Rhys James – Post 1: Issues and Ideas

 

Gender Equality and discrimination is an issue which remains highly relevant in today’s world however it is often dismissed and/or trivialised by those in the media, positions of power as well as the attitudes of the general public. It is an issue that many people hold very strong opinions about and manifests itself in many different contexts. Through the selection of articles I have analysed, I attempt to canvas the variety of different contexts in which gender equality remains a significant issue.

 

Young men oblivious to pay gap

This article makes heavy use of statistics and survey results to prove that, while men of all ages are aware of general gender bias, an incredibly small percentage of those believe that it directly affects their workplace. As someone who has always been acutely aware of the disadvantages and discrimination that women face in the workplace, as it was something that was often explained to me from an early age, it’s quite amazing how few men were aware. The suggestion of a ‘not in my backyard’ mentality is an interesting point and one that I hadn’t really considered previously. This suggests that it may not be an issue of broader awareness as such but rather that it may be an issue of making it clear to young men in particular that the problem exists everywhere and affects all workplaces.

An interesting point made at the end of the article is that women mistakenly assume that men are ambivalent towards the issue of gender equality. However, although a majority of men who responded to the survey acknowledged that there is an imbalance between the genders, it is another thing entirely to do something about it. The author is clear on her stance that she believes it is important to involve men in the discussions and problem-solving regarding gender equality, particularly in the workplace.

 

The Hack article

This article is written for triple j’s investigative program “Hack” and as such is tailored to triple j’s core, youth demographic. The article dissects the various levels of female representation within different sections of the music industry, from festival lineups to radio airplay, and overwhelmingly concludes that female artists are hugely underrepresented across all facets of the music industry. Interestingly, the article and its author Ange McCormack do not shy away from acknowledging that triple j are just as guilty as anyone else and does not suggest they are in any way leading by example, yet.

The article relies heavily on statistics and comparative figures which lends credibility to the argument especially as none of which suggest any particular bias towards triple j but are simply used as evidence to support the opinion of the author. This article is particularly significant to my choice of the topic as it was the discussion surrounding women on festival lineups, on triple j, that was a key topic that initially interested me. Though this article talks specifically of the music industry, again relating to triple j’s core demographic, it shows yet another par of the broader community and popular culture where male dominance remains the norm and gender inequality remains a real issue that needs to be addressed.

 

A man speaking on women’s behalf

This article was one I searched for specifically as it is perhaps the most relevant to my own investigations. I was raised by a staunchly feminist mother who made clear to me the casual sexism and pervasive discrimination in everyday life and our general culture and for this reason I have always had no hesitation in referring to myself as a feminist. Malala Yousafzai said in an interview with Emma Watson, feminism is another word for equality, something I have always personally believed. In this article written for the Daily Telegraph however, makes the point that too often there are men in positions of power speaking ‘for women and agitating on the behalf of women.’ Susie O’Brien makes a point of clarifying that she does believe it is important for men, particularly those in positions of power, to stand up for women’s rights and commends the man in question, David Morrison, for doing so.

The point made by O’Brien’s article is that while all men should support equality and the rights of women, it is indicative of the larger problem that it falls to a man to make the issue heard. The fact that it takes a man’s voice to make the issue heard is representative of the broader problem. The solution and conclusion that can be drawn from this particular article is not for men to stop fighting for women’s rights, but for more women to be appointed in positions of power to break the cycle of powerful white men rewarding other powerful white men.

This article highlights my own reservations in speaking as a white male about issues of gender equality, but although I strongly agree that it is women whose voices need to be heard, I also strongly believe that it is the attitudes of men, particularly those in power, which need to change and that everyone, regardless of gender, should be as educated as possible on the subject.

 

The problem with merit-based appointments

One of the most commonly heard arguments used to defend the imbalance between men and women in positions of power is the idea that appointments should be ‘merit-based.’ In an article written for independent website “The Conversation,” Lisa A Williams makes the argument that even supposedly merit-based appointments aren’t free from gender bias. Williams, a senior lecturer in psychology at UNSW, believes that gender-based stereotypes regarding the ‘roles’ men and women should occupy in society exist subconsciously in everyone which in turn has an effect on how merit is judged.

One of the most interesting points raised by this particular article refers to the fact that the entire idea of merit is based on how well an individual has performed in past roles and situations however this does not take into account the fact that often women may not have been afforded the same opportunities as men for those previous roles. It is this idea of subconscious gender bias driving a cyclical process that is perhaps the strongest argument against those who profess merit as the gold standard.

Williams outlines the key aspects to the reform process as “A hard look at our own thinking, the structure of our society and the metrics against which we evaluate others.” This position is consistent with those who support the application of quota systems to improve the proportion of female appointments however it doesn’t necessarily support quotas as the solution but rather suggests we take a more extensive look into the systems and metrics that we apply as a society.

 

Great Expectations and harsh reality

In an article for the Sydney Morning Herald, Judith Ireland tells the story of Julie Mckay, former executive director of UN Australia, using her opinions on the matter to support her own thoughts and theories. The overarching idea presented by the article is that while we have made encouraging progress in the move towards gender equality, there is still a long way to go.

Ireland references policies on paid parental leave and the shifting attitudes of businesses towards addressing some of the issues while making the point that a broader shift in attitudes within general society is required, stating “Until we, as a community, accept we’ve got a problem [with gender inequality], it’s very hard to solve.” The opinions and ideas proposed within the article are supported by statistics, particularly regarding parental leave, as well as links to quotes and policies from the treasurer and other government members. There is a clear sense that Ireland places the onus squarely upon those in power, alluding again to Mckay and their shared ideals saying, “McKay says there needs to be a radical reshaping of how we view leadership, power and success.”

As a journalist, Ireland carries no additional credibility compared to her peers that may write about the same topic, however, as a woman and, more significantly, by using the words of Julie Mckay, the statements made within this particular article are particularly credible. The support of an expert in the field, Mckay was in the role of UN women executive director for 9 years, takes what could be considered a simple opinion based article and lends it considerable credibility and resonance.

 

Conclusion

Having gone through this process of research and analysis, I have identified a plethora of sub-issues that would warrant further investigation however the 3 that interest me particularly are: “the role of men in reducing gender inequality,” “Gender Equality in the music industry” and “Why don’t people want to identify as feminists anymore?” I have identified these particular issues because they align with my own relationship to the issue as a man, a music lover and someone who would proudly use the term feminist.

 

 

References

Stewart, C. 2016, ‘Young men oblivious to gender pay gap: study,’ Australian Financial Review, viewed 29th July 2016, <http://www.afr.com/brand/100women/young-men-oblivious-to-gender-pay-gap-study-20160717-gq7fpy&gt;

McCormack, A. 2016, ‘By the numbers: women in the music industry,’ Triple J, viewed 29th July 2016, <http://www.abc.net.au/triplej/programs/hack/girls-to-the-front/7223798&gt;

O’Brien, S. 2016, ‘Women have a man speaking on their behalf. Again,’ The Daily Telegraph, viewed 29th July 2016, <http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/rendezview/women-have-a-man-speaking-on-their-behalf-again/news-story/0a69b8074becf54db68e9265ff98f053&gt;

Williams, L.A. 2015, ‘The problem with merit-based appointments? They’re not free from gender bias either,’ The Conversation, viewed 29th July 2016, <https://theconversation.com/the-problem-with-merit-based-appointments-theyre-not-free-from-gender-bias-either-45364&gt;

Ireland, J. 2016, ‘Great expectations and harsh reality: Australia’s gender equality progress,’ Sydney Morning Herald, viewed 29th July 2016, <http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-opinion/great-expectations-and-harsh-reality-australias-gender-equality-progress-20160406-go0cju.html&gt;

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