Equality isn’t a radical concept but pretending we’re already there is problematic
I was enjoying a night at the bar with my friend. I went to grab a drink and a young man came up to me and asked, “are you a feminist?” He didn’t say “hi.” He didn’t say “what’s up?” He just said, “are you a feminist?”
I laughed because I thought it was funny. Was it my converse, my jean jacket, or my bright red lipstick? What made this guy feel the need to spark this conversation on a Friday night, while I was just trying to have fun?
He asked me why I was laughing. I told him that I thought it was funny because it seemed like an interesting way to approach someone for the first time. But, feminism isn’t funny and it isn’t a thing of the past.
He chuckled and said that I looked like a feminist. I’m not sure what it means to “look like a feminist”, but to me the need to be a feminist is more obvious when you consider that there is prominent gender inequality in Canada, and elsewhere.
He told me I shouldn’t be a feminist and that “feminism is poisoning society.” He said that women are completely equal to men in Canada and that inequality is only a problem in underdeveloped countries, which he described as “savage.” The gender wage gap, in his words, “is all a myth.”
I’m not concerned about what people will think of me when I tell them I’m a feminist. I’m not afraid of being offensive or blatant or, as he later called me, “a feminist bitch.”
There is concrete evidence that the gender wage gap is still distinct and noticeable. In Canada, a woman working full-time makes 73.5 cents for every dollar a man makes, according to a Statistics Canada income report produced for the Globe and Mail in 2016.
Further, Canada doesn’t prove to be doing better than other countries: research firm Catalyst Canada says that on average, women in Canada earn $8,000 less than men; worldwide, the gap is half as much.
The Canadian Women’s Foundation reports that women are paid less than men because traditional “women’s work” pays less than traditional “men’s work” and that a large portion of the wage gap remains unexplained and is partly due to discrimination.
Women and men face different societal pressures relating to work that are increasingly responsible for the divergence in their careers: women are often expected to be mothers, experience more scrutiny based on their appearance, and are often challenged for their leadership styles and often not respected in the workplace. They also experience more sexual harassment: in 2014, Maclean’s reported that 43 per cent of women say they’ve experienced sexual harassment in the workplace.
A lot of the people I encounter in my day-to-day life are still blind to the inequality that is around us. Others may think that this issue is far more prominent in other parts of the world. But gender inequality is an issue everywhere.
I don’t want to walk into bar after bar being asked about my feminist values as if they represent an extreme man-hating classist ideology. I don’t want to bend over backwards to defend my position; feminism is relevant because equality isn’t a radical concept.