International Women’s Day. A day for celebrating the female sex or an opportunity to highlight structural issues causing gender inequality? Let me explain why I am rooting for the latter.
I live in Sweden. According to the 2017 Global Gender Gap Report conducted by the World Economic Forum, Sweden is the fifth best country to live in when it comes to gender equality (http://reports.weforum.org/global-gender-gap-report-2017/). On the top positions we find our beloved Nordic neighbors; Iceland, Norway and Finland, accompanied by Rwanda coming in as number four.
This report has come out annually since 2006, and the World Economic Forum has used the same indexes and indicators since, taking the following into account:
- Economic participation and opportunity
– Basically, they look into how many men and women are active in the labor market; how much the sexes earn; income equality for similar work; and how many men vs. women can be found in advanced positions.
- Educational attainment
– How many men and women can be found in the educational system; male vs. female literacy.
- Health and survival
– Here, they look into how many newborn girls “go missing” after birth (since the baby didn’t turn out to be a boy), as well as how many years men vs. women can expect to live in good health.
- Political empowerment
– They measure the gap between the number of men vs. women who are found at the highest level of political decision-making.
I would argue these indicators makes a solid foundation for a report like this. Can you imagine that these global data are even possible to collect? Imagine all the work behind putting together a report like this. And they do it annually! I am truly, from the bottom of my heart, both impressed and grateful that reports like this exist. It is so much more than we could have even hoped for only some twenty years ago. It is a very powerful tool to unmask and illuminate the varying conditions across the globe to which women have to adjust. However, I can not enough stress that it is just that. A very powerful tool.
A. Very. Powerful. Tool.
You see, I have some issues with this. Not the very reports, no. We need them. But with the way they are used as a bat in the discussion of gender equality. Yes, Sweden is top five when it comes to gender equality, resulting from the methodology used in this particular report. But the very existence of this report does not say that there are no other indicators. Not once does the report claim to be all-encompassing when it comes to describing the situation for women in the world. Rather the opposite. Let me display this with a quote from its’ methodology description:
The third distinguishing feature of the Global Gender Gap Index is that it ranks countries according to their proximity to gender equality rather than to women’s empowerment. Our aim is to focus on whether the gap between women and men in the chosen indicators has declined, rather than whether women are winning the so-called “battle of the sexes”.
World Economic Forum
So, what do I mean when I say that reports like this are “used as a bat in the discussion of gender equality”? Let me tell you. When I as a woman, speak up about gender inequality in Sweden, I get to hear things like; “Why are you complaining? Sweden is one of the top five countries in the world when it comes to gender equality. You’re basically living in one of the best countries on earth for a woman.” Do you see what this does? It uses the results of the report against me. As if I should be happy, content, grateful even. Because “it could be so much worse”. It ends up being a tool to take away my power, my speech, my voice.
What people need to understand is something that the World Economic Forum already knows; that their results does not focus on women’s empowerment. Just because Sweden is in the top five on lists of gender equality, that does not mean that the women living in Sweden are equal to the men living in Sweden. How can I be so sure of this? Well…
…I know of a woman who broke up with her boyfriend who’d been calculatingly cheating on her for years. She ended up being stalked by him.
…I know of another woman who was locked out of her home, naked, left to lie shivering in shame crawled up right outside her own front door.
…I know of another woman who was beaten so badly that the bones in her body cracked, leaving her in the hospital for days, lying to her family that she had been clumsy and fallen down the stairs.
…I know of another woman who was raped by a police student, a man in training to protect society from the very likes of himself.
…I know of another woman who was sexually abused as a child by her uncle.
…I know of another woman who discovered that all the men at her department earned more than 5 000 USD/month. About half of the workforce consisted of women, performing same work as their male co-workers. Every single woman earned below that figure.
…I know of countless other women who daily have the main responsibility for household chores, project managing their own homes and families, without being paid a single dime. If they are lucky, their men will “help”. When being asked.
I know of all of these women. They, in turn, know of just as many. Who in turn, know of just as many. These stories does not show in reports like the 2017 Global Gender Gap Report. They are shown in the Me Too-movement. They are shown in trusted conversations. They are shown in books, music and theatre.
We change the world by trusting each other, listening to each other, supporting each other. If you have not thought in these terms before, please be humble enough to admit to yourself you have been part of the problem, even if you can not clearly see it. Assume you have been part of the problem, and decide today to do something actively to ensure you are being part of the solution instead.
Even if it is just to unfollow Dan Bilzerian.
Do not make this day an opportunity to buy flower to your woman. Do not say “congratulations” or “happy international women’s day”. Why? Because it means nothing in changing the reality women face 365 days a year. Appreciate the females in your life not more today than you are man enough to do any other day. By all means, appreciate her if you want, but do not fool yourself to think you have done your part for the day by doing just that. I want to challenge you to do something different today, something genuine:
Call, write or visit a woman in your life that is close to you, let it be a sister, mother, girlfriend, wife, niece, cousin, friend – and say to her: I acknowledge your struggle. I am in awe of the strength in which you lead your life as a woman. What can I do to assist you or support you? How can I be a tool for our joint cause to empower women and reach gender equality?
Commit yourself to, that from today, do your part.
That’s all for now,
hej så länge!