I was shocked today, I overheard a conversation (well I was sort of walking through it) in which it was suggested that women should not earn as much as men. The argument being that women can’t do certain ‘handy-man’ tasks and therefore are not on equal footing/ skills level. There was no consideration that the duties of the post holder meant that those were within the tasks that they had to do. They felt they were doing that task because they were a man. The individuals discussing this were young, educated and clearly at the same time, ignorant.
It was incredibly shocking to hear this said in front of me, I’ve always prided myself on being able to do everything the average man could do and in many cases, I’ve had to prove that I could do it better. The times I have had builders on archaeological sites apologise to me for saying that they didn’t think I would be able to do something or keep up digging with the lads. I can wire a plug, change a light bulb, build a stage from wood. I taught the husband how to put up shelves and decorate and garden. I can also sew, cook and do lots of other tasks traditionally thought of as female. It’s 2010 women deserve to be paid the same as men for the same job, it actually makes me feel quite sick that some men still think that this isn’t the case. People are individuals, some men can’t do tasks traditionally considered male.
What I find shocking is how this is considered acceptable in the workplace, if these comments had been about race or disability I am sure that they would have been taken more seriously. In 1928 women won the right to vote on equal terms with men. Surprisingly, as late as 1981 The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) came into force. The only country not to ratify this is the United States. I was six at the time and it has un-doubtably improved my life in more ways than I am aware. Now I have a daughter I like to think that a world of opportunity is open to her and I really hope that she will grab every chance she has whole-heartedly. I hope that I will succeed in bringing her brother up to respect women as equals, as his father does.
The question is really how to educate these men who still seem to have these Victorian opinions of women. Yes, there are women out there who cannot do some of the things that ‘men’ can do, but equally there are plenty of men who cant do these tasks nowadays. Whose fault is it that these opinions still exist? Perhaps this is one area where the media have actually been quite remiss, maybe they haven’t highlighted these issues enough, provided enough positive examples and highlighted cases of law enough. Maybe women don’t do enough themselves, I think I have always taken it for granted that I can do stuff, be capable and that I am equal. Perhaps I should be more pro-active and militant about it, shout it from the rooftops, make a point of my equality for the sake of my daughter. But then, I think to myself; why should I? It’s the ignorance of others, the minority. At least I hope it’s the minority…