10 March 2021

How important is it to model gender equality for future generations?

| Zoya Patel
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Gender equality

What can we do to bring an end to gender inequality? Photo: File.

This week saw International Women’s Day come and go, at a time when the country is preoccupied with the confronting reality of gender inequality as it plays out in Parliament House.

If there was ever any doubt that sexism and misogyny still exist, we only have to glance at our newspapers to be reminded of the ongoing perpetration of violence against women.

Amidst the commentary on what the correct course of action is for decision-makers in relation to the immediate events at play, there is renewed focus on the big picture. How do we end gender inequality – the driving force behind sexual assault, domestic violence, sexism and misogyny? How do we generate the right attitudes, beliefs and behaviours in future generations? How do we move from the ‘ambulance at the bottom of the cliff’ approach to one that prevents individuals toppling into the grips of victimhood in the first place?

READ ALSO The ‘Canberra bubble’ of gender inequality isn’t confined to just Parliament House

Of course, gender equality is about more than preventing violence against women. It’s also about equal workforce participation, women in leadership, the economic security of single parents, supporting men to engage in caring responsibilities, inclusion and support for LGBTQIA+ members of our community, and much more.

These are important aspects of moving towards a more equal and just society for all, not just in terms of gender but also in terms of economic equality.

Arguably one of the most effective ways of achieving the goal of gender equality is to embed the values that underpin it in the younger generation. Role modelling equal gender roles that celebrate differences while also reinforcing a sense of equal rights and responsibilities is crucial to enabling the next generation to continue to make strides in creating a more equal society.

But gender norms and stereotypes can be embedded more deeply than we recognise, and unpicking them in order to properly role model equality is a harder task than it may seem.

In the context of work, family and parenting, it can be especially hard to determine what behaviours have political weight, and what we should accept as preferences or parts of our personalities that are individually defined.

For example, in the context of my heterosexual de facto relationship, I often take the lead on various domestic tasks like cleaning the bathrooms, organising the pantry, or managing the vet appointments for the pets. My partner also cleans, does laundry, cooks equally and contributes to the running of the house. But it can’t be denied that I perform many ‘traditionally feminine’ tasks, and that he does many of the more ‘masculine’ chores.

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If we have children, will we be role modelling gender norms that reinforce more systemic inequalities in society? Or are the details of the roles we play in our relationships less relevant, and the level of choice we have in performing them more important?

When we really drill down into it, the core issue with gender roles isn’t only that we assign some tasks to men and some to women based on gender. It’s that we then ascribe a differing level of value to those tasks. That we undervalue traditionally female roles and attributes, in comparison to the male. And that when a person of one gender exhibits traits associated with the other, they are often ridiculed or ostracised as a result. Worse, that people with diverse gender identities are still discriminated against for their differences.

There is no doubt it’s a complex issue, and one that is so inextricably linked to individual preferences, attitudes and values that it’s inherently divisive. But without having these conversations, especially in the context of the revelations of the past few weeks, we may never find a meaningful way to end gender inequality and the negative behaviours associated with it for good.

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cockneyreject7:44 am 17 Mar 21

This is a complex issue. There’s equity and fairness on the one hand, and maintaining and promoting a fair culture…. with a laser-like focus Anglo middle class males for some reason.

So, I dunno, one reads and sees a lot about fairness but wonder (a) are you focussing on the people who are guilty of the really bad treatment of women and if not why not? and (b) why immiserate ourselves by morphing into a depressing Eastern Bloc type collective where every word and action is scrutinised by self-appointed political prefects?

Complicating it all you have the agendas left-wing groups like those spawned by George Soros in the naughties and especially post-GFC (Avaz, GetUp etc) and their fellow travellers in universities and public broadcasters across the West. Don’t underestimate their impact, even as it now fades. They made considerable ‘gains’ a few years ago, if ‘gains’ is the right word, and certainly made their mark on the political culture of western countries. The result? Trump, Brexit and, elsewhere, your Orbans and Erdogans were empowered when they saw the mess in the West.

So it’s no surprise then that pollies have wised up to what’s been going on and followed the money with predictable results for the charity status of the some of certain organisations,, the humanities courses and public broadcasters (or those that survive yet another defamation action).

Unfortunately left wing extremists have destroyed society so much that they can’t even provide a definition of ‘woman’ anymore. It used to be someone with female genitalia but they got rid of that definition as it did not suit their agenda. So, it now seems ‘woman’ is anyone who wants to be a ‘woman’ which is an appalling definition and covers anyone. So it’s a day celebrating ‘everyone’? Such a shame that women’s rights are actually going backwards.

Capital Retro9:46 am 11 Mar 21

No wonder there are more and more single men electing to live alone, a situation where they do all the “traditionally feminine” household tasks themselves without complaining about it.

Stephen Saunders7:39 am 11 Mar 21

Gender equality for future generations? The British Australian system cannot be improved. Pamper rich boys in single-sex church schools, and promise them they’ll be the government in 30 years time.

Capital Retro9:49 am 11 Mar 21

I think the “single-sex church schools for boys” in Muslim countries are called madrassas. I’m sure they aren’t promised they will be in government in 30 years time though.

Stephen Saunders11:03 am 11 Mar 21

Great point, Capital, though perhaps not immediately responding to mine. I mean, we want to move forwards, not backwards, don’t we? In the meantime, I’d much rather be governed by “Christian” blokes than blokes from the other Abrahamic religions.

I agree Stephen.
I mean it’s not like we have a fully democratic system where anyone can put their hand up for election, join an existing political party or start their own.

We need to stop forcing individuals to vote for the same types of people and allow them free choice with their vote. That way the true diversity of our society will be automatically represented in parliament.

Interesting that when discussing gender equality women are only interested in cherry picking the juicy stuff.
No one seems interested in ensuring gender equity in motor mechanics, nursing or plumbing.

And while my wife does most of the inside housework it seems that the car maintenance, gutter clearing & crawling under house that I do does not count in the division of labor.

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