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Girl, It’s a Man’s World

Is equality a myth, or am I overreacting? 

Illustration by Natasa Mihailovic for Design SCENE

As we enter the third decade of the 21st century, prejudice, discrimination and stereotyping based on one’s gender still exist. As a society, we have failed to instill the lesson of equality into younger generations and little girls today still have to be reminded and taught that they should aspire to be their best selves, regardless of what they are told their limitations are. Instead of enjoying the benefits of equal opportunities for all, we spend a lifetime absorbing sexism and discussing gender equality.

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Sexism follows women throughout their lives from the moment they are born and the problem reaches the peak when they start working. Not only that the work done by women isn’t valued high enough, but they are also intentionally kept away from the positions of power.

Read more after the jump:

Illustration by Natasa Mihailovic for Design SCENE

According to psychologists, sexism is a learned behavior, which leads us to the question – does society teach us to be sexist? Well, in short — yes. At a young age, we learn to follow certain behaviors based on traditional gender roles. Children choose toys, clothes and activities that fit into the gender-specific categories they have learned from their families. While children don’t naturally gravitate toward these stereotypical behaviors, they are thought to do so.

Seeing women as weak, and men as strong is stuck in our culture. The culture of masculinity teaches boys that being a girl is something bad. Even the language we use is a signifier of this – being called a ‘girl’ is taken as an insult, but girls who show strength have “manned up,” and when they are courageous, they have “balls.” We unconsciously use this misogynist language, without being aware of the effects it produces. This way we insinuate that femininity is necessarily related to vulnerability, that having compassion is a reflection of weakness and that crying is for girls only.

At a young age, we learn to follow certain behaviors based on traditional gender roles. Children choose toys, clothes and activities that fit into the gender-specific categories they have learned from their families.

All of this contributes to the idea that the sexes are different in more ways than just physically. It is already predetermined who should be a breadwinner and who should be a milk-buyer. That’s why the idea of “men’s vocation” and “women’s vocation” is still so widespread. We are thought that women shouldn’t aspire to the same goals as men.

Some would say it’s a lack of ambition that’s keeping women back. I couldn’t agree less. I know women that are way more ambitious than men they work with. It’s the fact they’re working in a “men’s world,” that slows down their progression. They have to prove themselves as twice as much as their male colleagues in order to be taken seriously. Even then, the jobs women do are often not as financially valued as those performed by men. According to the Huffington Post, due to the gender pay gap, women work 59 days for free every year. Moreover, what seems to be particularly troublesome is the proportion of women in positions of power: only around one in ten CEOs is a woman. Some of them claim that even when women are given the opportunity to be in positions of power and leadership they are not given the same respect as a man in their same position would get and that the work done by women simply isn’t valued as highly.

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Seeing women as weak, and men as strong is stuck in our culture. The culture of masculinity teaches boys that being a girl is something bad.

This is the problem in many industries; even the ones that are very female-dominated, like retail, fashion, and the beauty industry. The music industry is no exclusion. Female artists have to constantly fight to command respect in today’s music landscape. English singer and songwriter, Charli XCX pointed out the problem last month, when she took to Twitter to call out the music industry for sexism. She said that women working in the music industry, unlike their male colleagues, are constantly questioned on their validity. “I am an artist, a songwriter who’s co-written multiple “hits” for myself/other artists, a video director, exec producer of a Netflix show, a&r, I run a label, co-manage 2 artists”, she said. “If I was a man I’d be hailed as some sort of music industry god but as a woman, I’m just – doubted?’’

Evolutionary theory suggests that men behave in a sexist manner in response to a threat to their position in a social hierarchy, while social constructionist theory says that sexism towards women comes from fear – in order to remove women from male-dominated spaces. That leads to a conclusion – Men are afraid of women! At least the poorly performing men. They see successful women as a threat and they use sexism to keep them away from positions of power.

Men see successful women as a threat and they use sexism to keep them away from positions of power.

It is believed that women are choosing lower-paying jobs because they are drawn to careers that happen to pay less, or they want less demanding jobs so they can devote more time to family responsibilities. But in fact, it’s the gender bias and social pressure that bring down wages for women’s work. The fact that women often must take time off to have and raise children certainly interrupts their career path, because women still bear the primary responsibilities of child‐care. Here, there are lessons straight couples might learn from the same-sex couples. According to a study conducted by Families and Work Institute, 74% of gay couples share the responsibility more equally, compared to 38% of heterosexual couples. The reason behind it could be that gay couples don’t have a learned model to replicate. They don’t look up to the roles their mother and father played during their childhood. So, creating a better balance between men and women will empower women.

From a young age, girls use more subtle competitive strategies in order to reduce the social status of rivals and minimize retaliation, according to Joyce F. Benenson’s research published by the Royal Society. They rather choose complex verbal and non-verbal tactics and physical movements. Despite these differences, men and women currently interact and compete for the same professional positions, but their ways of competing are radically different. The way we work today is still rooted in the alpha culture created long ago by white, wealthy, alpha males. They created the working code, to which we are still guided today. According to Mary Portas women are ‘stuck in a Catch-22’ – they can’t get to the top because of the codes created by men, but can’t change things until they don’t get to the top. She thinks the solution is in creating a different kind of world – the one where men and women are equal partners in life as well as work. “I believe the time to Work Like A Woman, is now. Work is central to all our lives but only half of us are making the most of it – and we’re all losing out because of that. We need a radical re-evaluation of how we work and a cultural shift at the heart of it,” she said in her book Work Like A Woman.

Therefore, we live in a world created by men, for men. We either accept the alpha male working culture and become ‘one of the boys,’ or we radically change the way we work and live. As soon as we address the real problem, we can make a future where everyone can fulfill their potential, regardless of their gender.

Words by DESIGN SCENE Editor Katarina Djoric@katarina.djoric
Illustrations by Natasa Mihailovic for Design SCENE Magazine – @natasa.mihailovic
Originally published in Design SCENE Issue 33.

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