November 19, 2008

Only Sixteen Percent, Part II

As a follow up to my earlier point, I have been thinking a lot over the past 48 hours about the often unnoticed and largely unchallenged bias against women in our society. How is it so blatantly allowed to persist?

And to be clear, I am not talking about the overwhelming issues of poverty and oppression that women face throughout the developing world. Those issues can seem far away and distant and it is no wonder they largely get ignored. No, I am referring to our own modern, Western society, where men still make more for equal work, and where women of all ages and social backgrounds are constantly bombarded with demeaning and trivializing treatment from the men around them.

I come from a middle class family, am well educated, and run in a circle of friends that is generally ahead of the curve when it comes to progressive social issues. My peers are openly accepting of gays and lesbians, and are quick to pounce on any behavior that might be considered racist, especially towards blacks (although, as I live in Beijing, I do see a lot of largely unconscious racism among Western ex-pats directed towards Chinese.) It is not unusual for people to immediately denounce any kind of untoward comment or joke that crosses the line of political correctness when it comes to race, even in all white company.

But my male peers (and I include myself, in some cases) have no compunction about making derogatory comments, inappropriate jokes, or even exhibiting physically hostile behavior towards women, even in their presence. And no one says anything. It is tacitly accepted. I am CERTAIN that the level of awareness and self reflection regarding racial issues is far more advanced than gender issues.


I do not have an explanation. All I know is that we as a society need to better address the issues of gender. Now.

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