Gender inequality will always be a topical issue, especially since the experiences women face in the world are so varied. It’s inevitable that some women are facing barriers that other women may never face and vice versa. My focus in this article is to examine how women contribute to female submission. By this I mean how to women put other women in a disadvantaged position which wouldn’t aid their advance in society. Not all of these things are done intentionally nor do people have your demise in mind per se, but this still doesn’t lessen the detriment.
Children toys and activities
While your mother may not have intentionally set out to put you in a disadvantaged position, it’s still true that boys and girls are typically given toys which prepare them for their future heteronormative roles in society. Boys get their transformers and guns, girls get the babies, fairy dresses, and tea parties. Children should really be playing with all toys and experiencing as many different experiences without feeling the burden of gender. You end up with children playing as adults.
In 2015, target removed the signs for girls and boy’s toys since research has shown children only have toy preferences once they become knowledgeable of their gender. A child’s personal interests should be the sole reason for buying them a toy, clothes, or taking them out. I commend parents who challenge these norms, leaving their child to make the decision without subconsciously shaping them to their ideal.
There may be something to be said about being caught in the excitement of having a child since many parents buy gendered clothing before the child has had a chance to understand gender. Blue for a boy; pink for a girl. Placing societal standards on a baby not yet born.
I’m not sure how widespread this experience is but here goes. I went to an all-girl school in the middle of London. It was a Catholic school, so whilst there was a heavy focus on religion in the school, the curriculum and education was extremely female focused. Now whilst this sounds logical in theory, it doesn’t work in practice. If there were young ladies who wanted to excel in sports at the school, I feel sorry for them. We pretty much stopped having P.E. in year 8 (secondary goes up to year 11 in the UK) and most girls would use the period as an extra lunch.
Another subject all the girls had to take up until year 9 was Food Technology. The first lesson taught us how to make a sandwich; we then had to write a report on making a sandwich. When we progressed past year 9, the girls who were believed to be underperforming were then pushed into beauty courses. Not to say beauty can’t make them money, but they wouldn’t have pushed a group of underperforming boys into makeup. I must now point out that the whole management body from Head Teacher to Playground Assistant was female.
Women are competitive; if they weren’t we wouldn’t see as many progressing in strenuous careers and doing well in sports. But when it comes to day to day achievements, women tend to compete with one another over appearance and men more so than qualifications and progress. Women of all races are constantly sexualized in the media. Beyoncé, Kim Kardashian, Angelina Jolie, Pippa Middleton — it doesn’t really matter if your sister is the future queen to be. Being sexually appealing to the heterosexual man has bolstered numerous women’s careers, leading them to elevate themselves to ‘higher levels’? But this isn’t necessarily a celebrity experience.
Women constantly check each other out in social situations, assessing who ranks highest in attractiveness. Naomi Wolf coined this The Beauty Myth where women can attain an extra ‘beauty qualification’ in society for being attractive.
Is it competition? Is it vanity? I’m not sure. Is it detrimental to women? Yes. Women can still be beautiful and value other attributes of being a woman. Men in no way experience the same pressures to be attractive, and as the standard becomes more and more unattainable, more methods will have to be sought. It makes little sense why women would compete over who looks good, but not compete over education or work achievements. By valuing appearance more than other attributes, the only message that is given off is that women are only there to be pretty.
Men want to do well with women, so let them do the sizing up; competing over looks (which are only going to fade) is a waste of time. No one likes to be judged on their worst day, but by competing over appearance you’re setting yourself up to be. Gender equality is better than it was a few years ago and it still has so far to go. Women can speed up the journey by examining our own lives and seeing how we’re contributing to women experiencing a second-class experience in society.