From my perspective 2013 felt like an onslaught of issues related to gender inequality. Throughout the year I had been collecting stories to write about but in many cases I just didn't act quickly enough. With the year coming to a close it now seems appropriate to take a broad look at the variety of stories at the forefront. I've already taken some time this year to write about "Blurred Lines" and rape culture. I also posted about the eliteness of "leaning in". Beyond this, I haven't really had the opportunity to address the myriad other issues that have in many cases exploded in local and international media.
The first is all the buzz about Snapchat. Hailed as the greatest consumer product of 2013 by many in the tech sector, it has attracted tens of millions of users. Snapchat is essentially a photo messaging
application developed to allow users to send photos that disappear
after a brief window. Naturally, it was intended to allow people to draw
pictures share images with friends with the novelty of the image not
It has been used, however, by teenagers predominately and sexting
has been a key purpose of the product as a result. This is problematic
largely because adolescents generally have misconceptions about consent
as well as about the technology. Teenagers are often forced into
behaviours due to peer pressure, and this is exacerbated by having
limited access to information. It is generally acknowledged that the images do not disappear and can in fact be recalled by someone with rather minimal technical ability.
Next, this summer saw the rise of the hashtag #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen.
For decades feminism as a movement has been dominated by white women.
As such women in Western democracies have benefited from policy changes
advocated for by interest groups formed by white women. Feminists have
not only failed to meet the needs of so-called women of colour, many
have defended the exclusion for a variety of reasons. The hashtag
resulted in a spillover of sentiment around race politics. The
infighting served to damage femisism both from within and from without.
Sadly, the theme was powerful throughout this year. 2013 saw the introduction of Québec's secular charter
which, by virtually all accounts, was the most controversial pieces of
legislation created this year. In many respects it was white feminism
manifest, espouses values of uniformity over cultural diversity. The
cultural artefacts of Islam, particularly the niqab,
are political hot buttons in the West. These issues are inexplicably
complicated and rest on huge value judgments about identity politics and
issues such as gender, religion, and culture. Society is largely
divided around wedge issues like these and they frame the discourse around equality.
Lastly and most recently famed male feminist and filmmaker Joss Whedon made comments that mainstream feminism took issue with. Whedon's opinion that the word "feminist" is inaccurate and needs an update
was very offensive, with good reason, to most feminists. Among his
other statements were that equality should be a natural state. I can see
where feminists take issue with his comments; each seems to gloss over a
history of systemic oppression. It doesn't appear that Whedon's intent
was to remark on oppression but on the intrinsic equality between the
Regardless of intent, the question of what place men can and should take within feminism
is critical. As a male feminist, I feel that there should be a space
for me to participate. However, I also recognise that it's a privilege
for me to be included, not a right. I've been turned away from feminism
before many times, though I've been lucky to have been included more
than excluded. Feminists have pointed out that Whedon's male privilege
has allowed him a soapbox from which to discuss his ideas on feminism.
It's my opinion that he should be able to speak about it as much as he
likes. There are far too few men talking about feminism, not the least
of which being those who have the wherewithal to create change.
Traditionally, this had led many feminists to bristle suggesting that it
takes away from attention that would otherwise go to feminist women. I
can see the temptation to think this way, but there is no finite amount
of attention to devote to gender issues. Moreover, many prominent women
don't use their positions of power or prestige to highlight issues or call themselves feminist.
All said, 2013 didn't seem like such a great year for gender equality.
A lot will need to change, and quickly, for progress to be made in the
coming years. In my opinion, the most important shift that will need to
occur is a greater recognition that we are further away from equality
than we as a society think we are. How this will happen is anyone's
guess, but I hope that everyone continues to agitate for greater
equality for everyone.