I try to avoid reading the ‘Reader Comments’ on the UK Daily Mail website, but sometimes I lapse and find myself trawling through several pages in the search of some positive and constructive insights to the matter under discussion – often in vain. Given that the articles I am usually reading pertain in some way to the role of women and mothers in our society (a favourite topic, of course, for the Daily Mail), then when I drag myself away from these comments, I usually have to rescue myself from a sinking feeling that we have a long, long way to go in our world before we even approach the levels of equality – and courtesy to our fellow human beings – which will help us to become a happier, more balanced, more tolerant people.
This week I hopped online to read again an article I had read in the print edition about how high-flying women executives are paid 10% less than men, and I found myself drawn to see how people had reacted to the story. I should, of course, have known better. There were some very good points, including the observation that a seeming obsession with executives overlooks the plight of women in less high profile jobs, who too might well be (and often are) paid less than men, despite the raft of legislation to prevent this happening. Unfortunately, many, many of the comments betrayed a deep embedded sexism which sought also to undermine – by exaggeration – the progress made in our world by feminist and equality movements over the past few decades. The following comment – which I replicate below complete with original spelling and grammar – was, regrettably, typical:
‘These annual incomes don’t prove how many hours or how much holiday is taken , bearing in mind most “strong independant women” like to keep their sex and the city/ desperate housewife lifestyles open it wouldnt surprise me to find these women working alot less hours a week than the men,if that is so , claiming they think the deserve the exact same pay a year , will mean their hourly rates after made higher than men’s , which is not equality in my eyes , it’s special rights’
Well, I shall leave you to draw your own conclusions. Suffice it to say that it is very, very clear that as a society we have to do significant amounts of work in our schools, not only to improve accurate communication skills, but also to address the many negative perceptions of women that pervade our culture. We cannot take for granted that time and legislation will gradually move us all to a position where gender equality is a genuine and undisputed part of our lives. This is not about sameness – we are all in any case unique individual beings – but it is about real and deep mutual respect of all human beings for who and what they are.
So much to do … better get back to work, I guess.