The gender manifest

Recent decades have seen great progress being made ​​in the field of human rights, particularly regarding the position of women in Western societies, although these still rely on patriarchal norms supported by millenary religious values.

Since the 50s, the last round of improvements has been supported by elements as diverse as the introduction of the contractive pill, the cold war or economic necessity.

But we must not think that the war between the sexes is almost won (the history of gender relationships can best be described as a war – not always cold, I’m afraid – that finds its sources at the dawn of time), that there are just a few loose ends to be taken care of before we can boast of having created a society – or should I say a civilization – based on gender equality.
In fact, the dangers awaiting us – both women and men – may undermine the very foundations of this exceptional movement. As examples, I will take two areas where these threats might become reality: sexuality and economy.

Imagine for a moment that the low birth rate in many Western countries ‘obliges’ politicians to take drastic measures to press women to have more children. To this political pressure add a ‘renaissance’ of religious values ​​that wants to impose a policy of restriction on contraception and abortion. This explosive mixture could give birth to a society whose values would put forward the reproductive role of women, a society that would ask them to return to their ‘natural’ primal function, that of being a mother!
To this demographic and religious cocktail, we could combine a third element, the intense sexualisation taking place in our societies. A counter-reaction that would want to contain or even eliminate this phenomenon would certainly rest on a denial of female sexuality, inhibiting women, as it has been the case for the last 3000 years, for the desires that men have.

A second factor that has greatly contributed to today’s equilibrium has been the economic independence that women have achieved. Utterly unthinkable a few decades ago, this development has fundamentally altered the relations between genders and forms a key pillar to any sustainable change.

The economic progress made by women in recent years is nothing short of amazing, if we think about the function and dependence of women in the ideological representation of the American Dream after World War II. The economic crisis of the 1970s made it possible for women to enter the labor market as cheap labor. With the economic boom of the 80’s and 90’s, women were needed in all economic sectors of our Western societies, and they made their way up, from the lowest to the highest functions. In a few decades, women have not only gained economic independence, but their current economic role is of first importance.

Now imagine that we face a serious crisis, a crisis that would profoundly hinder the development of our societies and affect our economic wellbeing, leaving millions without work. Faced with a high jobless rate and with no financial means to support their population, governments would be forced to take extraordinary measures to ensure their survival: in order to preserve employment for their male population, women would be sacrificed ‘for the greater good’ and would be asked to stay at home, returning thus to domesticity.

The two scenarios I have used as examples seem quite unlikely. Yet, we must be aware that the progress of recent decades could evaporate during the rebalancing that will have to take place in order to remove the excesses that our societies have accumulated. While still processing the gains that have brought us where we are, we must remain vigilant, and construct a social environment – whatever the circumstances, whatever the conditions – based on the principles of gender equality.

2 Responses “The gender manifest” →

  1. Álvaro Ricárdez

    30 July 2011

    I love this sit! I’m a Mexican TEFL teacher in a junior high and I’m always looking for texts which could open up my student’s minds while using English in real world conditions. I love this space because I can take some subjects to develop debates in my class and eventually post some opinions here! Thanks a lot!


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