1 February 2006

Few steps towards the better world.

Finland re-elected its President Tarja Halonen last Sunday. For those of you who do not know anything about the matter or about the Finnish names, she is a Mrs President. I must say that there seems to be a momentum globally of women in power as few weeks back Liberia elected Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and Chile Michelle Bachelet Jeria. Also Ireland, Latvia and the Philippines have elected female presidents and many other countries have had woman leading in the past or have woman in charge with some other title such as Prime Minister or Chancellor.

Regardless of how much actual power do the President have, for instance in Finland or in Ireland, it is a great step towards the right direction and at least I am very happy about it. Us men too often come up with excuses and lame jokes about why having a woman in charge is a bad thing but that tells more about men than women.

I happened to be in Finland for the second round voting and heard many debates and read many opinions where even some of the other leading female politicians tried to convince that we do not need to have President Halonen for another six year term as we have already had female President and now even women can vote for a man freely. I find it strange. I would understand if they said that “I disagree with her views so I will vote for her opponent, who happens to be a man”. The way the statement is made, in my opinion, indicates few things. Firstly, that women had to vote for any woman before, just because she was she and not he, secondly that women cannot make up their own political mind by themselves and thirdly, that the things regarding the gender equality are so well, that we do not need to think about them anymore.

Maybe I am over-reacting but that is what I hear. I must admit that in Finland, we have things better than most, but being the least bad at something should not satisfy anyone. Women still get paid much less from the same jobs as men and it is much harder for them to get the jobs at the first place. I know this particularly well as my sister had great difficulties getting a proper job after she did her MA in the School of Economics. For some reason to be a female economic at the age of twenty-something is much harder than being a male one. It just is so. Young women are not seen to be able to deal with money, where as young men somehow can pull it off. If you are asking why, I must say that probably because the people who are giving the jobs once were young male economics themselves.

I have no doubts that this is the story in many other professions as well, with the exceptions of becoming a nurse or possibly a school teacher. My point is that we cannot even dream about the gender equality yet.

I want to give few solutions that everyone can use freely and my name need not to be mentioned when they are used. They are not complicated things although the implementation of most of them can be much trickier than one would expect.

1. Media needs to pull their socks up and stop showing women as objects. One Alicia Keys to a thousand rap video girls is not enough. And I do not care what sells but media ethics should not be the oxymoron that it is now. How can we expect young girls to respect themselves with their clothes on when everything around them says they are best when they are next to naked.. or naked. And when I say media, it also covers drama, current affairs and everything else. Commercial radio also needs to kick out all the sexist male presenters who presently fill the airwaves. We need more intelligent and strong women in radio and if we cannot have them, can we at least have intelligent men who respect women. The most read “newspaper” in United Kingdom, Sun, still have a page three girl right next to the main news, smiling in her bikinis. What are we supposed to get out from that?

2. When the media has stepped their game up we need to unlearn most, if not everything that we are used to. By this I mean more or less the same what Steve Biko meant when he called for “decolonising the African minds”, in a different context. Women need to understand that just because media has said that they are less than men, they are not. Their value as a human being is not defined by their appearance. It is as important for the men to understand this.

3. We need to stop mentioning the rights that women already have as an excuse for the lack of equality. I notice that these points are valid, in my view, to all the aspects of equality so I take again a South African example with racism. In South Africa many white people liked, and still do, to talk about what black and “coloured” people have and wondered why are they not happy with it. How hard it is to understand that when it comes to rights and equal treatment, nothing but the equality is enough.

4. Men need to stop fearing about losing the power. Lets face it, it is not very likely anytime soon, is it. If five, soon six, countries in the world have elected female leaders it still leaves almost 200 for us men. Not even to talk about the ownership of business or other high political or economic positions.

I reckon after we have filled these points we can re-evaluate the situation. Even if it was a huge task and relatively impossible for now due to the long times that the behavioural change takes, these points are not rocket science. I try to do my best at least because they say that change starts from an individual.

1 comment:

Mikko Kapanen said...

I don’t think equal means the same. Obviously there are differences between the genders but if we are not talking about weight lifting then there are should not be differences in abilities. I mean a woman can be as good doctor as a man. “Unlearning” everything we know is obviously what would happen in the ideal world. That to happen will take a century as behavioural change takes it time. I also think that one cannot make a statement that Britain would have had one or another kind of government in different circumstances because if women would have only voted the whole elections would have been different, power structures in society or in smaller family units. But it is still an interesting statistic.

The thing that I was trying to say is that women should be able to get their things done without using their sexuality as an asset. Britain in this sense is a country that has the most to do out of the places where I have lived.