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International Women’s Day should be and an all-inclusive event

Today, March 8, 2020, is International Women’s Day and the whole of March is Women’s History Month, although to be honest if you didn’t know, I’m not surprised, especially in the UK . The motto of this year’s International Women’s Day is “I am from Generation Equality”.

The problem with this is that there are many who seek to divide, creating a society that pits women against men. When I switched genders almost 20 years ago, I fell into this trap. I identified as a woman, demanded that I now be a woman, and became an active feminist campaigning against male dominance and patriarchy and in the process alienating people, making the transition process more difficult than it should have been. been.

I met some resistance. It was when I started reading for my Masters in Gender Research that I first encountered significant opposition from some radical feminists and political activists who believed that to be a woman one had to be born a woman. But his arguments went beyond denying that anyone could change gender. I was told that the identity of Woman was an exclusive biologically determined club that I could never join. I was a man and therefore one of “Them”.

What I have since learned is at the heart of Social Identity Theory. These women do not want equality; they do not want equal rights; they are angry with men for their power and dominance and they want to take that away from them. Their goal seems to be the destruction of the patriarchy, and I guess replacing it with a new matriarchy.

I can understand the anger towards men. I have identified as female for almost 20 years and have experienced all kinds of discrimination, harassment, and victimization in that time. More importantly, I see the levels of discrimination and harassment that women are subjected to; I see how women, from childhood, see their power crushed; I see as a result of the behavior of many men, women grow up in fear.

But I also see how as a result of the attacks against all men their resistance grows. I found this quote from Amy Chua in The Guardian very helpful in understanding this issue.

When groups feel threatened, they take refuge in tribalism. When groups feel mistreated and disrespected, they close ranks and become more insular, more defensive, more punitive, more us against them. Amy Chua

And we have seen it exemplified so well in the Brexit debate. It terrifies me to think how long it will be before we put aside the damage caused by Brexit and allow the country to recover.

One of the first things I did when I transitioned was to get actively involved in the first Hull Pride event. This was in 2002 and the focus was on marching to oppose section 28 of the Local Government Act. This was the law that prevented all municipalities, and therefore schools, from treating homosexuality as something normal. Schools and councils were simply not allowed to even talk about LGBTQ issues.

Over the next several years, most of the legal changes to support LGBTQ inclusion took place, and we wondered what to make of the Pride event. Since the first event on Christopher Street in New York in 1970, gay pride parades were protest marches demanding equality, but the laws had changed, so there was nothing to protest about. We realized that we had to shift the entire focus from protest to engagement. Changing the laws may have been difficult, but changing attitudes was a much more challenging goal.

So we hire a lot of bouncy castles, inflatable slides and broncos to attract children and young people. We found more money to book better bands and made Pride a family event, attracting straight people who socialize with the LGBTQ community. In 2019, Hull Pride attracted 50,000 people and is one of the main events on Hull’s social calendar, and Hull is probably one of the most gay-friendly cities in the UK.

International Women’s Day is a day to raise awareness of women’s achievements and to highlight the ways in which women are still subjected to discrimination, harassment and victimization despite all the laws in place to protect them. This year is the 50th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act of 1970, but we still don’t have equal pay.

But attacking men and blaming them for an extremely biased patriarchal system is not the answer. Unconscious bias tests show that women are often just as biased against women as men. It is born in societies all over the world. Unfortunately, negative stereotypes of women will only be reinforced if either side of the social identity binary is threatened.

I’m reading Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Pérez, which explores how society is biased in favor of men and against women, which I highly recommend to anyone who want to understand why gender equality is so difficult to achieve. achieve. We are all unconsciously biased; it is the nature of humans to be like this. In our heavily consumer-oriented Western society, the primary goal of all marketing and politics is to encourage bias.

The only way to change bias is to first recognize that we are all biased. I’ve run several Harvard implicit association tests that test for a variety of biases. Two surprised me. First, the gender test showed that I was unconsciously biased toward associating men with careers and women with family. The second showed that he was unconsciously biased in favor of members of the LGBTQ community.

Knowing that I was biased meant that I could correct it, whenever I find myself in a situation where that unconscious bias could result in an unfair decision or behavior, I can now control myself by making a conscious decision free of bias.

We know that after 50 years of trying to make Gender Equality a reality, it will not be achieved simply by changing the laws. We have to change attitudes, which is very difficult partly because most men believe that there is no gender inequality and partly because many men think that we can only have gender equality if men lose out.

The only way to achieve gender equality is “Working Together”, the title of a workshop I gave on this topic. Men and women seem to work differently, but not all men are the same and not all women are the same. Creating stereotypes about men and women generates bias and prejudice.

When I changed gender, I experienced a lot of discrimination, but it took me a while to realize that a lot of that discrimination wasn’t because I’m transgender, but because I now identify as female. I used to enjoy male privilege, though I didn’t believe it until I lost it. So, I know that unless there is equality for women, I will always be discriminated against as a trans woman.

But that also affects men, men who are more feminine in behavior or appearance, men who are camp, men who are gay, men who work in what some consider women’s jobs, men who are “housewives”, etc.

Instead of trying to exclude someone, we must include everyone. Only by encouraging everyone to realize the biased bias that exists and recruiting them into the campaign to change that, will there be any hope of gender equality.

Imagine the change we could make if every woman who marched for gender equality on International Women’s Day brought with them a man committed to the same goals.

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