So! We just put it out there today; Equality in society…what does that mean for people? What were their experiences of being treated equally or unequally?
Interestingly the group went straight to gender inequality, especially sexual assult on women, a topic that is currently headlining most days as society is rocked by the prevalence of this much hidden issue for so many decades which is now surfacing more and more. It was felt that although policy and awareness had changed, it was attitude that really mattered, and unfortunately there was still a lot of ‘dyed in the wool’ ways of seeing women and men that both genders still subscribed to with many gender stereotypes still being upheld.
In this group we often talk about the language which we use, and that by changing the language we can change the culture. So as long as men and women, or boys and girls are brought up in opposition to each other this doesn’t help equal relationships. For example ‘the battle of the sexes’ is language that pitts people against each other. Phrases like ‘boys will be boys’ or ‘that’s just how men are’ makes acceptable what is unacceptable and what does that mean anyway? Why do we describe men who display sensitivity, nurturing, creativity as being in touch with their feminine side? Why can that not be seen as being manly. What is wrong with ‘running like a girl’? Someone suggested that sometimes maybe male violence is not helped by the message that emotions must be supressed because ‘big boys don’t cry’. And as we also often talk about in this group, our culture makes it hard for men to talk about their difficult feelings resulting in suicide in young men under the age of 45 being the biggest cause of death. Some of our cultural language and attitudes are not helping men to be emotionally healthy and free
We also touched on how having had an episode of being mentally unwell, or having a diagnosis created inequality as people continue to see you as a patient forever after, even in long periods of wellness. Unfortunately, people have experienced a shame and a silence around being off work with mental illness, it’s just not seen as being the same as being off with a physical illness.
We considered the inequalities of income, particularly in the stigmatisation of people on benefits being seen a scrounging and not contributing to society; which raises the question of whether its only financial contribution which is seen as valid? If so how do we value the contributions of those who are retired or ill?
If equality is the state of being equal in status and opportunity we considered education and those who do not have equal access to the same learning opportunities, often influenced by income or area or gender. Malala Yousafzai highlights the importance of education for all:
“I speak not for myself but for those without voice… those who have fought for their rights… their right to live in peace, their right to be treated with dignity, their right to equality of opportunity, their right to be educated.” Malala Yousafzai
People in the group were feeling optimistic about equality increasing in future generations, recognising that younger people are more open and accepting and also the media is more open about some of the above issues. A good example of this is shown in the LGBT community where the younger generation have played a big part in helping change negative attitudes and inequality which have been felt by those in the community.
A different way of understanding it maybe to think about equity; responding equally to need, which is different from giving everyone the same. Equity gives each according to their need as the picture below demonstrates: