Gender equality and female empowerment is a predominant issue in contemporary society and has progressed significantly throughout the years. Women fought to re-establish and reintroduce gender roles by encouraging each other to see themselves as equals to men. Recognising the power of change and improvement enables one to identify how much further there is to go. Through the in-depth study and analysis of secondary sources I have come away with three corresponding positions on gender equality and women’s empowerment: education, women’s empowerment and the power of authoritative figures.
USAID is a U.S. Governmental Agency that works in “ending extreme global poverty and promoting the development of resilient.” (USAID, 2016) The article, Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment, explores gender equality and women’s empowerment on a global scale. Providing statistics from surrounding professional bodies, in order to deliver expert information surrounding a global issue. The articles are demanding of change and reform, whilst offering factual evidence and statistics. USAID reports on numerous issues revolving around gender equality, particularly within developing countries. The potential of women has grown exponentially due to the increase and improvement of education across the world. “An extra year of secondary school for girls can increase their future earnings by 10-20 per cent.” (USAID, 2016) Meaning that their exposure to opportunity and empowerment is increased, enabling women to have their own sense of independence and liberation. Countries that capitalise on girls’ education are proven to have “lower maternal and infant deaths, lower rates of HIV and AIDs and better child nutrition.” (USAID, 2016) USAID aims to equalise gender roles in order to achieve societal development and progression. “When women participate in civil society and politics, governments are more open, democratic and responsive to citizens.” (USAID, 2016) With this unprecedented opportunity for women’s empowerment follows the challenge. An estimate of 62 million girls are not in schools, 1 in 3 of the female population experience gender-based violence and within developing countries 1 in 7 girls will marry before their 15th birthday. (USAID, 2016) USAID’s aspirational position is emboldening and informative of the potential of growth and development, establishing global change in the right direction.
Independent Australia is a progressive news platform focusing on Australian history and identity, revolving around politics, democracy and the environment. Author, John Passant, consistently writes for IA with a strong focus on gender-based sexism. Passant’s articles are passionate and engaging, providing readers with opinion based articles that are supported by factual evidence. His notable article,Violence Against Women: the Price is wrong, comments on the oppression of women (particularly in the media). Passant’s maintains a responsive position stating, “Jokes about violence towards women are indicative of systemic misogyny that normalises the oppression of women.” (Passant, 2016) Considering the topic is such a controversial issue at large I applaud and support Passant’s honest position on the article, I believe that his opinions are valid and authentic. “In my opinion, this violence flows from something deep within society, deep within the structures of capitalism and the profit motive.” (Passant, 2016) Violence towards women becomes catastrophic when experience in the media, because it immediately advocates and encourages the oppression of women on a large-scale. Passant references incidents in the media that encourage violence against women. The event where Eddie McGuire ‘joked’ about drowning Caroline Wilson on professional media was seen as ‘Just a bunch of blokes joking around’. (Price, 2016) While Alan Jones ‘joked’ about putting former Prime Minister Julia Gillard “in a chaff bag and dumping her out at sea.” (Passant, 2016) Joking about violence against women in contemporary society, especially on broadcasted platforms, encourages the subjugation of women. This behaviour accelerates the issue and ultimately feeds excuses for perpetrators actions.
Karen McVeigh has been a senior reporter for the Guardian since 2006 and reports on adolescent sexual harassment and violence, whilst also having a strong focus on refugees. Her article, Schools tackling sexual violence should focus on boys, explores the ways in which boys and girls are educated on sexual violence. McVeigh provides untainted, factual information on sexual violence within schools around the world, while also presenting Project Manager, David Brockway’s perspective on the matter. I believe that McVeigh’s position coincides with my own perspectives on the issue, whilst also providing informing statistics. Sexual violence is treated as a female issue and education is directed accordingly, however, “schools should focus on changing the behaviour and attitudes of boys rather than simply enabling girls to avoid abuse.” (McVeigh, 2016) A survey by Girlguiding found that “59% of young women aged 13-21 had faced some form of sexual harassment at school or college in the past year.” (McVeigh, 2016) If men are educated on gender quality and feminism, violence against women will be improved significantly. David Brockway provides a stimulating perspective, stating “you cannot separate the abuse and violence and the language that is part of this whole problem without linking it to the fact that it’s part of the male identity.” (McVeigh, 2016) Brockway believes that “gender-based harassment and violence is a men’s problem, it is not a women’s problem.” (McVeigh, 2016) Sexist stereotypes commonly support the behaviour of sexual coercion, which originates from the way individuals are educated. Brockway conducts school workshops for boys in order to overthrow gender stereotypes and abuse, improving gender inequality at the core. Providing a male voice on gender based violence and sexual harassment allowed for an interesting article, as it gave insight to a perspective I myself have not yet come across.
A Rape Victims Story: Six months of assault, five years of court explores the debilitating court process of a victim of sexual harassment, Sylvia Varnham O’Regan, recounts 14-year-old Amanda’s experience in explicit detail. O’Regan is a reporter for SBS News and is also a qualified lawyer and is particularly concerned with criminology and the justice system. The author provides an empathetic position with rigorous detail on the victim’s experience, presenting a slightly bias argument. O’Regan successfully communicates an engaging and emotional article that informs readers about the hindering effects of sexual abuse and the draining court process. O’Regan includes numerous recounts by the victim, relaying the detriment of her experience. The article explores the physical and emotional abuse Amanda experienced from the incident and the trial. Stating, “I was on the stand for six hours on the first day and it was just horrific, it’s almost like torture what they put you through on that stand. They questioned my sexuality, they told me I was a drug addict, they told me I was an alcoholic at 14.” (O’Regan, 2015) The legal system does not treat sexual assault cases with the deserved severity; they make it traumatic for the victim and lenient for the perpetrator. “People don’t report [rape] because they hear about how awful court is and how long you have to wait to go to court.” (O’Regan, 2015) Amanda received $40,000 in damages, but was charged with $20,000 in legal fees, a small reward for five years in court. In the current justice system sexual harassment cases are not controlled in the correct way. I believe that this issue alone leads to disparity in gender and the oppression of women.
Australian University Life’s Nasty Little Secret: campus rape was published by the Victorian newspaper journal, The Age. Authors Henrietta Cook and Timna Jacks explore the destructive rape culture within Australian universities. With a strong focus on victim, Emma Hunt’s first experience at Monash University. Both Henrietta Cook and Timna Jacks regularly report on education, with a primary focus on student issues. Providing readers with well-informed and well-written information and statistics on Australian universities and schools. The article explores multiple sexual harassment incidents from different universities within Australia, whilst also providing statistical evidence to inform the severity of rape culture. “National Union of Students report found that 53 per cent of abuse victims were targeted on campus, at a university event or college. Only 6 per cent of victims reported the incidents to the university and 5 per cent to police.” This quantitative data cohesively and clearly identifies the issue on a national scale, providing an impartial perspective. The authors sustain a reporter-like approach to the article, focusing on the victims’ emotional response, as well as the facts. This unbiased report on sexual harassment enables readers to build an empathetic response. Throughout the article the author repetitively quotes the emotional responses of the victims. With comments like “I said I wanted to go to my place, but was too scared and drunk” as well as, “I didn’t want to speak out in fear I would be attacked”. These unsettling comments are recurrent in each victim’s comments creating a pattern within contemporary rape culture. The reluctance of authoritative figures is an issue within society that demands attention. “When other things occur which are against student codes of conduct such as plagiarising … the university does have responsive reporting processes, which include punishment … there shouldn’t be any reason why they can’t do this for sexual assault” said the victim. The fact that plagiarism within universities is taken more seriously than rape astounds me. Students under go immediate punishment in the act of plagiarism, equivalent (if not greater) standards should apply to those who sexually abuse. Most students begin at university or college when they are only just above the legal drinking age. Students entering into these circumstances are “left to do whatever they want” (Cook & Jacks, 2016), encouraging a pool of adolescences to behave accordingly. Cooks and Jacks reported, “students’ sexual encounters were broadcast over a PA system at one University of Sydney College while residents at a neighbouring college published a journal that ‘slut shamed’ female students”. This misogynistic behaviour degrades and humiliates women, while elevating and praising men. This culture that is cultivated within schools and universities needs to be disabled, in order to achieve gender equality.
Furthermore, as a result of my analysis I have developed three core positions that need to be investigated further: education, women’s empowerment and the power of authoritative figures. Educating young men and women on mutual respect is the key to development and progression. While, encouraging female empowerment will help women find a voice and speak up. Currently “the cost to a woman making a complaint outweighs the benefits, to which there are almost none.” (Cook & Smith) This hesitation is another vital position that needs to be investigated, in order to dive deeper into these issues. Further investigating the culture that exists within schools, universities and the justice system at large will too progress my understanding of female empowerment and gender equality within young adults. Investing in gender equality and women’s empowerment can unlock human potential on a transformational scale. (USAID, 2016)
Written by Zara Hartwig
- Cook and Jacks, May, 2016, Australian University Life’s Nasty Little Secret: campus rape, Date Accessed: 05.08.2016, <http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/australian-university-lifes-nasty-little-secret-campus-rape-20160520-gp03vc.html>
- Cook & B. Smith, Oct 2015, The Age: Privilege and power in Australian Universities masks sexual harassment problem, Date viewed: 29.07.16, <http://www.theage.com.au/national/privilege-and-power-in-australian-universities-masks-sexual-harassment-problem-20151015-gka57t.html>
- McVeigh, July 2016, Schools Tackling Sexual Violence Should Focus on Boys, MPs told, Date Accessed: 03.08.2016 <https://www.theguardian.com/education/2016/jul/05/schools-tackling-sexual-violence-should-focus-on-boys-mps-told>
- S. O’Regan, Feb 2015, A Rape Victims Story: Six months of assault, five years of court, Date Accessed: 05.08.2016 <http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2015/06/11/rape-victims-story-six-months-assaults-five-years-court-10-months-prison>
- Passant, July 2016, Violence Against Women: the Price is wrong, Date Accessed: 03.08.2016, <https://independentaustralia.net/politics/politics-display/violence-against-women-the-price-is-wrong1,9251>
- USAID, 2016, Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment, Date Accessed: 31.07.2016, <https://www.usaid.gov/what-we-do/gender-equality-and-womens-empowerment>