Collaboration article between Emy and Mercè.
Today is not a day of celebration. Please do not say “Happy women’s day!” or send us good wishes just because we are women. We are all human beings, men and women, but we don’t have the same rights, we are not treated the same, we are not educated the same. This is the day to remember that, even if it should be reminded every day of the year. It is a day to commemorate the fight of women around the world to be equal and to be treated with respect. It is a day to stop fearing the word “feminism”, and to explain people that it does not mean being against men, it is a movement to destroy the barriers that we, as women, have to overcome to get to the same position as a man, to vanish that feeling of fear that society tells you that you should have because as a women you are more vulnerable, to fight for the right education of society to prevent sexist acts.
Sweden is known as one of the references in gender equality, you can feel it and see it everywhere. Kids are educated in a gender equality model from pre-scholar levels, with the aim of giving children the same opportunities in life, regardless of their gender, by using teaching methods that counteract traditional gender patterns and gender roles.
Also in the family environment you can feel the gender equality, laws like that promote shared parental leaves made Sweden a country were is not weird to see the fathers taking care of their children. Couples have 480 days to share, in which 90 days would be entitled for each of the parents, being non-transferable to the other.
In the work environment the requirement is that all employers must actively pursue specific goals to promote equality between men and women. Discrimination is not allowed and employers have the obligation to investigate and take measures against any harassment. Also, employers must not unfairly treat any employee or job applicant who is, has been or will be taking parental leave.
But still, even with all that, Sweden hasn’t manage to reach gender equality, in the families women still carry out a greater part of unpaid home and care work. The unequal divisions lead to lower incomes for women and by extension lower pensions than men. In private companies the highest positions are still occupied mainly by men, and the positions of power in politics are still male dominant. Furthermore, violence against women is still a reality, data suggest that close to every third woman in Sweden has been victim of serious physical or sexual violence as an adult, those are worrying statements.
And now think about it… If even with all that Sweden is one of the best countries in the world in gender equality, how is in the rest?!
We are two international students from two European countries where things are worse than in Sweden:
Emy (France) and Mercè (Spain)
In Spain and France the problem starts as a kids, when we are continuously differentiated as girls or boys and treated differently because of that. If you are a girl, you will be receiving toys to make you be a future good mum, cooking stuff, or of course, you will learn how to use make up with just 5 years old! Instead boys get all the cars, weapons, mechanic games, sport balls (like girls are not even meant to do sports!) or even construction games such as Lego! And the truth is, when we are kids we are all the same, if we become different is because society let us believe that we are meant to be different.
From a career point of view, women salaries are still lower, sex discrimination during job search still exists and one of the first question recruiters ask is “Are you planning on having babies?” And some women are still afraid to tell the truth and not getting hired…
In our countries, it is hard to go out without undergoing what we call “Street harassment”. Or in simple words without having men commenting your outfits, the way you walk and judging out loud if they would like to invite you to their bed. Yeah might seem a trivial situation you could just ignore, but imagine living with that everyday…
The whole society suffers from what we call “rape culture”. The fact that the social environment and media present situations in which sexual violence is justified, excused or just accepted. We see it everywhere, from movies to video games, where rape is a normal scenario for a heroine. The teenage idols, the singers, create songs where they explain that “no” could be interpreted as a “yes”, where they explicitly tell girls to not provoke (provoke includes just your dressing) or it won’t be the guy’s fault if they cannot control themselves (Do you really wanna be seen that way?). When we have a break of all that comes the commercials, that keep treating women as an object, often half naked, always dominated by men. And if not, we are put as images for cleaning products or machines “In case we forget our place in society, serving men at home!”
In Spain and France, the justice is still trying to make the victims of rape responsible of what happened to them. They try to find explanations on the wrong side, blaming the behaviour, the number of previous relationships, the fact you just open the door or went out, the outfits… But they never blame the rapists! File a claim for rape can be a real battle, even with medical evidences. Because “after all, we were looking for it“.
We are glad we live today in Sweden, where we can come home walking in the middle of the night and feel safer compared to our countries. Yes we are happy to live in Sweden but we don’t forget the situation in our countries or in other countries where women have absolutely no rights.
So please don’t congratulate us today for being women. We did not accomplish any epic quest to become one. We are just – physically and/or psychologically – born that way! Instead please, just have look around. Look at all the campaign that exist to make us equal. Because I wanna be free to go out fearless. Because I wanna be free to travel alone fearless. Because we all deserve the same chances, no matter where we are from, no matter if we are men or women, we are just human beings!
Links for more information:
- About gender equality in Sweden:
- About gender equality campaigns:
- About “Rape culture”:
http://www.madmoizelle.com/slut-shaming-115244 (in French)