death threats, rape threats and abuse about how they look, way beyond what anyone should consider acceptable. I’m deliberately not talking about high profile cases here, because we’ve all heard about them and we know about them. It’s the subtlety that is often missed. The “pipe down love,” when a woman writes about Dapper Laughs and his show that seems to centre around being a sex pest and laughing at making women uncomfortable. Parody or not, a lot of the fans, and many of them are very young, like him for exactly that reason, because the lines are blurred. The language used, the “pranks” become something to laugh about and replicate in the playground and so it begins.

I’ve heard a lot of women of late, saying sexism seems to be getting worse in this country. I would disagree and say it has always been there, but hidden away. Now people have anonymity online and can hide behind their keyboards and vocalise what they’ve always thought. The only difference between us and the other countries, is people are afraid of saying what they feel out loud. While religious countries will use Islam or Hinduism as an excuse to stop women from fulfilling their potential, here, political correctness is blamed for not allowing men to vocalise their sexist views. This is how bad things are when political correctness does exist, I’m terrified to think about how much worse it’d be without it. Without all those bothersome feminists saying it’s not OK. Without women having the courage to say no.

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Yes it’s not “all men.” Anyone with an ounce of intelligence would know that. I only wish all the extremely vocal “not all men” guys would be as vocal about speaking out about feminism or even acknowledging gender inequality is a problem. A big, HUGE problem that hinders them too. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t need anyone to defend me, but it’d be refreshing to not have to explain that I don’t hate all men everytime I mention sexism on Twitter, with its limited characters. To not have to reassure a man that I’m not talking about him specifically. To not have to placate men every single time I mention feminism. (There are many, MANY resources people can use to educate themselves.) To not have to explain to a woman, yes a WOMAN, that I understand that men can be the victims of sexism and that feminism is about them too. It’s for all the men who have been forced to internalise their feelings. It’s for all those men who feel pressured to conform to a stereotype of a masculine man. It’s for all those men who are told to “man up” when they show a hint of weakness. Suicide is the biggest killer of young men in this country. The stiff upper lip and internalising feelings is not working.

I tweet about equality a lot. Many of my followers are men. I hear from the #notallmen far more than I hear from supportive men, men who confront sexism, men who distance themselves from the ones I often speak about. I’d love to see a day when that ratio changes because some of my favourite men are feminists. They are the ones who don’t tell me that, but show it.

Many also seem to have a problem with the word “feminism” for not being inclusive. I think women’s rights need addressing because it is a gender issue. In an ideal world, we wouldn’t need to and we could just call it equal rights and we still can, but I think that does a disservice to all the women who have had to and continue to fight for the most basic of rights. So yes, it does need to be addressed specifically. Call it what you like. Unless you’ve been hiding in a hole for the past decade, everyone should be aware by now it’s not about hating men. People use that as a way to hinder the cause in much the same way some use the PC argument to excuse their ignorance. Yes the odd person will abuse it, that is the nature of people. Get over it.

I find it worrying how younger women will often distance themselves from talking about the issue. I would never want to force anyone to talk about something they don’t want to, but I’m aware that many are uncomfortable to do so. It’s hardly surprising when we see the reaction when they do. There is also an element of wanting to be liked. Young women worry men won’t fancy them if they have strong views or they want to be one of the boys or not seen to be confrontational in case it’s offputting to the opposite sex. It’s not a trait that is encouraged in women. Just look at the number of tweets posted every single day about the number of partners Katie Price has had. There are many reasons to dislike her, but her decision to be unapologetic about her sex life is not one of them. The fact that she has children by different fathers is the butt of endless jokes, jokes that are never made about Rod Stewart or Liam Gallagher. Male celebrities are never spoken about in the same way. The day we accept that women have as much right to enjoy their bodies in the same way men do, we’ll be one step closer to an equal society.

I often get called “bossy,” a word rarely used to describe strong willed men. I am frequently told to back down from arguments or discussions with men by both men and women and even my family because “what will people think?” This is especially true of Asian families. Any of my Facebook statuses about feminism or equality in any sense are almost universally ignored by my relatives, especially female ones. That only makes me post them more of course. I’m a cause of constant embarrassment to my family, and I don’t plan on changing anytime soon. I’ve lost count of the number of relatives who make pointed remarks about how easygoing my sister is while they eyeball me.

Even on twitter I’m often called argumentative for standing up for myself. It doesn’t matter that I walk away from more disagreements than I engage in. It doesn’t matter that I will almost always choose to quietly unfollow rather than confront. It doesn’t matter that the only time I’ll fight back is when I’ve been attacked. People will as a joke, or seriously, label me and not the men I’m talking to.

My reaction to that is simple. I don’t tolerate bigotry or discrimination from my immediate family, so why should I have to put up with it from anyone else? I think our biggest problem with any important issue nowadays, is our hypocrisy. I see prominent figures on twitter who fight for a cause and speak out about injustices by other people, but turn a blind eye when their friends do the same. I’ve had more arguments about this with close friends and family than I have ever had with faceless, nameless trolls on the internet. It’s more important to talk to people where there is even the slightest chance that you can get through to them. That’s not going to happen with an egg avatar on twitter with 2 followers and multiple accounts. Sometimes you have to pick your battles.

Today when I hear my mum talking about women’s rights to her extended family, when she confronts my dad on his right wing Hindu views on Indian politics, when she convinces her brother to accept his daughter’s mixed race marriage, I feel incredibly proud. My mum, who had an arranged marriage in circumstances that were considered outdated even in those days, who only had access to basic education, who was born into a strict traditional family and married into an even stricter one where men controlled everything. A woman who was born into a priviledged family, who went on to face complete poverty in a village, then moved to a small town after marriage, to live amongst people with closed minds who lived for gossip. Who now, after spending years of listening to me arguing, defending and debating, always thinking I was banging my head against a brick wall, is someone who will challenge other people on their old fashioned and outdated views. People who respect, look up to and listen to her. It’s had a ripple effect in front of my eyes.

So think about that the next time you tell someone to pipe down for having an opinion. Staying silent never changed the world.

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