Previously known as Libdemchild

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Will women be equal to men in 100 years? - The opinion of a teenage girl

Yesterday the Guardian published an article entitled 'Will women be equal to men in 100 years? The panel verdict' in honour of the centenary anniversary of the Representation of the People Act which marked the start of female suffrage in the UK. The article collates the opinion of 5 women on the possibility of total gender equality by 2118. It addresses a range of issues including the necessity of free childcare in order to ensure equality and the possibility of a rise in "working class feminism".

The article stood out to me as it considers the possible future of gender equality from the perspective of several women, however, it does not put forward the opinion of a young girl. It is up to my generation to dismantle systematic inequalities and eradicate sexism from daily interactions, I have observed first hand the realities of sexism in my generation and I can see that full gender equality will not be possible in the next 100 years.

Whilst it is undeniable that significant strides in gender equality have been made in the past few years this progress is undercut by the continual presence of the female body as a marketable and controlled product.

Don't get me wrong, I have been delighted to see the emergence of fourth wave feminism and to see the rise of the gender equality movements such as #metoo. However, we cannot become complacent because we have a long way to go.

Any claims that gender equality has been, or is close to being, reached are false and this is evidenced by the rise of Instagram body types, the election of Trump and the appearance of the female body as the main mode of capitalist advertisement.

Young girls are plagued with an unattainable body image from a young age and this is perpetuated through the media and increasingly through social media. It is inescapable and I see it every day. There are countless numbers of girls on Instagram who have thousands of followers simply for having the 'ideal' body type. Whilst I encourage the celebration of the female body the extent of this is beyond unhealthy and becomes a constant template of comparison for young girls.

What makes this so much worse is that these models often advertise ways to get this 'ideal body' which includes products such as 'FitTea' and waist trainers. These products have actually been proven to be bad for your body with FitTea simply acting as a laxative and waist trainers altering the shape of your internal organs. One of the most famous of these Instagram models is Alexis Ren who has almost 12 million followers. Alexis has admitted to having an eating disorder, whilst there is no shame in this, she is hailed as an example of health and beauty and girls compare their bodies to hers in a self-degrading way. This kind of sexism is achieved through the control of women's bodies and it is so embedded in our society that girls self-police. They choose to follow these women and compare themselves, this is something I am guilty of and it is almost inescapable.

The above image was created by the clothing company 'Suistudio' and offers a commentary on how advertising uses women's bodies as selling points by reversing the typical gender roles. The image may seem unnecessarily derogatory to the male model but it is shockingly accurate. Upon searching the term 'perfume ad' into google the two images below were some of the first results that popped up. These images are strikingly similar to the above picture. Women's bodies have become cogs in the capitalist marketing machine and this has embedded sexism so deeply in our society that men and women alike are conditioned to consider female appearance as their most important characteristic above all else.

Until this is tackled true gender equality cannot ever be achieved as women will be unable to move beyond this sexualised image and any gender equality achievements will simply be one step forward and two steps back

Laurie Penny expressed the expected role of women in this society in her fantastic book 'Meat Market' where she writes, "Women are commanded to always look available but never actually be so, where, we are obliged to appear socially and sexually consumable whilst consuming as little as possible".

The election of Trump, an accused sexual abuser who admitted to using women's bodies however he pleased in his famous quote "grab them by the pussy", is perhaps the greatest evidence that gender equality is nowhere near being eradicated. The president of America is often described as being 'the most important person in the world'. When 'the most important person in the world' perpetuates and encourages sexist and abusive behaviour it validates a continuance of gender inequality which will take generations to remedy.

Please don't even present the argument that the UK is closer to gender equality just because we currently have a female prime minister. Firstly Theresa May is a right-wing white woman and, secondly, she is far from being a champion of women's rights. As Home Secretary, she oversaw the running of Yarl's Wood detention centre, a detention centre for immigrants and asylum seekers, where female detainees experienced physical, sexual and verbal abuse of which May did nothing to remedy. She is just another Conservative agent. The Western world is no shining beacon of gender equality.

As Polly Toynbee aptly phrased it, "never underestimate the size of the task to reverse all history since time began." My generation has begun the reversal of gender inequality but we simultaneously encourage it. The task of gender equality is  humungous and will not be complete by 2118. 

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