Are women really disadvantaged today?

Dispelling myths about inequality and women’s opportunities

Women are often portrayed as victims instead of empowered and equal members of society. It is our responsibility to counter this highly political narrative which seeks to perpetuate myths and stereotypes that are counterproductive and hurt women.

In examining the evidence, we see a significant gap between reality and the political narrative that we are fed daily. So, why has it been adopted by the mainstream thinking when it devalues women and their contribution in society?

Why does the Council of Europe use taxpayers’ money for an International Women’s Day video that portrays women only as perpetual victims which are “attacked, disrespected and undermined”? As if women couldn’t be anything else than victims and the International Women’s Day needed to celebrate this victimhood.

Why does the UN and the World Economic Forum continue to demonise family and use a highly irresponsible narrative to portray women as victims, when the reality is that men are by far the largest percentage of victims of violent crime?  Not only men are twice as likely as women to be victim of both simple and aggravated assault, but the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Global Study on Homicide shows that up to 80% of all victims are male. Why is that not reflected in the messages we receive daily?

According to the headline of the UNODC report above, “the UN says the most dangerous place for a woman is her home.” If the media were honest they would show that the accurate picture is the one below with 80% of male victim of homicide.

Feminisation of Poverty

When it comes to economic inequality and poverty, we see again the same highly misleading narrative, which led many to name this phenomenon as the “feminisation of poverty.”

The source of this widely circulated claim that 70% of the world’s poor are women according to the UNDP, is “decidedly murky” according to Senior Strategic Adviser at Oxfam, Dr Duncan Green.   “The 1995 Human Development Report is often cited, but it gives no reference for how it arrived at the figure, or way of checking it, and contributes to the confusion by saying in the main text ‘more than 70% are female’ (i.e. including girls) but then simply refers to ‘women’ in the executive summary. The 1994 IFAD report “The State of World Rural Poverty” is also named, with doubts expressed at the time about its numbers,” Dr. Green wrote.

Problems with the Feminisation of Poverty

According to Professor Sylvia Chant from the London School of Economics and Political Science, the main problems with the feminisation of poverty is:

1. The lack of attention to differences in age among women and the fact that women have a greater life expectancy. In Latin America and the Caribbean, for example, 60% of the population over 60 is female.  It also fails to take into account that elderly women or pensioners and widows who have lost their partner may account for a bigger percentage of the population classified as “poor”, but that does not necessary mean they are destitute as provisions are often made by other family members.

It is a paradox and worth nothing that, as Professor Chant states, while feminist research has often identified men as the major cause of women’s poverty in developing countries, the feminisation of poverty suggests that when women are without men, their situation becomes worse.

2. The over-emphasis on income as opposed to life choices that women themselves make. Women are far more likely to value relationships, family life and career paths that may not pay as much, but this emphasis on income does not necessarily measures quality of life. It also does not prove a lack of opportunities when women choose this lifestyle (for example, teaching instead of construction work), and nor does it prove a lack of provision for women as family members share resources in a household.

In the West, despite the gender pay gap hitting a record low last year, misleading headlines tell a very different story. According to the Office for National Statistics in the UK, the pay gap between men and women is at a record low: 8.6% for full-time workers (down from 9.1% last year) and it is actually in 4.4% in favour of women when it comes to part-time work.

This consistent misrepresentation of data when it comes to gender pay gap is not just an abuse of statistics, but it also risks undervaluing and undermining the very real progress that women have made in the workplace, according to Nerissa Chesterfield from the UK Institute of Economic Affairs.

Additionally, reports often disingenuously combine the so-called “gender pay gap” with equal pay. This is important because again it leads to a misleading narrative. Since the 1970s, it is illegal to pay men and women differently for the same work. As clearly stated by the ONS (Office for National Statistics), the gender pay gap does not show differences in wages for comparable jobs, ie getting paid differently for doing the same job. Yes, this is exactly what we are led to believe.

To use these statistics as evidence of unequal pay is deliberately misleading and hurts women. Put simply, the pay gap does not exist because women are doing the same job as men and are getting paid less. It exists because women make different choices, particularly when it comes to taking time off work to care for children.

It is our responsibility to counter this narrative of victimhood!

Political ideologies that masquerade themselves as women’s rights, but instead push a permanent victimhood mentality, are not just counterproductive but really harmful.

Young girls need positive role models. Portraying women as victims is not empowering and it is a false narrative and fake news. The responsible thing to do is to offer an accurate picture of today’s reality. Women deserve better.

Cover pic: Shutterstock.com