Gender Equality in Modern Societies

Gender Equality in Modern Societies

Gender inequality and androcentrism (practice of privileging males over females and feminine traits) were a significant issue for centuries (Hegarty and Buechel 2004). Women were in a subordinate social position for many centuries in human history with a significant presence of hegemonic masculinity (promotion of idealized male behaviour). Situation has changed in the last 40-50 years, but men and women are not yet equal nowadays.

We can find many examples of disadvantaged position of women and marginalization (social exclusion) throughout the human history. Archeology and cultural heritages provide us a great global historical perspective on reality of men’s and women’s position. Mostly they are revealing perspective of women’s subordination and oppression within the structure of domination of males (patriarchy). However, they are also showing women’s persistent effort in resisting the oppression (Rowbotham 2014). Women were not allowed to work, they were not allowed to participate in any kind of social life and their only duty was to deliver and raise children.  Woman’s position has been changed in modern societies and they are more present in social life, are employed, they may participate in a political life, but they are still not totally equal to men.  Example from the Utah public school is actually a good experiment which demonstrates inequality in salaries between males and females and reactions of people to a different price of the same bakery product based on their salaries reflects clearly the level of social awareness about gender equality.

Even in modern and advanced western societies we can still observe hegemonic masculinity and offering important managerial and executive positions to males. In the UK Royal family it is essential the birth of a male child who will inherit a royal throne and it is a good example to what extent the androcentrism is still dominant in very developed western countries. One extreme example of male dominance and social exclusion and marginalization of women in 21st century is a position of women in some Arab societies. Women are not allowed to work, drive, or participate in social and political life (Guity and Tucker 1999).

In Canada there is a good balance and gender equality is not a significant issue. However, we can still find employers who will be reluctant to hire woman for a certain position because of maternity leave and possibly more absence from work because of child care. There are also good examples of husbands who are taking now maternity leave to support their wives’ professional career. Women can opt now a wider variety of career choices, but due to a power structure (different types of hierarchies placed by the society) they are yet not able to get promotion in certain fields and reach the highest positions in military, in political life and the highest paid executive positions.

How to fight with gender inequality nowadays? In order to establish gender equality it will be essential to decrease level of gender polarization (societies expected spectrum of behaviour applied to each gender) during upbringing and throughout the school years. Some actions should be taken on the governmental level and it is important to work on further sophistication of the documents pertaining the human rights and gender issues, to develop policies and procedures and get some advancements in legal system to better regulate gender inequality issues. Another even more important segment of actions is increasing the awareness of the importance of equal and healthy relationships between males and females with mutual respect and dignity. Personal qualities and individual capabilities must not be assessed or judged based on the gender. There is still a lot of misconceptions about the gender relationships and prejudice about male and female capabilities inherited from the past and influenced by different religions, but increased collective awareness of human rights and different norms and values in modern societies can help in getting a more optimal level of gender equality. Finally, gender study programs at the universities such as our program can have invaluable role in fighting with a gender inequality.

In conclusion, gender equality has been a hallmark of contemporary societies devoted to respecting human rights and civilization advances. The influence of cultural and religious factors in some of non-western societies may have negative impact on a women’s position, gender relationship and it may foster androcentrism and women marginalization. In Western countries there is still an evidence of remnants of past and misconceptions about personal and gender values and capabilities that may influence negatively educational and job opportunities for women as well as their chances to get leadership positions. There is a number of possible ways to improve position of women in a modern society and get a higher level of personal growth, personal maturity, more healthy type of gender relationships, and a higher level of maturity of the society in general. This is a process in time, but all factors that may facilitate this process, such as increasing awareness about the gender problems such as gender study courses in schools and universities, should be developed worldwide.

References:

Hegarty, Peter, and Carmen Buechel. “Androcentric reporting of gender differences in APA journals: 1965-2004.” Review of General Psychology 10.4 (2006): 377.

Nashat, Guity, and Judith E. Tucker. Women in the Middle East and North Africa: restoring women to history. Indiana University Press, 1999.

Rowbotham, Sheila. Women, Resistance and Revolution: A History of Women and Revolution in the Modern World. Verso Books, 2014.

Analysis of Cultural Appropriation in the Modern Day Society

Analysis of Cultural Appropriation in the Modern Day Society

Through globalization, immigration/migration, and developments in the technology the world became a place where different cultures intervene. Cultural diversity is the presence of a variety of cultural and ethnic groups within the population. Cultural diversity is a positive phenomenon, but at times due to lack of cohesion between races, religions, and cultures could lead to misunderstanding and stereotyping. One particular issue which can potentially arise with cultural diversity is cultural appropriation which is absorption of knowledge, cultural expression, or folklore of a certain culture by a member of another culture without permission. It is evident that cultural appropriation can occur in a number of forms, but I will be focusing on national costumes and ceremonial dresses.

A blog article with the title of “An Open Letter to Non-Natives in Headdresses” written by a Metis woman from Alberta touched on the topic of the appropriateness of wearing native headdresses by other cultures. She pointed out that wearing headdress without consent from the Plains nation community can be considered inappropriate and even disrespectful. Headdresses (war bonnets) are worn by Plains nation man during ceremonial occasions. Not all native man have the honor to wear the headdress since it is an honorary degree. If majority of the Plains nation members do not wear this ceremonial headdresses, then members of other ethnical groups should have even more respect towards Plain nation values and tradition. Non-indigenous people may have misconception about the meaning of headdress because they usually do not understand that it is not only a national costume, it is rather a ceremonial symbol with a strong spiritual meaning. Lack of knowledge of other cultures heritage and a tendency of young people to get public attention for their physical appearance or behaviour may be a possible explanation for using headdresses. Wearing the headdresses by other ethnicities can be seen by indigenous people as a form of colonial logics of conquering cultural objects, symbols, and traditions. It can also be perceived as a way of losing its sacred and venerable content and identity. First nations could also be concerned about assimilation of their culture and loss of the core features of their heritage. Beside headdresses there are other Plains nation objects or costumes with sacred ceremonial significance that also should not be worn by other cultures.

Non-indigenous people may see headdresses and other cultural objects as a demonstration of understanding, acceptance, and promotion of the indigenous people heritage. From the other hand, others can simply use the headdress as a fashion accessory. Nowadays the fashion industry is looking for uniqueness and distinctiveness of their brand, without considering cultural dimensions. The fashion industry is insensitive and uninterested in regards to cultural appropriation and to a certain extent encourages all people to behave similarly in the name of fashion. One striking example of this point is keffiyeh which is a traditional Middle Eastern headdress made from smaller square scarfs. The keffiyeh emerged as a fashion item around ten years ago and became an instant hit amongst non-Arab population due to numerous marketing campaigns from the fashion companies. Keffiyeh was in the past mostly used by Bedouins as protection from the sun and sand, but in the last century it also became a symbol of revolution within the Arab world and can be associated with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The keffiyeh was not only used as a clothing item throughout the Middle Eastern history, but it also holds a deeper meaning within the region. The keffiyeh demonstrates how designers and fashion companies imitate different culture’s items and ideas without looking into the history of those items and without making sure whether it is appropriate to globalize them.

Other people believe that they should have the freedom of choice to wear traditional costumes and use ceremonial objects of other nations and that should not be perceived in an offensive way. Some non-native people also believe that wearing headdresses and other cultural symbols is a form of art and they appreciate the aesthetic appearance of those objects. These non-native individuals view wearing of headdresses as a harmless artistic expression or even promotion of native art and culture. First nation people may perceive this process of overtaking their folklore as a way of theft of their cultural heritage.

I think that a balanced approach is essential in considering cultural diversity and cultural heritage exchange. If a particular cultural and spiritual ceremony with subsequent dressing is a part of cultural identity and possess a significant importance for a certain cultural group, other nations should be respectful towards it. However, this need to preserve its own culture should not be excessive to the extent of cultural isolation and losing contacts with other ethnicities and cultures. Besides cultural heritage of certain nations and ethnicities we should foster a global cultural heritage as a way of developing a well-established multicultural society.

References:

Coombe, Rosemary. The properties of culture and the politics of possessing identity: Native claims in the cultural appropriation controversy. 1993.

Damluji, Nadim N. Imperialism Reconfigured: The Cultural Interpretations of Keffiyeh. Diss. 2010.

Regarding Susan Sontag (2014) Film Critique

Regarding Susan Sontag (2014) Film Critique

Director and writer: Nancy Kates

Cast: Patricia Clarkson

Genre: Documentary/Biographical film

Susan Sontag’s Biography:

Susan Sontag was an academic, novelist, and journalist who dedicated her life to promoting women’s rights, spreading anti-war views, as well as writing numerous works of fiction and non-fiction. Sontag was one of America’s first celebrity intellectuals mostly due to her contributions to the society, but also due to her controversial criticism of the society.

Synopsis:

 Regarding Susan Sontag is a documentary which investigates into the life of Susan Sontag who can be viewed as one of the most important thinkers of the 20th century. The documentary uses archival materials, stories from family, friends, and colleagues, as well as Sontag’s own words in order to construct a storyline of her life.

Review:

The documentary focuses on the life of Susan Sontag throughout her career as a writer and activist, but at the same time it incorporates her personal life. The viewers are presented with a large number of information in a very effective manner since the documentary creates a timeline of Sontag’s life and points out achievements and struggles she has faced. In order to get a better understanding of Sontag’s life, the viewers are provided with information from Sontag’s youth and upbringing. Sontag was shy and withdrawn in her teens and due to her inexperience in relationships she falls in love with a much older man to whom she marries soon after. The documentary shows that throughout her marriage she was never in an ideal relationship even though they did have a child. It was evident throughout the movie that Sontag was never showing signs of emphasized femininity nor was she ever pressured to act in a certain way. Sontag presented herself since an early age as a strong and independent woman who did not feel that she has to conform to the needs and desires of man. This also touches on the topic of choice and free will since the documentary has clearly shown that Sontag did not have any boundaries or restrictions enforced which could have prevented her from being successful. The movie on a couple of occasion’s mentions that Sontag was suffering in the marriage and therefore that is the reason why she decided to get a divorce from her husband. In the meantime Sontag is introduced into the world of gay bars by a friend of hers named Hariott. Soon after Sontag discovers that she has homosexual tendencies and develops affectionate feelings for Harriot who is a lesbian herself. Bisexuality plays an important role in Sontag’s life especially on the personal level since she became more satisfied with her life and that was the period when Sontag started to take part in activist campaigns for women right’s as well as anti-war campaigns. All of the people who were interviewed for the documentary have in some way or another said that Sontag has found her true self by coming out and being open about her sexuality. Through Sontag’s extensive activist campaigns, journalism and novels she eventually attracted worldwide attention. One crucial factor which determined Sontag’s popularity was globalization. Through the developments in technology, transportation, and communication Sontag was able to interact with highly influential people around the globe and also spread her message in an effective manner. During this time Sontag’s love life was turbulent as she was constantly changing both male and female partners. The movie does in a way show that Sontag was a promiscuous woman who at certain times was emotionally unstable. One reason to her emotional instability could have been due to the fact that she was receiving disapproval from a large number of people due to her criticism of the society. Sontag needed a way to relieve the stress so she chose to be actively involved in feminist campaigns and she openly admitted that she was a feminist. Feminism played a big role in Sontag’s life since she was able to connect better to her womanly self and she found a place where she could freely express her views on certain issues. Throughout the movie it was obvious that Sontag caused a lot of public outrage due to some of her public speeches criticizing the society. There is a possibility that this public outrage was not primarily because of her criticism of society, but instead was due to anti-feminist backlash. The movie was not able to come to a conclusion to why some people were opposed to her, although it did point out that  Sontag  has tried her best to not get distracted by opposition. Overall, the documentary presents Susan Sontag’s whole life in a very effective way and conveys a message to the audience that overcoming socio-cultural barriers can be accomplished.

Specific Scene:

One scene which really strikes out was when an interview was shown in which Sontag said that her desire to write comes from homosexuality and that she would have never been that successful without it. I think that Sontag wanted to tell people that for happiness in life and personal satisfaction you have to accept who you are, accept differences, and work on your self-realization. This directly relates to the themes discussed in class which is that there are a lot of people who are afraid of other people’s opinions and as a result they may choose to not come out.

Individual Experience:

Attending the Reelout Film Festival expended my view on the community I was not familiar with. Before the actual movie started a short movie made by Queens’s students was projected which I found to be a nice touch from Reelout since they are supporting young talents in film industry. The theatre was half full with very few university students which I found surprising. Majority of the people in the theatre were older ladies and few gentlemen and the atmosphere was welcoming and positive. Overall, my experience at Reelout was very positive and I would highly recommend the documentary Regarding Susan Sontag to anyone who is interested in movies that are on the more serious side.

Sources:

“Regarding Susan Sontag.” Wikipedia. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, 2 Oct. 2014. Web. 6 Feb. 2015.