Monday, November 2, 2009

I am Woman! Hear me...whine?

So I was watching a little GMA clip today, and it was the segment with Kathy Lee Gifford and the lady whose odd name I can never remember, except that it's odd. The question they were asking was "Why don't men listen?" Or, specifically , why don't they listen TO WOMEN? Well, first of all, I don't think that's really what they're asking. I think the more accurate question would be "Why don't men listen WHEN and HOW we women want them to?" And the answer would be "Because they're not women."

But what really piqued my interest was when Kathy Lee cited a study saying that the U.S.A. had ranked 31st in the Global Gender Gap (2007) study. And I thought, "WHAT?! Thirty first?! Well, this needs context." So I went hunting.(Sweden came in first, if you're curious, but not curious enough to follow the link.)Who DOES these studies?! And more importantly, what's their agenda?

Okay, first of all, I'd like to point out that we are 31st out of 128 countries. Shouldn't that be mentioned?! But we came after Moldova, Sri Lanka and South Africa. Seriously?! Did they count the black women in South Africa? I mean, I know they've come a long way since Apartheid ended, but really?!

I didn't think this study had the right kind of criteria for a true gender equality study. They said it was based on four "pillars": economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, political empowerment and health and survival. And of course, there are a number of subcategories under each pillar. So the main pillars sound great, but then they had things like birth rates, and contraceptive use. What does that have to do with equality? It's not exactly something that can be compared. What, we're only equal when we give birth as often as men do? I could see contraceptive availablility being relevent, but not use. They counted how many women had trained medical professionals on hand while giving birth, but they didn't define professionals. And frankly, women have been giving birth for a long time now. Doctors aren't the only way to go. In fact, from a historical perspective, they're pretty new. I think it's great if these things are available, but I don't think it should count against anything if you don't use it.

Let me share an exerpt from the study:
Gaps vs. levels
The Index is designed to measure gender-based gaps in access to resources and opportunities in individual countries rather than the actual levels of the available resources and opportunities in those countries. We do this in order to make the Global Gender Gap Index independent of the level of development. In other words, the Index is constructed to rank countries on their gender gaps, not on their development level. Rich countries have more education and health opportunities for all members of society and measures of levels thus mainly reflect this well-known fact, although it is quite independent of the gender-related issues faced by each country at their own level of income. The Gender Gap Index, however rewards countries for smaller gaps in access to these resources, regardless of the overall level of resources. For example, the Index penalizes or rewards countries based on the size of the gap between male and female enrollment rates, but not for the overall levels of education in the country.
(emphasis added)

Okay, as far as I'm concerned, this study just tanked their right to have their results taken seriously with that one paragraph. They divorced the results from the criteria of development in a country. You kind of can't do that and expect to get any really accurate kind of answer, because the gender gap isn't independent of the development of a country! So this all becomes a massive, paper-wasting game of "What If?". "What if everybody had the same amount of stuff. Would the girls get as much as the boys?" Oh, come on! That is not science! This study seems to completely disregard the element of personal choice. Just because people don't avail themselves of opportunities, doesn't mean the opportunities aren't available to them.

I don't think this study creates an accurate picture of accessibility to resources. But people will just hear that the U.S. was 31st in the gender gap ranking, leaving everyone with the highly erroneous impression that America is somehow lacking in equal rights between genders. This happens a lot! Some study that has totally whacked out criteria comes out and says that America sucks in a ranking, and everyone just runs with it without putting it into any context. We gotta stop doin' that!

I, for one, am tired of people trying to make us look like we're some mysogynistic, oppressive, patriarchal regime. Women in western civilization have it better than any other women in the history of the world. In some ways we have it better than the men. Stop whining already.

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