Why Gender Equality Is Not Just a Women’s Issue

Instagram / @florencegiven

The last couple of years have been important for gender equality, with advocates like Grace Tame and Brittany Higgins coming forward to share their stories and advocate for women’s rights. The gender equality debate is now something that is regularly present in public conversation, and that is a huge step for our society.

It doesn’t, however, change the fact that in Australia, we lose one woman to domestic violence each week. Or the fact that misogyny in the workplace is still a major issue today.

Most women that I know (including myself), have been told by an employer throughout their career that they were hired based on their looks. I’ve been personally made to feel that I owe my employer something, simply because they hired me.

As a young woman, at my first ever well-paid job, I decided to ignore my instincts. But, as I found out the hard way, your hard work and real talents aren’t recognised if your employer’s main and initial interest, is completely unrelated to work.

Non-profit organisation, FCK the Cupcakes, is rallying for gender equality in the workplace with a new approach: engaging men in the conversation.

As women in this gender imbalance, we’ve often been told to take responsibility for our position and told that we can be the ones to make the change. Advertisements are aimed towards women being resilient and strong — learning self-defence and gaining physical strength — rather than engaging the perpetrators of the misogynistic and violent behaviours. As a recent campaign from FCK the Cupcakes points out, that “if we continue focusing on women as the solution, we’re not solving the root problem.”

Whilst there has been an increased focus on messaging to men, such as the “there’s never a good reason for abuse” and “if you see disrespect, unmute yourself”, the domestic and workplace inequality statistics show that these messages failed to engage men in an effective way.

FCK the Cupcakes believe that the real problem, is men believing “it’s not me”, without any real understanding of the lived experience of women, or the complexities that come with being raised in a patriarchal system.

“Many men have disconnected from the conversation, because in their eyes, they are not the men in these advertisements or articles,” reads FCK the Cupcakes‘ Be the Change campaign document.

“They have no lived experience of what the average woman goes through in the daily work day (or their unconscious contribution to it).”

As we know, it doesn’t take assault or violence to feel unsafe or objectified in the workplace, or anywhere, for that matter. Often times it’s the little things, the things that are brushed off and laughed about and perhaps not even a conscious act of misogyny, that build up a subconscious power imbalance between men and women.

It’s the expectation of dressing up for work, the crude comments about our appearance, the patronising in front of other colleagues, the silent tension that feels confusing, because you didn’t initiate or want it, but somehow, it just happened. It’s the tough fact that there are many men who still believe they are superior to women, that they are more powerful and that their role is to be in control, that fosters these toxic and disrespectful environments.

In order for things to truly change, men need to be a part of the conversation. And furthermore, they deserve to be. If we don’t give men the opportunity to learn about our lived experience, and to step up and take accountability and truly understand the root of their actions, then how will we ever evolve into a society of true gender equality?

Invite men to be the change — in the workplace, in circles of friends, in family dynamics and with strangers. Bring them forward in conversations around equality and encourage them to put plans into action.

Many men want to help but don’t know how — but it’s about contributing to the fight for gender equality 365 days a year.

So, if you want to be part of the conversation and/or feel inspired to get the men in your life onboard, you can find out everything you need to know about FCK the CupcakesBe the Change campaign here and follow them on socials to be a vocal supporter here.

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