A Guide to Equality | Sarah Stook
Feminism. Misogyny. Misandry. Equality. Inequality. Sexist. Bigot.
Buzzwords across social media, words construed as insults or as badges of honour. Words that are used to combat opinions that they don’t like, creating an argument but not a debate. These days, they are words that are basically without meaning.
Its true meanings vary from person to person. Feminism is an especially toxic word, going from the days of suffragettes and fight for equal pay to what many see as ‘Tumblr’ feminism, talking about shaving legs and iPhones being too large for female hands. In some Twitter bios, you can see ‘proud feminist’ or ‘anti-feminist’ at an increasing rate. The thing is equality is still sorely needed. Whether you call yourself a feminist or not, there is a huge problem with gender inequality. Women are married off as children, raped with impunity, denied an education, beaten by families and forced to lie down as their genitals are viciously mutilated. It is so important to remember these women, whether you’re at the Women’s March or if you’re not. There are different ways of doing this, but looking at it from a conservative perspective is important. Conservatives aren’t any less compassionate and kind than liberals, but there is a different outlook on the world.
There are also issues for men- higher incarceration rates, less likely to get custody and higher suicide. Though this article focuses mainly on how we can close the gender gap for women, a wider problem, equality is not equality if we don’t talk about men. The most important thing is to explore women’s rights from conservatism, which is generally more hostile to feminism- or at least the types that are brought up the most by the mainstream media.
- Acceptance– The lack of acceptance towards certain women is not as drastic as an issue as issues later mentioned, there is a problem with it. Women of certain ‘types’- perhaps certain religions, sexualities, lifestyles and political persuasions are not accepted by men and a lot of other women. Take for example political beliefs. Many admire strong women like Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi and Elizabeth Warren but ignore the strengths of women like Nikki Haley, Elaine Chao and Carly Fiorina because they’re not the right ‘sort’ of woman. Maybe they like Trump, maybe they’re pro-life or maybe they’re just downright conservative, but they are just not accepted by other people. They are attacked online, criticised in a way that other women are not. It’s not just conservatives, but liberals, women who are called whores and bitches for being on the left. Women in some cultures are ‘sluts’ because they do not wear a headscarf or long sleeved clothes in conservative cultures. Others are ‘worthy’ to be beaten because they choose the hijab. If a woman who does not wear the right clothes, have the right opinions or chose the right career is liable to be hated. Women should be worthy of respect whether they are liberal or conservative, wearing an abaya or a miniskirt, a homemaker or a barrister. Once there is that solidarity, we can begin to be better. A good conservative believes in equality, not one being better than the other.
- The Body– 1 in 4 women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetimes. For many, it will be assault by a husband which in some cases is perfectly legal. For others, it will be untamed militia in the middle of a warzone. We are lucky to live in a society where rape is penalised properly, but there are issues. For one, women aren’t deemed to be rapists and men cannot be victims under UK law, creating huge issues in gender inequality- making men monsters and women always innocent. The lack of reporting is also a barrier, with a vast majority of women keeping it quiet and an even bigger majority not getting a conviction. Our fight needs to be with every rape victim, from the poor white girls of Rotherham to the ethnic Yazidis in Iraq. There is one other problem that has fewer laws about it- FGM. With not a single conviction in the UK since it was made illegal in 1985, FGM is a frequently growing problem, hard to prove and not investigated probably. It disproportionately affects ethnic minorities, though it is not tied to one religion. That should not matter- these girls should matter. In Somalia, 98% of girls have undergone surgery and in many countries, the practice is either legal or only seen as a misdemeanour. In the UK, we need to fight hard for more convictions. Outside of the UK, it is not our place to white knight countries, but we need to use some tools to empower women in their own communities so that change comes from within. A woman’s body is her own, sacred, and we need to ensure that a woman’s body is not violated without her consent.
- Child Marriage and Pregnancy- In the UK, marriage is illegal for anyone under the age of 16. In Saudi Arabia, there is no lower age limit for girls to be married. Some underage girls are sent abroad to marry due to restrictions in their own countries, whilst other marry in their back yard. Child marriage is singularly one of the biggest issues regarding our girls, with millions married every year to men a lot older than they are. There is no liberal or conservative argument for a nine year old being married enough to a man forty years older than they are. Consistently, conservatives make the argument for protecting children, so there is no better way to do so. In some US states, girls can be married under 16- yes, in a first world country that is possible. Around the world, girls aged 12 are pregnant, ruining their bodies because they are physically not strong enough to bear children. Girls die in childbirth or get horrible injuries from it, such as obestric fistulae. We need to all be empowering societies and communities to rid of the problem ourselves, whilst stamping it out whenever it crops up in the UK.
- Education- Around the world, upwards of 80 million girls under the age of 17 are out of the classroom. Many never got an education to begin with; others were forced out due to poverty, marriage and pregnancy. Education is one of the most valuable assets which allow women to pull themselves and their communities out of poverty. The argument about equality of opportunity often applies to things like grammar schools in domestic UK policy, but there is no bigger argument than this. Girls deserve the same opportunities as their brothers- the opportunity to read and write, to skip over ropes during break time and to become a lawyer. These are the underdogs and the vulnerable that every proud feminist should be fighting for, whether they are a white suburban Londoner or a farmer living in rural Malawi.
- Femicide- Killed for being a girl. Sometimes it’s through sex-selective abortions, others it’s through strangling the baby seconds after birth or leaving them in the elements to die. In some cultures, a boy is worth way more than a girl. In India, they had to ban gender screening in 1994 due to the sheer level of sex-selective abortions, but femicide is a huge issue in the country, as well as in China. Their value is so low that murdering them for what’s between their legs is seen as normal. Another recent case in India had a woman and her two daughters being burnt alive because the mother had never borne a son. In northern Mexico, specifically Ciudad Juarez, hundreds of girls have been found murdered and dumped in the vast deserts, those who have fought for justice been murdered for it. The authorities don’t care- incompetence, lack of resources as well as a patriarchal attitude.
- Honour Killings- There is no honour in killing but that’s what they’re called. Whilst some men are victims, usually in cases of horrendous homophobia, the vast majority are women and therefore is seen as a female issue. There are a variety of reasons behind the murders, from marrying the ‘wrong’ person or running away from home when abused, but the central theme is that these women have apparently shamed their families. It is definitely a double standard- men can have affairs and beat their wives, but any abused victim or woman accused of adultery will be killed by their families. In several countries, it is perfectly legal to kill a woman if she is thought to have brought shame on the family. Whilst thankfully illegal in the UK, there are cases of it, such Shafilea Ahmed and Banaz Mahmod. We should defend all men and women from supposedly justified murders, by encouraging stronger convictions and protection for those at risks.
- Acid Attacks- In the developed world, men are much more likely to be victims of acid attacks; however this is not a particularly gendered issue- it is mainly due to gangs and organized crime. In the developing world, acid attacks nearly solely focus on women. Common in South Asia, particularly Pakistan, India and Bangladesh. Women are attacked by family or acquaintances, usually for daring to say no to marriage proposals or doing something wrong in the eyes of the family. It is simple, rooted in misogyny and an idea that a woman is no longer desirable if she is scarred by acid. Our fight should be against deep-rooted misogyny. In the UK, we should continue to right against acid attacks against men and women by increasing sentencing, more powers to the police and the limitation of sales.
- Suicide Rates- Suicide is the biggest killer in men under the age of 45 in the UK, and only one country in the world have more women than men killing themselves (Afghanistan, mainly due to the extremeness of the Taliban and of domestic abuse). The main problem in tackling it is legislation, because no legislation can stop men killing themselves. Our best option is to talk to men, ask how they are feeling and ensure that they know that they can be heard. Government is usually not the option, but huge campaigns and more help into mental health services. A majority of suicides from veterans and serving soldiers are men, so helping them transition and ensuring a good defence budget is also key to keeping them alive. Mental health is also romanticised by Tumblr blogs and controversially, show 13 Reasons Why, creating a romantic element that also belittles mental health. It’s either taken that way, or far too lightly. An argument can be made that this comes from society, keeping men from being open about their emotions.
- Incarceration Rates- Men are much more likely to be jailed and more likely to receive longer sentences. A 2011 survey in the USA indicated that white women are least likely to be convicted as a group, with ethnic minority men receiving the highest conviction rates. For some crimes, men are 362% more likely to receive jail time than women. Men are the biggest victims of crime, the majority of murder, assault and robbery victims, as well as being unfairly put against women in the judicial system. Take Lavinia Woodward, a woman who stabbed her boyfriend whilst high on drugs and alcohol. No prison time, an eighteen month suspended sentence as the judge feared she was too bright as an Oxford student and it would ruin her surgeon dreams. The same kind of logic occurred with the Brock Turner case, but there’s a high chance that if it was a man, especially a minority man, in the same situation, then he would have been rightly jailed for a long time.
- Custody Arrangements- In 80% of custody cases in the US, women get sole custody. Whilst in some countries, men tend to receive custody due to religious and societal reasons; men still come up short when it comes to getting custody in divorce cases. For thousands of years, society has seen women as the primary caregiver and defined by that role. Whilst that view is thankfully being erased, it’s still part of judicial thinking when it comes to custody. There is no doubt that some fathers are very bad for their children and there are reasons as to why they cannot take custody, but they are still unfairly treated. The vast majority of both parents are excellent, so why do men get the short end of the stick?
Other issues that affect men are lack of educational opportunity, higher homeless rates, male circumcision (which does not receive as much attention as FGM); underreported domestic abuse; false rape accusations; conscription and disadvantages in warzone. Writing about them all would require an essay, considering how much isn’t reported. Writing about every issue women face would also require an essay, considering historic prejudices.
Being a feminist is fine. Calling yourself an egalitarian is fine. Defining yourself as supporting men is fine. What is not fine is twisting these words to create insult, or ignoring issues that do not suit your narrative. Every issue here is deserving of support. All conservatives need to unite to fight this injustice, fighting against the image of cruelty put against us by the left.
If you believe in feminism, you need to support men through mental health crises and question why men receive longer prison sentences. If you’re a feminist in the West, you need to support girls who have their genitals mutilated and their bodies practically sold in their teenage years. Equality is not a liberal, moderate or conservative issue. It’s an issue that unites us all.