Want a better world? Consider Gender Equality seriously

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
Photo a women, balck and white, sitting on jury benches

First woman jury, Los Angeles, 1911

On the 8th of March 2015 we celebrated the International Women Day. It was the occasion to remember that women are still not equal to men in too many aspects. And it is the reason why we fail to collectively take the right decisions to tackle the many crisis we face (political, social, economical, ecological…).

According to UN Women, only 22% of all national parliamentarians were female as of January 2015.

Globally, women are paid less than men. Women in most countries earn on average only 60% to 75% of men’s wages, and the rate of employment for men is 72,2% against 47,1% for women.

Forms of violence against women are countless. Between 40% and 50% of women in European Union countries experience unwanted sexual advances, physical contact or other forms of sexual harassment at work. And 35% of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence.

Besides, according to the FAO, while women represent on average 43% of the agricultural labor worldwide, they are only 19% to own landholdings. However ensuring that women have the same access to agricultural resources as their male counterparts could lift 100 to 150 million people out of hunger.

The Feminine Dimension

In the Intercultual Management course I did in my business school in Marseille, France, I discovered the Hofstede’s cultural dimensions theory. One of these cultural dimensions is the feminine/masculine dimension.

In the masculine dimension, a person tends to give priority to benefits and results, success is more individual, organization is more vertical, thinking is more short-term oriented, value is given to acquisition of material resources, to independence, and to competition. People in the masculine dimension tend to believe in social Darwinism: people with under performance are excluded and put aside from society.

In the feminine dimension, a person tends to give priority to the welfare of the people and the environment, success is more collective, organization is more horizontal, thinking is more long-term oriented, value is given to caring, community, and cooperation. People in the feminine dimension naturally seek to protect the weakest and have a strong sense of responsibility over the community.

Reading this, it becomes easy to understand that our society is clearly stuck into the masculine dimension.

It is possible (even if subject to debate) that masculinity has been the fuel for the greatest discoveries, and the reason behind much of the knowledge we acquired over the centuries. But what is the use of knowledge and innovation if we are at the same time frenetically cutting the branch on which our civilization is relying?

We have been too far in this folly.

The biodiversity extinction rate is happening 1 000 times faster than the natural background rates, near one billion people are malnourished, almost half of the world – over three billion people – live on less than $2.5 a day (in purchasing power parity), wars and conflicts are still breaking up all over the planet… many things that I thought were over when I was a child naively thinking that adults were wise and responsible.

I think it is past time we make a switch of consciousness, and try adopt a culturally feminine approach. Everybody of us, women and men. It is time we push for some balance in the forces in our mind that command our thinking, our speaking, our acting, and our doing.

All these competitions between countries for who is going to have to more political or cultural influence, for who is going to have strongest economic growth, for who is going to build the biggest towers, the biggest boats, the fastest aircrafts… all of this is absolutely no different from the kids playing at who is going to pee the farthest, or who is going to be the strongest. No different.

The kids just grew up and the scale has become bigger, and the reasons to compete more numerous.

This is ridiculous, and I admit I am ashamed of it. Our children will laugh at us. And I hope they do. Because too much unbalance between masculine and feminine dimensions is leading to the most unreasonable decisions.

It is important to note that being a woman doesn’t necessarily mean being in the feminine dimension. My understanding of these dimensions is that they are regardless of one’s gender. But I do believe that women generally tend to have this feminine dimension more than men do.

That is why we need more women in politics, hopefully leading to improve democracy and to change a system that makes citizens virtually powerless.

That is why women should have equal importance in the economy, hopefully leading to transform its structure.

That is why any form of violence and discrimination against women must stop as well as many other issues affecting women.

“The way we treat our Earth is directly related to the way we treat Women”, says Claude Bourguignon, a French soil microbiologist.

It is true. If we really want to make our planet a peaceful and enjoyable place to live, it must start in our minds, all of us, and we should make room for women to have a stronger importance in our society.

Note: The terms “feminine” and “masculine” in this article refer to the Western perception and understanding of these concepts. The reader should keep in mind that different societies construct their gender roles, masculinity and femininity, differently.

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About me
I'm passionate about sustainable lifestyles and urban agriculture. I believe that community-supported initiatives and bottom-up policies are key to foster necessary societal changes. I'm an advocate of degrowth, agro-ecology, sharing economy and participatory democracy. Based in Bratislava, Slovakia, I like learning, reading, writing, sharing, hiking, dancing, eating, and celebrating.
Nicolas Giroux
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