Gender inequality in ‘Life’ – just how bad is it in 2017?

In the animal kingdom, it is the male of the species that in general is dominant, and aggressive, isn’t it? Now why is that do you think? Well, animals that congregate in social living groups tend to often create a ranking system which frequently is a ‘pecking order’ that puts each in order (like say in hyenas), while sometimes it is simply that only one is ‘dominant’ and all others ‘submissive’ (like with wolves or gorillas), and that role can even be inherited [as is the British aristocracy!).

Such animal systems try to overcome the problems of destructive fighting over limited resources [often food or its quality, and best territories, but in particular mating opportunities]. That ‘order’ does get challenged from time to time though, when a subordinate animal decides to challenge a dominant one and aggression, threat displays and fighting can and does occur (sometimes to the death). It helps though for a dominant animal to be able to demonstrate its superior strength, through size or fitness or displays, to avoid confrontations and direct challenges (for instance stags will engage in roaring contests that will exhaust competitors and put them off).

Now, high rank and responsibility also carries the penalties of stress and high energy expended defending their role, so in baboons the highest ranking (alpha) male gets damagingly high levels of testosterone & glucocorticoid hormones that leads to ill-health, reduced fitness, with loss of position and early demise [just as in the human rat race those at the top are on the road to worry & excessive anxiety, high levels of impatience, heart disease & other illness, depression and other mental health problems, physical & emotional well-being issues, personal unhappiness & friendship loss, relationship breakdown, bullying actions, compulsive behaviour such as drug taking, smoking, alcoholism, gambling, indebtedness & cash-flow problems, and exhaustion with early burn-out or death, eh?].

Just as in other animal species, so in humans, where there is a strong tendency for hierarchy structures to develop which is possibly influenced and activated by brain functions. These occur in work, domestic and social environments that drive human behaviour, and that starts with even very young children (as early as 2 years old!), and status is frequently visibly demonstrated through dress, uniforms & insignia, or titles & terms of address, or even speech grammar or inherited facial features or heritable personality traits.

You see furthermore, it is the male of the human species that has been traditionally dominant in most societies from time immemorial, and that has been because they were the most aggressive (driven by testosterone) and physically strongest (resulting from higher bone density, greater body mass, and larger muscles), meaning that they were better equipped to protect life & limb, and territory, as well as hunt & gather. On the other hand, women had features together with body structures to attract male partners and encourage mating, as well as designed and shaped with a wide hip for bearing and then rearing children.

Into the bargain it has been the male that developed the larger brain volume. Moreover, male and female brains might work differently because they have developed specialist skills to meet specific roles, hence there are measurable differences in the volume of areas that in men that are associated with survival instincts, memory and learning, while women tended to have larger volumes in areas of the brain controlling language and emotions.

Thinking about it, those different abilities simply make it advantageous for the two sexes to get together in a partnership, don’t you think? However, don’t read anything into the differences in brain sizes, will you? You see, we know nothing about how the gender differences in brain size simplistically influences intelligence, physiology, personality or behaviour, as both biological and social factors may play a big part and influence all those aspects of people’s lives.

Men would undoubtable claim the higher ground by thinking that larger brains count for something (?), while women might point out that their smaller brain works much more efficiently and better because it is the complexity between individual brain cells connections that underpin intellectual and reasoning ability and not the total amount of brain tissue, eh?

[Don’t forget that elephants have a brain more than three-and-a-half times the weight of a human brain and while they have a renowned memory, their intellect is no match for our, is it? Mind you, we humans could learn a good lesson from them, as they have a very social order ‘herd structure’, with the good sense for the females to hold-down the lead role, haven’t they?

Males and females live entirely different and separate lives though (another good ploy?), with the herd of some fifteen elephants led and guided by a head cow (the oldest and largest) in a matriarchal society where she presides over the herd of females, made up of mothers, daughters, sisters and aunts, together with immature males and females. Such a herd sticks closely together maintaining close bonds among themselves, rejoicing at the birth of a calf and mourning at the death of a member. As the herd grows, some members will split-off to form new herds, but will never forget their family roots and commit much time and effort to keeping track of their relatives through vocal and non-vocal communication They also interact well with other herds, families, and clans. (The adolescence males drift away from the herd, whence these young bulls live solitary lives traveling alone or with other males in a bachelor pod, and mingling with the females of the family only for mating purposes). What would mankind give to create such an ongoing peaceful existence for our societies, instead of the existing constant conflict and strife, eh?].

Also, such brain structural differences can go on to development of dissimilar health problems between men and women, with men more likely to suffer autism (poor communication, relationship, language, and abstract concept skills), spectrum disorder (such as Asperger’s), ADHD (with its inattentiveness, hyperactivity, impulsiveness, and sleep disorders) and dyslexia (with difficulties in word recognition and graphics), while women are more disposed to anxiety (exceptional feelings of unease, worry, and fear), and depression (with negative effects on feelings, thinking, actions, interests. and debilitating sadness).

While it is true that traditionally men have dominated their societies because their attributes had allowed them to assume control and make women subservient and indeed second-class citizens – as indeed was done with race – (with them all facing intense discrimination, lack of legal rights, no independence, and treated as inferior human beings without the same human rights), the pendulum is steadily swinging towards gender equality in modern society, isn’t it?

Disturbingly though, in Britain (and indeed Europe, especially France & Germany) we are seeing a resurgence of such attitudes towards women with the massive surge in followers of the Islamic faith (resulting from significant post war immigration), with most of its religious extremists carrying forward the bigoted attitudes to women of the less enlightened foreign societies (like India, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia to name a few) where females are widely seen as passive, uninformed and “should be interested only in the home”, individuals. That is why we see so much of the Muslim community’s women even here in the UK adherence to donning Islamic dress (particularly the hijab and the modestly & religion demonstrative requirement, that they must cover their heads, and that NOT being a matter of choice), which is required by many Muslim men and groups. This is a defiant and divisive gesture against our UK’s western life and values, which clearly reveals these Muslim communities’ emphasis on a woman’s subordinate role within the family as well as within both their religion, and in general society. Disgustingly, there is strong evidence even of the discriminatory unlawful gender segregation in a number of British state funded Muslim faith schools, as well as their offensive promotion of their acceptance of domestic violence’s wife beating and forced sex, all of which is totally unacceptable to those of us who hold true British values, isn’t it?

The last century saw the real start of British women’s fight for equality, didn’t it? Yep, you could say that all started gaining success in the early 1900s with the increased suffragette fight for the right to vote, which included the death of one who threw herself under the King’s horse at the Derby, and subsequently the significant milestone came of a female MP in 1913, though it was much much later that women fully achieved equality in voting rights (1928). Later the previous denials of access by women to certain professions (like legal and accountancy) were removed, as well as women gaining the right to unemployment support, being equally allowed to inherit property, and of gaining the same civil rights really ‘commenced’.

Women’s true capabilities were certainly first fully demonstrated within society by WW2, because during it women were called up to do war work and additionally, with the men off abroad fighting, the Country had no option but to turn to women to ‘man’ the major units of industry and the war machine’s provision (including munitions production), and to farm the land when it was essential to feed the nation. So, with true multi-tasking skills, women took over ALL the work type previously reserved as the prerogative of men, didn’t they? Moreover, women did all of that in conjunction with their previous restricted role of child bearing, rearing, and home building – as well as providing comfort to their men off warring, through remote communications.

Of course, when the war ended and the men returned home, the women were (understandably maybe but nevertheless unjustly) sacked and their jobs given back to men – well that certainly put the bit between the teeth particularly of feminist women, who were further galvanized into fighting for full gender equality, and that resulted in fantastic progress, like for instance, the equal pay act and equal opportunities commission in the mid-70s. There followed laws about sexual harassment and rights for maternity leave, NHS health care in their own right, seats in the House of Lords, the pill was made available which allowed women more control over child planning, sex discrimination in work banned, as well as in education and training made illegal, domestic violence protection is enacted, the UK gets its first woman PM, women allowed to apply for loans or credit in their own name, pubs not allowed to refuse women service, and rape in marriage becomes a crime.

So, as you see, the Country has come a long way just in over the last hundred or so years in meeting women’s rightful demand for equality, hasn’t it? Indeed, gender equality has transformed our society. However, even by the start of this century there was still a twenty percent gender pay gap and though our society struggles when forced to admit it, that is still a big problem now, as it is currently at some 10% gap for ‘average’ pay – it is even worse when part-time work is included (18% gap) – and all that is unlikely to get eradicated for another fifty years or so, and that would mean it being a century AFTER our Equal Pay act, indeed?

But then again, encouragingly in our legislature at least, there are now 32% women MPs (so 208 out of the total 650 MPs) a new high indeed, though there are big variations between parties [with Labour at 45% of their MPs (resulting from a period that included women only candidate lists in some constituencies, eh?) against the Tories’ lack luster performance at only 21%. That is after over a hundred years of the first one and some ninety years since ALL women were entitled to vote in their own right, isn’t it?

Men won’t like to admit it but in the modern world and a more equal society, it is the women who are coming out on top, isn’t it? Even in countries where gender inequality is rampant, girls still outperform boys in the classroom [maths, reading, science and literary subjects]. While UK universities used to be a male bastion, these days men are less likely than women to go to British universities, those who do are more likely to drop out, and those who complete their course are less likely to get a good degree, a scandal? It has been a fact for some years now that women selected by UK medical schools (because that is determined by ability these days!) far outnumbers men – perhaps you’ve noticed yourself that there are more female doctors around than male to treat you when you go to hospital or your GP surgery? [Moreover, it is the older (predominantly male?) doctors who are the subject of the most complaints (double), while the under thirties ones (females?) are more squeaky clean, to boot! That is all happening because females plan ahead more, set academic goals, and put greater effort into achieving them, don’t they?

Mankind seems to be heading nowadays in the same direction as lions have already reached in the animal kingdom – that is one of perceived laziness? That is because most of the hunting is done by the prides’ lionesses, and one likely reason could be that it’s because males lions don’t feed the cubs. With the males not taking any responsibility for providing the necessary food, it is the females who have to provide for themselves and the offspring, and they cooperate with the other females for this purpose. So, what happens when they bring their food home, is that the male lion who has been lying around relaxing all day, gets up to also eat its fill from it

Now, those who defend male lions’ seemingly laidback approach to jungle life (men?), say that they are “not lazy”, but are just trying to preserve their ‘strength’ – so that they can perform the role of leadership in ‘protecting’ the pride & territory, no less? Secondly, they will get off their arses to ‘help’ in a hunt if the prey is too large for female lions to bring down on their own, as the male is much heavier, isn’t it? The further excuse is that by not normally doing the hunting work, they can use the element of surprise in dense vegetation when they do do so, no less?

Oh yes, we all know that male lions CAN hunt when they HAVE to (when they are a couple of years old and get thrown out of the pride – but only because they need to eat when operating as a nomad, don’t they?)

When male lions (some living in prides) do hunt they normally do so in single predator mode (just like human males who have to do things, always chose to do it the hard way as a lone ranger, eh?), whereas the lionesses much more sensibly cooperate with each other in hunting.

Perhaps you buy the excuses trotted out, and will now stop believing that male lions are lazy, but many of us won’t, will we?

In reality, nobody expects gender equality in the World to be reached this century. Many many countries have a long long way to go to eliminate the gap, don’t they? Not only that, but some countries are even going backwards as they are now presenting worse opportunities for women than they did even a decade previously.

You only have to look at the situation in Saudi Arabia to appreciate the scale of the problem. It is a rich (oil) desert country that accounts for the bulk of the Arabian Peninsula. As the birthplace of Islam and the location of Mecca at the heart of Muslim belief, it has a dreadful record on gender equality, doesn’t it? To this very day, women aren’t allowed to even drive, most women don’t have the vote, women aren’t allowed outside unless fully covered except their eyes and hands, women aren’t allowed to open a bank account, and women are certainly not allowed to meet a man outside who isn’t family – how is that society ever to be reformed, eh?

Now we in the UK expect to do better than average, not only because we have been at the task longer, but also because our politicians, and our businesses, have a greater commitment to the goal, which is being driven by a better informed, more educated, fully enfranchised, population with women playing an increasingly more important part in it. Most men convince themselves that women have already achieved equality here, when half of women know it hasn’t been attained.

There has been a big breakthrough of the previous so-called ‘glass ceiling’ that was prevented women getting to the top of companies (so currently nearly 20% of board members in the FTSE 350 are women), but nevertheless we’re still a long way off achieving true gender equality in that area in this country, aren’t we? Yes, there is only one female CEO running a FTSE 100 company, and men still account for 85% of senior executives.

[We will get there, though it might probably take another fifty years, as long as we don’t allow those living with those historic outdated attitudes to women to derail the drive forward even for a moment, eh?]

 

A FOLLOWUP SEQUEL POST TITLED Gender inequality in ‘Sport’ – just how bad is it in 2017? IS TO FOLLOW LATER THIS WEEK

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