What Should Gender Equality Mean?

For the 2017 International Women’s Day (#IWD2017), I’d like to discuss something that has been bugging me for a while now.

Several months back in London, I was doing pre-interviews with a businesswoman for a feature we were doing on her friend, a top female CEO. A female colleague chided me for inquiring about how said CEO balances her role as a mother. She said businesswomen hate being asked that—a man would never be asked the same question—and that I’m “undoing decades of progress” in gender equality.

At the moment, I let it slide as I wanted to get on with my work, but it made me realize how many women in a global north country like the UK really do have a very myopic view of what women need.

What she said was very capitalist and Lib Fem—now considered rather antiquated in Feminist circles, given all the research since its inception.

Gender equality? We shouldn’t strive to be “equal” to the standards set by men because we have historically had multiple burdens that require different (not lower) standards, different considerations.

I have many powerful female bosses who are also mothers. “How does she do it?” is a perfectly valid question—one not often posed to men because even in modern society, they do not have the same social and physical burden of reproductive work (unpaid work at home to sustain the conditions of productive work, or paid work outside the home) as well as community organizing.

To not ask these questions about reproductive work is to make it invisible again—assume it’s something that “just happens,” hereby diminishing its worth. If we go by the framework posed by my colleague earlier, then productive work, bringing home the bacon, is the ONLY work that matters in doing a profile of a powerful person.

It is important to recognize how necessary and how difficult reproductive work is because this is the first step in easing woman of these burden—not by monetizing the duties, but by sharing the load. Defying the gender roles.

Partners in defying the roles are the new generation of men, like Viggó Hansson. He was at home more during our time in London, did more than his share of the reproductive work, even ensuring that rice was cooked by the time I got home.

Of course, I didn’t just want to reverse the roles and pass all the work back to him, and I tried to help out a bit once I got home, but I appreciate that he took the initiative because maintaining the home is hard and both our lives would’ve fallen apart if he didn’t take on the challenge.

Most men in the Philippines still don’t think like that. Someday.

[Entry 209, The SubSelfie Blog]

About the Author:

Micaela Papa is a senior correspondent for GMA News. She has just finished her MA Documentary by Practice at the Royal Holloway University of London. She had a stint at the BBC in London where she worked as producer for Profile of Radio 4, and producer and presenter on World Hacks for BBC world service.

 At a young age, she has received numerous awards for her Brigada documentary Gintong Krudo. She was also in Palo, Leyte during the first day of Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan). The Manila headquarters could not establish contact with their team for the first 24 hours after the storm. Thankfully, they survived.

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