Tag Archives: gender discrimination

FEMINISM IN POP CULTURE – A YOUNG FEMINIST’S VIEW

Bristol Woman is delighted to publish the second part of the ‘Young Feminist’ series from young blogger, Mollie Semple. Probably, our youngest guest blog contributor to date. In this blog, Mollie tells us her hopes and fears in terms of the evolution and expansion of today’s Third Wave feminism. Definitely worth a read!

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It used to be, in recent years, that there was only a very subtle undertone of feminism in any kind of pop culture most likely due to the fact the ‘Angry Feminist’ was the only stereotype thought of to refer to. And an angry woman just does not sell to the masses.

After the popularity of the full on 90s feminist movement Riot Grrrl, the whereabouts of feminists in the limelight, to me as a young person, appear to have dwindled away.

Only a few years ago I found it hard to find celebrities, songs and films right in the middle of popular culture to resonate with my growing feminist beliefs but now it’s increasingly hard to find an area that isn’t slathered in a new Third Wave feminist tint.

Obviously this feminism has always been around, but there wasn’t the same platform there is now to shout out to the world about one’s beliefs on equality. There wasn’t the same number of actresses questioning the press why it was only them who were asked about their family life or their skincare routine instead of their impressive careers. There was no Emma Watson to appeal to UN delegates on the importance of equality for women. Feminism was a dirty word, but I can see more and more of us embrace it as a powerful one. It is within this explosion onto the Hollywood scene, the music scene, the celebrity scene that one can see, mixed in with the added bonus of the Internet, the power of the media to share a message with the people.

This sudden surge of Third Wave feminism in the Western world, which has been building up, right from the first surge of Riot Grrrl, is completely exhilarating. Twitter is littered with it, Facebook is swimming in it and the celebrities are more and more becoming advocates for it. The Angry Feminist, for most, is now just a ‘Taming of the Shrew’ type exaggeration because a huge number of people are now fitting comfortably into a new “acceptable” egalitarian category. We are of course still angry, because you can’t see the gaps in equality and not become deeply impassioned in a desire for change, but it is now an accepted feature to be commended and not frowned upon.

Staggeringly, huge numbers of female celebrities are no longer afraid to open their mouth and express an important opinion in case of a drop in popularity. There has finally been created a safe space for feminism within pop culture where women and men can properly express their thoughts on it. The obvious inequality in this culture is no longer happily ignored, Third Wave feminism has broken through and started to dominate. Perhaps this is the beginning of the end.

However, I do just have one issue with this mostly brilliant popular movement. I worry that in between Emma Watson’s work for the UN, or frequent call outs on the Hollywood pay gap meant to ripple into the world wide pay gap, or the highlighting of the blatant racism in the film industry, there isn’t just a small element of inactivity with this newfound prestige. I wonder if there is too much focus on Western inequality and a lack of intrigue for the disastrous inequality on the other side of the world. Malala Yousafzai has been voicing her feminist views for her culture all over the world, but I wonder if she reaches the level of pop culture that, say, Ryan Gosling does. Western inequality is not unimportant or negligible in any way, but we mustn’t again fall into the trap of forgetting that the rest of the world exists. I also worry that this popularity might be detrimental to feminism in the way that it could exhaust its meaning without a sufficient achievement.

I am so excited by the fact that celebrities are using their platform to spread the word of feminism, but are they truly aiding us or telling us to actively do something?

Perhaps my criticisms are unfair here, perhaps I should just let feminism with its new fame find its steps and see where it goes. I just don’t want its power to become trivial, and for the feminist stereotype to be cyclical and in a few years time we fall into the unattractive label of the “Angry Feminist” once more. I just don’t want this fantastic opportunity to be squandered and lost in this fast moving pace of the pop culture world.

BIO
Mollie is a 17 year old student in the midst of her A Levels. She’s a passionate blogger at The Fully Intended, and all she really wants to do in life is write. She has been raised by her parents to want nothing more for the world than equality, and so intends to spend a lot of her time making sure her generation gets a little bit closer to just that.

Pensions are a human right

Pensions are a human right that TESCO is happy to drop.

This week, TESCO has announced plans to close its pension scheme. The company said the scheme will be revalued in May and that it would consult on the planned changes in June, before implementing the changes in February, 2016. Not many people think of it that way, but pensions are a human right. How did we get that idea? No other than the UN Declaration of Human Rights Article 25.

Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

The UK government has not been doing very well ensuring this right is available to women. Not only are pension schemes and offers largely dictated by employers, they are also discriminatory towards people who have not been in employment for large periods of time, or people who have been in part time employment throughout their lives. Continue reading Pensions are a human right

Younger Women Need Not Apply

By: Pauline Mukanza

Twitter: @ThePauzi

Not too long ago, scrolling through my Facebook news feed, as I too often do, I came across a headline in the Guardian that angered me. The headline was “40% of managers avoid hiring younger women to get around maternity leave” and the article went on to say that companies “would rather employ a man in his 20s or 30s over a woman of the same age”. The fact that young women are less likely to be employed because of the stereotypes that women are seen as the main carers of children is not news to me, however it infuriates me. It infuriates me as a young woman who is trying to break into the job market, as a feminist, as a person of colour and as a human being.

Discrimination on the grounds of pregnancy or maternity leave is, and quite rightly so, illegal in the UK and it has been since October 2010. Pregnancy discrimination is also morally wrong and completely unacceptable but it still remains a reality for many of us. Young women are either at risk of being viewed as an economic liability to the company because they may or may not choose to bear children at a certain point in their lives or they are at risk of being categorised as a strange, anti-family people should they choose not to have  children, and inform their (potential) employer about  this. Such questions are illegal but again, still a part of our reality.

One of the ways to deal with this gender discrimination is to get the state more involved in childcare provision and more particularly, for the state to cover the cost of maternity and paternity leave. In this case, companies can carry on focusing on maximising their profits and not worrying about having to pay for months’ worth of salary with no productivity. Often, the businesses actually cannot afford parental leave because their margins are either too low or they do not have enough capital reserved to do so. In addition to this, all companies are trying to stay resilient in these tough economic times. If the state financially supports individuals on parental leave then the burden falls on a society that is of great solidarity.

A change in attitude is also an important factor to consider when combating the stereotype that young professional women are part of an unstable employee pool. Despite offering paid leave, women are still the main users of leave entitlement. However, from April 2015, parents in the UK can decide about how to divide up their parental leave. The proportion of all parental leave allocated to employed men compared to the leave allocated to employed women is a key indicator that links reconciliation between work, private and family life, to gender equality[1]. This new legal provision is a welcomed step in the right direction but one which is well over due and is likely to lead us to a gendered trap.

Logically, socially and statistically women are more likely to take maternity leave even if it is equally available for men. If parental leave is organised along family lines, the use of parental leave by fathers comes out low. It is a feedback loop that discourages men from taking their share of maternity leave. However, whatever available data one chooses to look at on the use of paternity leave and shared parental leave, it is shown that the ratio of fathers taking paternity leave is higher than those taking parental leave.

In other words, if there is a choice of the division of parental leave the outcome is very likely to result in gendered discrimination against women – however, if there was legislated equal parental leave, that made it mandatory for both men and women to take leave, then that would create less space for companies to discrimination based on sex. Norway, for example, enacted mandatory paternal leave and the wage gap between men and women shrank from 20% to 8.1% between 1991 and 2010[2].

The reality is that at the moment in the UK, or from April 2015, we will have to make do with the option of non-allocated parental leave between men and women, as a proportion of all parental leave.

It is very disheartening to know that my job-hunting, like for so many other women, will probably be influenced by my perceived likely-to-have-children-in-the-next-few-years status. In the meantime, maybe young women can hope that companies will familiarise themselves with the cycle of life and start accepting it or perhaps I will still have to swear  to my employer that my uterus will remain unoccupied in the next few years? But what I do hope people understand is that this is pure and simple sexism.

[1] European Institution for Gender Equality – Reconciliation of work and family life as a condition of equal participation in the labour market – Main Findings pp. 10

[2] Norway Has Found a Solution to the Gender Wage Gap That America Needs to Try: http://mic.com/articles/87983/norway-has-found-a-solution-to-the-gender-wage-gap-that-america-needs-to-try