Is equality a reality?

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Perspectives with Shirley Hallee

This past autumn misogynist chants were a part of Frosh week at St. Mary’s University.  Now we are hearing about racist, misogynist and homophobic twitters put out by St. Mary’s football players. A good university is getting a bad reputation because of the antics of some who should know better.

The school responded by giving those involved a 10-day suspension from the football team.  Since the football season has passed it is not likely the punishment will have much impact. 

This “punishment” is disappointing, since it gives the message that society really doesn’t care about those who are faced with discrimination. The chants last fall focused on females, while the tweets added other groups. My intention is to focus on the impact of discrimination against women, and on the underlying misogyny.  

U. S. President, Barack Obama, indicated his country must assure women equal pay for equal work.  In spite of the fact that females far outnumber males as university degree recipients, women there now earn 70 cents to a man’s dollar.  A couple of years ago women in Nova Scotia earned 73 cents to a man’s dollar.  Rather than drawing closer to male earning power, women have been going backwards.

The attitude that women are of less value is reflected in many ways. This attitude is noted when teen boys think it is okay to sexually assault a girl…then post their “conquest” for all to see. It shows up when those perpetrators are only charged with distributing pornography – even though one of them recorded the criminal act taking place. The attitude appears again when a man thinks it is okay to call his wife names, or when he thinks he has every right to control all aspects of her life.

Hints of the control that is exerted on females are noted when a man refers to his girlfriend or wife as “my woman,” or when a man believes he has every right to chase skirts, then goes ballistic if “his woman” converses with a male co-worker, boss, or neighbour.

Oddly, the man who is verbally or physically abusive toward his spouse is somehow able to control his anger in all other aspects of his life. A boss or co-worker wouldn’t take too well to name-calling.  He can’t call the boss a #&*%, but his wife is fair game.

Sadly, girls and women are still buying into their own diminishment. The message is repeated so often, in so many ways. A girl who is intelligent or accomplishes too much is not man friendly…therefore, it is best to play dumb. A guy exhibits his love for his girlfriend or wife with his jealousy. Guys like girls who are ready to party but if she is assaulted while under the influence, she is branded a slut – with photos as proof. A girl needs to be attractive, but if she is too attractive she is seen as “easy.”

Objectification messages begin at an early age.  Much of the clothing for pre-school and early elementary girls is very suggestive – and even carries messages such as “I am sexy.” Young people watching MTV see female vocalists in barely-there costumes, while male singers are well covered.  These images are so common they have become status quo – this is the way things are.

Maybe it’s time to question whether this is really the way it should be.  Come to think of it…more awareness and sensitivity might also result in better treatment of the other groups who face discrimination.


Shirley Hallee’s column appears bi-weekly in the Amherst News.

Organizations: Amherst News

Geographic location: Nova Scotia

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