This is my fifth, and last post of reflections on being a feminist.
There are many statistics which show that in most parts of the world, women do not (yet) have equality with men. I could run through pages and pages—but what would that tell us?
I want to focus on just one statistic, because it’s the meaning of the one statistic that is more compelling.
About year ago, I had the opportunity to attend an urban workshop in the city of Mashhad, in Iran. I arrived the week after Julie Bishop had been there. In the conference hotel there were two workshops running in adjacent halls: the urban workshop and another on women’s affairs. At one point someone came up to me and asked me if I would mind coming to the women’s conference and talk about the situation of the women in Australia. I said I was no expert. They said that’s okay: I was the most expert person available. So I agreed.
The first question I fielded was: Why, in Australia, is there so much violence against women? They’d been reading our newspapers. Clearly: I had a tough audience who’d done some research.
Then they asked me about pay equality. They said in Iran there were laws mandating equal work for equal pay. I said we have those too, but we still had pay inequality. They asked: how is that possible? The law is the law. In Iran, if you break the law by paying women less, you will be prosecuted.
I was again thrown off-balance. If we have anti-discrimination laws (which we do) and we have discrimination (which we do) why aren’t people being prosecuted?
The pay gap
In Australia, the “pay gap” is 18%. For every dollar a man earns in a particular job, a woman will earn on average 82%. We also have a Sex Discrimination Act dating back more than 20 years to 1984.
And yet the gap persists.
So here’s the big question lurking behind the statistic: Why can’t we solve this problem?
This is not mysterious or complex problem like suicide, or anorexia, or depression. All we have to do is pay women the same amount that we are paying men. That is not complicated.
In a certain sense, this is the easiest kind of problem we face. We are all birthed by women. Half of us are women. It would be a rare person reading this who did not have at least one loving relationship with a women, who would actively want that woman to be cheated of 18% of her income.
Yet we fail.
The implications of our incompetence
We can’t solve a simple problem which impacts us all directly. This indicates that we—as a society, as a culture, as a people—are incompetent. Incapable. Useless.
If we can’t solve a simple problem which affects us directly, how the hell are we are going to solve the more complex problems that are hard to understand, with no obvious solutions, affecting people whom we don’t know or can’t see, in ways that might not be now but in the future?
So the implication of being incompetent on the easy stuff is that we are doomed on the big stuff.
Se here’s why, again, I am a feminist. Because delivering on the basics of feminism is easy. All we need is solidarity and focus and effectiveness. But if we can’t do feminism, we will also fail on everything else.
Feminism is a test.
And because we need to pass this test: I am a feminist.
In case you want more stats, below is an illustration by the Australian Human Rights Commission of the gender equality in Australia. For each statistic, ask yourself: how hard can it be? Why needs to be done? What’s blocking the way? And what does that block portend for our future overall?