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We should all be Feminists

Like many Canadians, I was thinking yesterday what we can do to end violence against women.  Other countries lead in the push for a gender-equal and inclusive society.  Sweden will give a copy of Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie’s incredible book “We Should All be Feminists” to every 16 year-old across the country. The Swedish translation “Alla borde vara feminister” has been translated by Niclas Hval and Albert Bonniers and 100,000 copies have already been distributed.

I love the concept of talking to children early and often about these issues.  They are already facing them individually and collectively.  We should be supporting them and guiding them towards inclusive solutions.  We need to change the way we pressure both men and women into conformist gender-roles.  This type of thinking only widens the divide and increases the inequality.

The recent article in the Svenska Dagbladet put it far more eloquently than I ever could, even with my clumsy translation:

Svensk text/ English follows

“Många unga idag är mer medvetna än tidigare generationer, men de är också mer utsatta. De oroar sig för framtiden, kommer de att klara skolan och kommer de att få ett jobb? Var tredje ung mellan 10 och 16 år har blivit utsatt för kränkningar på nätet och i sociala medier (Friends 2015). För tjejer handlar det ofta om sexuella trakasserier, i vardagen och på nätet. Den psykiska ohälsan är också som störst bland unga tjejer, som oftare drabbas av depressioner och ätstörningar.

Unga killar är också utsatta. De känner sig pressade att prestera och leva upp till förväntningar på hur man ska vara som kille. Samtidigt som det är viktigt med bra betyg anses det ofta omanligt att plugga. Det är ett tydligt exempel på hur stereotypa och begränsande normer ser olika ut för killar och tjejer.

‘Jag skulle vilja att vi börjar drömma om en plan för ett annorlunda samhälle. En rättvisare värld. En värld med lyckligare män och lyckligare kvinnor som är ärligare mot sig själva. Och det är så här vi ska börja: vi måste uppfostra våra döttrar annorlunda. Vi måste även uppfostra våra söner annorlunda.'”

English text/Svensk text föregår

Many young people today are more aware than previous generations, but they are also more vulnerable. They worry about the future, will they pass school and will they get a job? One third of youth between 10 and 16 years have been the victim of harassment online and in social media (Friends 2015). For girls it is often sexual harassment in everyday life and online. Mental illness is also greatest among young women, who often suffer from depression and eating disorders.

Young boys are also vulnerable. They feel pressured to perform and live up to expectations on how to be a guy. While it is important to have good grades, it is often considered unmanly to study. It is a clear example of how stereotyped and restrictive standards are different for boys and girls.

“I would like us to start dreaming of a plan for a different society. A fairer world. A world of happier men and happier women who are more honest with themselves. And this is how we start: we must educate our daughters differently. We must also educate our sons differently. ”

I had an incredible discussion with my husband yesterday about the ways that Canada could actively work to dismantle the infrastructure which supports gender-inequity.There is more we can do from a national perspective.  We can create policies which support increased involvement by fathers during the early years of childhood development by removing systemic and cultural barriers to paternity leave. This single move has been widely successful in the Scandinavian states and has far reaching benefits, not just for gender-equality, but for mental health, family cohesiveness, and many more.

This story comes from Sweden, one of the undisputed leaders in gender-equality. But, I do not think it is unreasonable to believe that Canada could follow Sweden’s lead and work towards an inclusive society in which men and women are supported and protected. In which gender doesn’t play a role in what type of job you will get, or whether you will even get one. One where gender doesn’t play such a significant role in whether you will be a victim of harassment or violence.

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