What do we still need to fight for today?

, by Anja Meunier, Translated by Juuso Järviniemi

All the versions of this article: [Deutsch] [English]

What do we still need to fight for today?
Photo: Flickr / Ithmus / CC BY 2.0

In the last few years, feminist themes have found themselves higher on the political agenda. However, we more and more often hear the question, ‘don’t women and men already have completely equal rights’. The answer is no.

As a daughter of two feminist parents, as the best math student in class, as someone who has successfully climbed innumerable apple trees, as someone who has travelled alone in faraway countries, and as a woman in natural sciences, I could easily have come to think that I no longer need feminism. ‘Thanks, I’m already sorted.’ I can vote and be elected, I can decide on my body and my money myself, I can work in any occupation, and I’m legally protected from discrimination. What more should I want?

But a look beyond my own nose, and another at statistics, is healthy. When one pays attention, one can’t help but see that our world, our country and our society [1] are full of screaming injustices against women.

Women earn, on average, 21% less per hour than men. When accounting for structural differences such as occupation choice, educational level and professional experience, it’s still 6%. “Just 6%, that’s almost no difference at all”, or “Don’t we have any more important problems?”, you can hear on comment sections. I would ask the kind readers to calculate how much 6% of their own annual income would be, and how many smartphones, holidays, cars or square metres of living space they could pay for every year with that money. Is it fair that half of people get this much ahead simply because they are men?

I recently had the “pleasure” to talk with an anti-feminist meninist. I had the chance to find out that the gender pay gap can simply be refuted logically: if women do the same work for 6% less money, all companies should only be hiring women. Because that’s not the case, the wage gap could only be a fiction. It’s unbelievable that I need to say this out loud, but our world isn’t logical, even if economists like to make of it that way. The fact that women are assessed to be less competent than men, even if that’s not true, is indeed the problem.

“Representation matters. If we see only one kind of person doing a certain job over and over, we begin to think that only that kind of person can do that job, which is of course not true.”

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, author of “Half of a Yellow Sun”

Today, the battle for equal rights is less about inequality before the law than it is about the image of the woman in society. Even though we are equal before the law, we’re not equal in the eyes of other people. In a 2017 study, 14% of Germans surveyed said that women should not have aspirations outside the household. 20 percent believed that men are more skilled than women when it comes to work, earning, education and science. Only 82% think that men and women should be treated equally in all fields and that they should be judged according to their competence and not their gender. For comparison, 94% of respondents in Sweden and 87% in Turkey agreed with this statement.

In our society, different standards apply to men and women in almost all walks of life. A metal worker who’s fighting for higher wages is standing up for what he’s entitled to. A teacher or a midwife who denounces her working conditions has taken up the job voluntarily, and should therefore not complain. A man who tucks his children to bed helps with raising the children. Whom is he helping? His wife, whose duty it should naturally be.

A male boss who is barking at his colleagues is simply assertive. If a female boss does the same, she is hysterical. A man partying wildly and drinking? That’s all normal. If a woman does the same, she puts herself in danger and is to be blamed when something happens to her. This list could go on and on.

‘Sexual violence is not a female issue. It’s a male issue, a male problem that women suffer from.’

Sandra Konrad, author of “Das beherrschte Geschlecht” (’The Mastered Sex’)

Most of this discrimination is difficult to recognise in daily life. It’s easy to tune out and to think one is living one’s own life as free and equal. The norms that we adapt to and the injustices that we face only become clear in the big picture. The goal must be to make this visible to all, and to fight against this together.

So, what do we still have to fight for today? For the abolition of compulsion. For the adjustment of chances. For bodily and psychic freedom. For the enforcement of our rights. For equality in reality, not only on paper.


[1Translator’s note: The article was originally written in German for Treffpunkt Europa, and it makes particular reference to Germany.

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