As we approach the end of Women’s History Month and have seen the recent rise of the #MeToo movement and the Women’s March, I believe this is an appropriate time for us all to reflect upon how the global status of women has (or has not) improved over recent years. This is not just about the extreme cases that are ever-present, and still found, in less economically developed nations. This is also about the daily lives of our daughters, mothers, and friends in their schools, workplaces, and social groups.
When discussing the most pronounced examples of disparity between genders, who would guess that the male literacy rate in Afghanistan was double the female’s? Or that women make up only 11% of India’s congress? In Afghanistan’s case, its female literacy rate has increased notably from 17.6% to 24.2% solely between 2011 and 2015. But please do refrain from being overly thrilled, because we should not be deceived by these figures alone. The total adult literacy rate has also increased from 31.7% to 38.2%. Can more women read? Yes; but considering that the standard of education on the whole has increased by the same percentage, the pace at which the circumstances are improving for women alone is rather disappointing.
Meanwhile, women in the more developed part of the world face troubles of different character. One of the most actively discussed issues here are related to biased career opportunities and discrimination at workplaces. Although these may not appear as grievous in comparison, our attention must be adjusted not on the degree of discrepancy alone, but to the substantive existence of discrepancy itself. For instance, the Mike Pence Rule that has emerged as an aftereffect of the #MeToo movement seems to be the newest fuss. This involves men excluding women from various work-related occasions, ranging from business trips to social get-togethers, in order to eliminate the possibility of displeasing or offending women at all. Now, some argue that this is the securest and the most straightforward way to wipe out both the chance of men being wrongly accused and the apprehension women may feel. However, this is nothing less than another insult, as it robs women of the opportunity to demonstrate their fullest competence, and the fact that men are able to choose who is to be left out proves that they are the dominant lots in the office.
There certainly has been some progress in closing the gap between the genders in various areas including education, quality of life, and career opportunities, as figures do tend to show. Likewise, although they cannot be described numerically, movements like #MeToo exhibit the new stance women have taken the courage to uphold. We must also recognize that this was enabled by the changing social atmosphere, thanks to those who have come to a realization that women were to be perceived and treated in a way they rightfully deserve as individuals. Although every smallest step forward should be celebrated, for as long as gender discrepancy prevails, we mustn’t stop reaching out to those who still remain in the blind-spot of attention. Compared to 2011, seven more percent of Afghan women could read in 2015, but what about the other 76%? And so what if the ratio of women in offices is increasing? The freshest layer of the glass ceiling has been added just as we thought it was cracking. Granted, we are on the right track, but the pace of improvement and the “splitting sides” looming up subsequent to every other progressive m o v e m e n t is somewhat discouraging.