Little did I know when I uploaded the post about the origins of the 8th of March approximately a year ago, that I would feel the urge to write one again a year later. And if I look back in time and remember how I registered for the English course “language for gender studies” that the TU Dresden was offering that semester, I quickly realise that as the years have gone by, I have become more and more concerned with gender related issues and have turned into a feminist.
I have to reckon that when I choose that course I only did it because I could make it fit into my schedule, however, only a few classes after starting it I began to grasp to which extend gender studies were necessary to fight for equality between men and women. And this despite the fact that I was studying in one of the German Universities with more female lecturers. In those days I still lacked the awareness of the cruel reality about the discrimination against women. Maybe it was because I had been raised in Barcelona with roles and stereotypes that were, to me, quite natural.
The most bitter thing about it all is that my salad days as a student were no less than twenty years ago and equality between men and women in this country is nothing but a toddler. We have not made great progress and one of the clearest examples is the labour market. We only need to look at the average yearly income for Catalan women which is 25,509 euros, whereas men earn 30,164. They receive on average about four thousand euros more and the difference in the salaries is, very often, not justified with a difference in the tasks carried out.
To provide a clear example. One of my best friends, a Peruvian women who has been living here for 15 years already, works as a cashier in a touristic restaurant in the area Vila Olímpica. She is outraged because waiters and waitresses who work the same amount of hours and show equal performance don’t receive the same money. Men of course get more. The boss apparently thinks that women need less to eat, says my friend ironically.
Besides, when it comes down to living with your partner in a couple where both work, it is always women who end up devoting more of their free time to the household tasks. Women spend on average 4 hours a week with house duties and men only two.
This reminds me that I once really lost temper with my then German boyfriend with whom I was living together. I was studying and working part-time at the same time and he was working for the Finance Ministry. As for the household division I was in charge of cooking, cleaning and the laundry. He went shopping and cleaned a part of the flat. When we moved to Belgium because he was going to work for the EU I was expected to follow my partner and so I did. Since I was out of job, I overtook the household nearly completely. After all “it wasn’t really too much work” as my partner nicely put it. However, once in Brussels I quickly understood that I would not finish my degree as I really wished since I could not go to Germany as often as I needed to for my end- of-degree project and exam preparation. So I decided to go back to Germany. And my boyfriend had to take care of himself again and this involved cooking, cleaning, laundry etc. It took him less than a month to hire someone for the cleaning and part of the cooking. Which means that my “neglectable” work wasn’t so neglectable at all and that it might be a good idea if housewives received a salary. I have to admit that in my time in Belgium, where I moved to be a good “girlfriend” to my partner, I felt completely stupid. Quitting my job as a teacher to stay home did not fulfil me as a person at all and I strongly believe that all those women that give up their jobs to take care of their families should not be, as one of my friends in the neighbourhood has called them, “invisible”. Quite the opposite is the case, they should receive a salary for their work.
And the truth is that in more developed countries such as Germany of France, a woman can stay home and take care of the children for three years and the state grants her some money for her time and work in the family. In our country women give birth, they are on a maternity leave only for 5 months maximum so they don’t cause any inconvenience to companies, and then they leave their babies with nannies, grandpas and grandmas or in nurseries.
As for domestic violence it seems that progress in the field of technology and science does not keep pace with de mental development of the human species as shown in its treatment towards women. It is appalling, and the adjective is far from expressing what it should, to read the statistics about domestic violence that circulate in internet out of reliable sources. In countries that we surely consider “developed” the quantity of assaults of men attacking their partners should make us really redefine the concept of “progress”. In New Zeeland domestic violence is about 35% and in Switzerland 21% . In Canada— a country that a lot of my students see as a possible scape from the eternal crisis in Europe— domestic violence represents a 27 % and in the United States no less than a 33%. If we compare these percentages to the percentage of a country such as Egypt with its 34% we will have to stop seeing those “developed” countries as such. In Catalonia, the number of women treated in health centres due to domestic violence in 2017 was 12.907. It’s clear that this sort of violence does not go hand in hand with the level of economic development of a country. It should be interesting to carry out research to find out if this sort of violence appears in socioeconomic low layers of society or simply in all of them.
And talking about Egypt there is one very uncomfortable issue I deal with in my second novel “Pintor de boira” and has to be placed in the limelight at some point: violation within marriage. It is still a very delicate matter since in many cultures husbands consider they have the right to force their wives to intercourse. Sickening and shameful yet so true and sad that it should cause the outrage of honest men. It is all the worst because it shows that equality between men and women still does not exist and we therefore have to make the problem evident in days such as the 8th of March.
For many people, women still have a purely reproductive function. How many of us need to justify not wanting to have children? Some of them want to devote themselves to science, art, culture or they simply don’t feel like having kids. Or to be tied up to a man forever. They suffer from the pressure of a society for which womanhood is still a synonym of motherhood.
I asked some of my acquaintances to tell me what they still felt annoyed with in their everyday life and in several cases they have mentioned this pressure to become a mother. If women were not seen as incomplete creatures if they did not have children, how many more would opt not to have them?
Unfortunately I have heard in the fitness centre too often “ how terrible, the holiday is approaching and I will have to be with my children all day”. If motherhood is such a burden to them why be a mother then? Maybe because they don’t want to feel as an imperfect nature’s creature.
And social pressure does not finish here. We keep on considering, in the XXI century, a woman without a partner as a sort of “half woman”. I have to mention what happened to another friend of mine that had to go to a celebration with her father. She is still single and when the friends of my friend’s father saw her, they were astonished because she is beautiful. They can’t accept or understand that a woman who is not ugly does not have a boyfriend or husband. We have to find someone even if he is “Nosferatu” or someone with whom we can’t have no decent conversation or someone that bores us to death.
But it is simply like that: society wants us married and because of this fact some women put up with partners that are not really what they wish for. Being an old bachelor is charming but being a happy single woman it is not.
We have to continue celebrating the 8th of March because we are still considered as incomplete creatures without a man at our side and this is, to me, absolutely outrageous. I’ll explain to you something that happened to me not long ago. Somebody who is in a much better position than me asked me to have dinner with him. I knew I was in trouble the minute he came up with the idea for the evening. It was a deadly trap. I did not feel like a wine and dine session with him but on the other hand I knew if he felt rejected I would have a problem later. I commented on this to a friend of mine and he recommended me telling the man that if I didn’t have a boyfriend, I would gladly dine with him. I found that a very “sexist” way out to the problem. Completely unfair and undignifying for me. Why should I pretend to have a boyfriend I don’t to be able to tell him that I don’t feel like dining with him? Do we always have to be afraid of finding someone in a higher position that wants to take advantage of our vulnerability because we are alone? Do I need the excuse of having a partner to say “no”? the solution proposed by my friend was so pathetic as the mentality and hypocrisy in which we live.
We are a progressive society but women still have to be careful and not wear too much of a short skirt in order to avoid men telling them dirty things. We are progressive but men still go to so-called night clubs to satisfy their needs but women can’t have the same needs cause then they are considered nymphomaniac probably. We are an advanced society but paediatricians still talk to mothers and not fathers when both show up with their children and the procedure for the cure has to be explained. We are a progressive society but in fairs and congresses young stewardesses are required to wear tight skirts but there are no male stewards with tight shirts or trousers to enhance their trained chests and six-pack bellies. We proud ourselves on being an advanced society but women are still expected to put on make up which is proven to be a highgly dangerous hormone disruptive and to go on diets to starve ourselves to death to look as beautiful as to fit the “canon” of the time. Or to wear high-heel ill shoes that make us look “sexy” but completely destroy our backs and feet. We strive for equality but some women still chase for compliments and wish to be told they have impressive curves. Is it logic at all? Or does equality mean we, women, have to mimic male’s behaviour? Should we tell men now they should have implants in their bottoms to make them more attractive to us? Not at all!
I have been asked several times in my life whether I would not like to have bigger breasts. My answer has always been the only thing I wish for is more men with brain so that I don’t have to put up with those offensive stupid questions. Let’s see how many of them would like to be told they could do with a couple more centimetres in their most intimate parts!
I did not strike last Thursday. But I don’t think I need to because I stand up for my rights every time I have to. And I still remember I once changed the rules in the Berlin Fair when I was only 23 years old. I had been hired as an interpreter English-German and I was asked to dress in a blouse and skirt. The temperature was below freezing and the congress facilities were so big that it was really as cold as in Siberia there. On my first work day I appeared with my uniform but wearing a sort of scarf on my head. Worn pretty similarly to the hijab. I was asked why I had put that on and I simply told them they could either see my head or my legs. I had been hired for my language skills and not for my legs and I was in bad need for some trousers in that cold weather.
The girls next to me grinned in agreement. They had to allow an exception so that I could wear uniform trousers to cover my legs and protect me a bit from the cold. It was my way to let them see how ridiculous that sexist uniform was, even more so in the middle of the winter! And all this happened long before I registered for the course “language for gender studies”. I must have been a feminist even before I was aware of how bad the problem still is in the world.
Feminism is not an option. In the society we live in is, unfortunately, still a matter of survival!