Last week, New Zealand broadcaster Paul Henry made some gloriously ignorant comments about feminism, while discussing Hillary Clinton's bid for the presidency, one of which included: "Why, if feminism has come so far, does she feel the need to highlight the fact that she's a woman? Shouldn't she be selling herself on the fact that she's the best person, the right person, for the job, no matter what her sex?" Paul Henry really enjoys making controversial comments, and we'll never know whether he means what he says or whether he's doing it for the ratings. But that's not the point here, because although these are half-baked comments from someone who makes half-baked comments all the time, they exemplify a collective feeling that has run underneath, and undermined, feminism for a long time now, including today, even though feminism is cool now because Emma Watson runs #HeForShe, Beyonce sings about women running the world and Benedict Cumberbatch wears an I Am A Feminist t-shirt on occasion.
The truth is, like that campaign for International Womens Day, we're #StillNotThere. Paul Henry's comments prove this, as do Chris Evans and Jeremy Renner, who, while on the press tour for The Avengers, delightfully described Scarlett Johansson's character as a "slut" and a "whore". More than anything though, statistics prove things, and here are some statistics to prove to the Paul Henry's of the world that we aren't there, and to remind those of us who know we aren't there, just how far away "there" is. I want to be clear: this is not a comprehensive list. These are just some of the problems faced by women in the West, and doesn't even begin to include, for example, genital mutilation and honour killings, which are similarly life threatening – because, that's exactly what gender inequality is, life threatening.
1) The gender pay gap
In Australia, women earn 18.8% less than men, according to the Bureau of Statistics, which is worse than it was in 1985, and means that, based on average weekly earnings, men take home $300 more than women do. In the United States, women earn 24% less than their male counterparts. The problem is so dire that Elana Schlenker, of Pittsburgh, recently opened a store called Less Than 100, where she gives women a 24% discount to reflect the gender pay gap.
2) Domestic violence
Last year in Australia, former Governor General Dame Quentin Bryce led a taskforce investigating domestic violence in her home state of Queensland, and produced the report, Not Now, Not Ever. The report found that one in three women experience domestic violence, and that one women is killed every week in Australia by her former or current partner. From the beginning of this year, until the 18th February of this year, 13 women had been killed by their partner or former partner, which means that the average number of women killed every week by domestic violence in Australia has risen to two in 2015.
I've just finished reading Rebecca Solnit's book, Men Explain Things To Me, which is a poetic journey through all of the ways women are completely screwed – the poetry makes it easier to bear. In her 2013 essay, The Longest War, she explains that in the United States one rape occurs ever 6.2 minutes but that the estimated total is five times this high, and that one in five women will be raped during their lifetimes. She explains that there is "a pattern of violence against women that's broad and deep and horrific and incessantly overlooked". She explains that "violence doesn't have a race, a class, a religon, or a nationality, but it does have a gender".
3) Reproductive rights
It seems like the GOP in the United States just really doesn't want women to have the right to control their own bodies. Arizona has legislated that doctors have to tell their medication abortion patients that the procedure can be reversed, even though it can't, and Texas has filed an amendment that would ban abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy, which would put women's lives at risk in complicated pregnancies. According to the Guttmacher Institute, the United States enacted 70 anti-abortion measures in 2013, with 43 and 92 anti-abortion measures enacted in 2012 and 2011 respectively.
4) Cyber bullying
Jon Ronson recently released a book, So You've Been Publicly Shamed, that detailed several high-profile cases of public shaming, including Justin Sacco's infamous A.I.D.S. tweet and the resulting End Of Her Life, and argues that we perhaps need to have more compassion for our fellow man, which, as someone who lives in constant fear of saying The Wrong Thing, is a philosophy I can get behind. However, something I noticed when reading So You've Been Publicly Shamed, and something Choire Sicha writes elegantly about here, is the fact that, when women fuck up online, they get treated monumentally worse than their male counterparts. Sicha cites a scenario, also detailed by Ronson, where two men and one woman are fired following an online debacle about misogyny in the tech industry. One of the men, who went public with his story, is hired by a new company straight away. The woman spends one year unemployed, during which time she suffers constant threats of rape and violence. And this kind of behaviour is totally commonplace online.
Most female writers who discuss women's rights are threatened with violence to to try to enforce silence. Recently, CHVRCHES frontwoman Lauren Mayberry reposted one of the most grotesque comments (this is your trigger warning) I have seen to her Instagram account, exemplifying the misogynists who threaten her via her band's social media accounts daily. Anita Sarkeesian, feminist writer recently spoke at All About Women at the Sydney Opera House. She has received so many violent threats she has been forced to pull out of public speaking engagements and travel with a security detail. There are some central digital hubs, like 4Chan, from which these threats ooze, and there are countless creeps operating alone, but wherever and whoever they come from, the message is the same: "shut up or we will hurt you".
5) Availability to menstrual healthcare
This is something that I, at least, didn't think about until recently: every month I just buy tampons because I have to buy tampons, and the price is inconsequential to my buying them. Which is exactly the point: I have to buy them, because I need them, and yet they are treated like a luxury by governments everywhere. In Australia, condoms and lube are exempt from GST because they're considered health necessities, but tampons aren't. Similarly in the UK, condoms are provided at homeless shelters, but tampons aren't.
Everyone who, like Paul Henry, brushes feminism off as some fringe movement that is demanding unrealistic goals, would do well to remember some of these before they claim that a person's gender doesn't affect their life.
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