Nonfiction in response to Gender Equality
By Kelsey Cashman
Image Credit: Margaret Akey and Crinny Woloson
For hundreds of years, women have been striving to achieve equality with men. Equal rights such as the right to vote and the right to own land. Equal opportunities in sports and in the workplace. Equal pay and access to education. Women have achieved much progress over the years, but women everywhere are still work to overcome blatant or underlying disparities.
Around the world, women are still treated differently than men. In Saudi Arabia, women are not allowed to drive, and in some Middle Eastern countries, women need permission from husbands or fathers to travel anywhere. In South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, 40% of young women are married by the age of 18 and can be killed for rejecting these arranged marriages, having no say in their future life and happiness. Also, in the Middle East, women have to face many challenges to get a divorce, whereas men can be divorced easily because of their supposed superiority. In some countries, women do not have control over their own bodies, such as in India, where rape laws do not apply to married couples. Rape of women is also a very prevalent issue in the United States, with 1 out of every 6 American women being the victim of a rape. Even in more developed countries, there are inequalities in the workplace and wages, with the highest paying jobs being male-dominated and women often only earning 77% of a man’s earnings.
Another hindrance to gender equality are the gender stereotypes and roles that are present in society. Science and math are male-dominated fields, leading women hesitant to pursue them or even be discouraged from pursuing them by male counterparts. In fact, according to National Girls Collaborative, women make up only 29% of the science and engineering workforce. Not only that, but far fewer people show up to watch women’s sporting events than men’s, believing women to be inferior to men in athletics. According to the NCAA, the average attendance for women’s Division I basketball games was only 1,517 to the men’s 12,000. Finally, women are far more likely to be subjected to sexual harassment. According to NPR, a survey done by Stop Street Harassment sound that 81% of women report being harassed at some point in their lives compared to only 43% of men. These are just a few examples of obstacles to gender equality in the world, but women everywhere are working to battle them and promote the equality of the genders. Two such women are McDonogh seniors Margaret Akey and Riley Callanan, who have been striving for the past three years to work for equality and promote feminism in their school and community.
Two years ago, Margaret and Riley noticed a disparity between the treatment of females and males in the classroom and on the athletic fields. Says Margaret, “it’s not overwhelming, but we noticed it.” The science classes had more boys than girls, and much more fans showed up to support the male athletic teams than female. Not only that, but these girls were told by friends that they were “too scary” and “too smart” for boys to like them. Curious, they asked their classmates about their views on feminism and found that very few people knew what feminists really are, believing them to be “left-wing radical bra-burning witches” as opposed to simply people who believe that there should be equality between the genders. To battle these issues and misunderstandings, Margaret and Riley founded GEM club, or Gender Equality Movement.
With GEM club, Margaret and Riley work to change the rhetoric around the word “feminism” and support the idea of women empowerment locally, nationally, and globally. Over the years, GEM club has had multiple fundraisers for Baltimore women and women abroad. The money goes to organizations such as House of Ruth, and this year the club raised around $400 to sponsor women in a war-dominated country. The majority of the club centers around discussions, as Margaret says they “found such a need for exploring [controversial] ideas and learning.” Through the meetings, GEM invites people to come and talk about provocative topics such as stereotypes, hyper-masculinity, intense sports cultures, and Trump’s election. Other discussion topics include the double standards for men and women in relationships, where if a man sleeps around he is a congratulated “player” but if a woman does the same she is shamed as a “slut,” and the gender stereotypes of the quiet submissive woman and the loud dominant man. A final project of the GEM club at McDonogh is partnering with the middle school to have conversations with the girls and boys about appropriate social media use and healthy body images. In doing this, Margaret and Riley hope to be able to teach the girls to have a positive body image and confidence in their own worth and abilities.
Over the years, GEM club has had a noticeable impact on the McDonogh community. Three years ago, the club didn’t exist. Since then, it has blossomed into a huge club that brings awareness to issues in our society and others. GEM club offers a place of support for all people at McDonogh and has caused many developments at McDonogh including the establishment of a Women’s History course. Without GEM club, says Margaret, “we wouldn’t be thinking about issues in our society about gender equality as much.” Though both Margaret and Riley will be graduating this year, the club will be passed down to a future generation of feminists and will continue to hold discussions and presentations about gender equality in Baltimore, the United States, and the world.
All around the world, women are working towards the equality of the sexes. GEM club is one of many organizations that work to advance female empowerment and gender equality. Others include InterAction, Equality Now, CARE, International Planned Parenthood, all of which work to solve the inequality of men and women by addressing separate issues of this inequality. Though the gap between men and women has closed over the years, there is still more work to do. Only when we all join together and realize that, man or woman, we are all human, only then will we be able to finally close the gap and finally have equality among all people.