I’m quite new to feminism. If I’m honest, I used to think feminists were a bit nutty – women who fought imagined injustices for fighting’s sake, who quite enjoyed a soap-box and a chance to man-bash. Yet as I make my way through the world, I am getting steadily more angry about the multiple and varied ways in which I see women degraded, derided, and just plain discriminated against. This does not mean that there aren’t other injustices, or that I hate men (trust me, I don’t), but that I am constantly astounded at how much we as a society under-value our women.
Take this article on the BBC website today. Women at management level are paid on average £10,000 less than their male counterparts. That’s a staggering amount, and yet it’s something I see happening regularly. Equality legislation sets out provision that no-one should suffer direct or indirect discrimination due to age, disabilities, gender reassignment, marital status, pregnancy or maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, or sexual orientation. But as anyone who has ever fit into one – or more – of these categories will tell you, there are a thousand ways to discriminate without saying explicitly “I am not providing you this service because of X”, or “You are not receiving a pay-rise due to Y”. No-one (surely) is that foolish.
I won’t go into my own specific experiences in my working environment, as you never know who is listening! – but suffice to say even in a supportive environment with good line-management, I have felt on several occasions penalised for being a woman of reproductive age. When was a man last asked if their difficult day was down to “hormones, dear?” I know for a fact that my wage is less than that of comparative male staff, but if I were ever to challenge it, I would encounter stories of higher performance, extra experience, extenuating circumstances. And who knows?- maybe that’s true. But given the article – and anecdotal evidence of many of my friends and acquaintances – I doubt it.
And therein lies the rub. If it were straightforward to identify inequality, then it is likely there would be far less of it. And this is why we should be angry about it, be outraged at stories like this. As a feminist, I am not one of *those women*. I am just a woman.