March the 8th

0a34ff9e-d7ff-4da6-8f1b-debf402209edTwo days ago, on March the  8th, a lot of countries celebrated a very special day. But, there is only a handful of countries that actually deserve to celebrate that day. It is only this handful of countries that have a reason to commemorate the “struggle of women for their participation, on equal terms with men, in society and in their full development as a person.” Since it is only this handful of countries that actually had won that battle.

However, the International Women’s Day is celebrated almost in the whole world. In some places it is even a national holiday. And should it be? Not in order to sell more flowers or chocolates (we already have the Valentine’s Day for that). Well, even if it is not to celebrate victory in the gender battle, we should use this occasion to remind ourselves about all the things that are still missing on our way to eradicate inequality.

And those are plenty.

What I wish to all the women, the younger and the older ones, is for them to be able to be a human first. Secondly, a woman.

images (4)And always to remember that you have the right to better yourselves through education and fulfilling your passions. Be it female, masculine or gender-neutral. Every human being should be able to achieve the sense of satisfaction any way they like.

Never ever to let people define your value solely basing it on the reproductive function of female body.

Always to remember that beauty is merely an ornament, never a foundation.

To have and appreciate your sisters. Whether born in the same families or acquianted along the paths of your lives.

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To learn to be alone.
To know how to live alone without feeling unnecessary and unwanted.
To know your value so well that you will always reject co-dependent and toxic relationships, never to cling to this weak and cheap illusion of appreciation and self-esteem offered by those who use us only for their own selfish needs.

Never to forget how much you are worth.
Yet never calculate it in currency while sticking on pricetags which society is trying to shove in our faces every step of the way.

Never to sell yourself short.

Not to believe in what you see in ads. Nor in magazines. Nor billboards. Besides, it is not what matters.

Trust me, it is YOU what matters. What you do matters. What you think matters. Your voices are for you to use them, so are your brains. Your bodies are just a tool, and not a material for expolitation. Even less for others to exploit them.

Never to fear mirrors. They are there for you to fix your hair or brush your teeth. Not for you to assess how far away you are from looking like a 13 year old model.

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Always to care for the ones close to you. But never to stop caring for yourselves first.

And so, I wish you all always have a happy day, week, month and a whole lifetime as a Woman!

♥♥♥

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Latin women vs. European women and yet again on Gender Inequality

-15455It was supposed to be a simple light and fun article about how women in Europe and Latin America differ and in what aspects they are similar. About their looks and their personality. But while going through research I ended up reading about gender inequality, education levels, discrimination, life expectancy and I started to dig a little deeper to able to compare and contrast those two cultural regions. Why the differences we superficially perceive occur? Where does all the stereotyping come from? While we might agree, that stereotypes are not the accurate reflection of the truth, they are simplistic notions rooted in some kind of social phenomena that actually do differentiate one group from the other.

Recently I have been watching an excellent and extremely explicit show entitled Shameless. In my recent episodes a new minor character appeared, a Brazilian young woman, daughter of a drug lord, a wife of one of the main characters and a lover of one of the minor characters. Why am I brining her up? She got me thinking about female characters stereotyping culture that they come from.

So how we, women stereotyped? Many people from Europe, when asked what are Latin women like, will pretty surely give you a similar answer. And answers are based on some level of knowledge, but they are mostly based on simplified social codes and singular portraits the media or popular culture provide us with. The same goes to the Europeans described by Latin people. So let’s take a broader look on this phenomenon. How are those two distant groups of women usually stereotyped? According to the consulted sources it looks as follows:

A Latina is an attractive woman. Always dresses feminine and sexy, sometimes viewed as overdoing her style. Usually very religious and somewhat conservative, yet paradoxically flirtatious, and giving a lot of sexual innuendos. Seen as a victim of patriarchal sexist society who chooses to play by the rules and give the men what they want (or to let them think that) in order to get what she needs. Also portrayed as less often financially independent, less frequently living alone. As well prone to have more kids than average. Very often stays under strong influence of her family members in aspects of her living situation, education, work AND even relationships. Even little girls wearing heels (seen it myself in Santo Domingo mall and almost fainted from shock) and a considerably high percentage of minors and young adult women are known to be clients of cosmetic surgery in the Latin market.

The stereotypical “European”, or in general “Western” woman is portrayed in the media and in the popular culture in a considerably contrary way. The most importantly, she is portrayed as more  independent and empowered. And it’s from there that all the other differences stem from. European women are presented as more reserved or “colder” (less flirtatious), also because they do not need to get attraction to get ahead, or they don’t want to (they are often shown as more rebellious). They are stereotyped as more sexually liberated, often less conservative and more able to individually make decisions for themselves. Shown as more career orientated/financially independent thus more practical and consequently less prone to forgive unfaithfulness. Seen as less eager to have more than average amount of kids and more often eager to stay childless. Are also more often seen as those paying less attention to image. Said to be more prone to vices like alcohol and cigarettes, but also more often seen as outspoken and demanding their rights.

And where does it all come from?

“The Gender Inequality Index (GII) is a new index for measurement of gender disparity that was introduced in the 2010 Human Development Report 20th anniversary edition by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). According to the UNDP, this index is a composite measure which captures the loss of achievement, within a country, due to gender inequality, and uses three dimensions to do so: reproductive health, empowerment, and labor market participation.” The ten highest ranked countries in terms of gender equality according to the Gender Inequality Index for 2008and 2011 are as follows: Sweden, Netherlands, Denmark, Switzerland, Finland, Norway, Germany, Singapore, Iceland, France.

Also let’s not forget that “Female education is a factor that has a significant effect on human development. Human development is an academic discipline concerned with the social and economic progress in impoverished regions. In particular, researchers seek to determine what factors explain differences in rates of development. Female education is one of the major explanatory variables behind the rates of social and economic development,and has been shown to have a positive correlation with both. Socially, female education increases women’s’ status in society and reduces certain social ills. Economically, female education helps bring more women into the work force and boosts a country’s economic output. According to notable economist Lawrence Summers, investment in the education of girls may well be the highest-return investment available in the developing world.”

Among the countries with the highest Education Index prevail European countries. In the data from 2007, the only one Latin country at the head of the list was Cuba.

“Sex differences in education are a type of sex discrimination in the education system affecting both men and women during and after their educational experiences. At all levels women are achieving higher representation and success (global average). At the post-secondary level women are earning most of the degrees awarded.

BUT, worldwide men are more likely to be literate, with 100 men considered literate for every 88 women. In some countries the difference is even greater; for example, in Bangladesh only 62 women are literate for every 100 men.

In an OECD study of 43 developed countries, 15-year-old girls were ahead of boys in literacy skills and were more confident than boys about getting high-income jobs . In the United States, girls are significantly ahead of boys in writing ability at all levels of primary and secondary education.However, boys are slightly ahead of girls in mathematics ability.” Which by the example of Iceland may be explained by cultural conditioning (countries with the least gender inequality, like Iceland, proved to have no higher scores in science for boys than for girls).

And yet, another BUT, education is not everything.

According to an Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) study entitled “New Century, Old Disparities,” which compares surveys of representative households in 18 Latin American and Caribbean countries, despite recent gains, the wage gap between men and women in Latin America still prevails . In Latin American and the Caribbean region women are better educated but paid less. Women tend to end up in lower-paid occupations such as teaching, health care or the service sector. Latin men earn 17 percent more than Latin women. This wage gap has been decreasing in recent years, but at a pace that remains slow. In order to attain gender equality in the labor market, changing household roles and stereotypes is essential…

Some other data of interest…

Please check out: an organization focused on attracting more girls into science http://www.projectexploration.org/ . And here, a movement based on the unique potential of adolescent girls to end poverty for themselves and the world http://www.girleffect.org/ . For inspiration let me also share some visual data: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1e8xgF0JtVg , http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Vq2mfF8puE .

So, maybe if we consider all those factor, be it living in Europe or in Latin America or anywhere else in the world for that matter, the following Vogue campaign image will provoke a distaste instead of forming a disturbing inspiration source among parents for what their daughters should aspire to be…

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All of you, but especially women and girls, please have a good and most importantly, empowered day.

I don’t want no wedding and other gender issues

do u want a wedding?

do u want a wedding?

Talk about ironies of life. Ever since I finished my last article I cannot stop listening (and I don’t mean playing them, I mean inside my head) all the crazy songs by Materialista. And I sing them, as though hearing them on repeat time after time was not enough… Especially one caught my attention and inspired me for today’s article Yo no quiero boda (eng: I don’t want no wedding). I have this theory that by assessing women’s status you can more precisely evaluate the socioeconomic situation of their country of origin. While looking at the examples: Iran, Sudan, Cambiodia, and at the other end of the spectrum: Sweden, Canada, Netherlands, seems like it might make sense…

Every research essay needs its research. Every topic that’s more complex than a weather chit chat requires adequately sophisticated bibliography. This article will not be an exception – in my preparation I used data provided by Social Institutions Gender IndexUnicefUnesco and The World Bank. Apart for that, somewhat for my own amusement and additional flavor, I took use of the invaluable Materialista’s help. This poor woman is completely unaware of what a great tool her songs offer while I create my inventive socio-anthropological theories. Education through Entertainment, talk about multitasking.

Firstly, three undeniable facts: Dominican Republic is a strongly religious country; it’s a traditionally patriarchal place with years long traditions of gender inequality and its famous macho mentality; it’s a third-world, underdeveloped state with an uneven distribution of wealth – all of those factors have its voice and vote in the final aspect of society. It’s still expected of women to assume the responsibility of taking care of the children and of men to maintain the family economically. This translates into: in 2011 the World Economic Forum and the Gender Inequality Index ranked Dominican Republic as 81st out of 135 countries.

Dominican women are much more affected by unemployment, in other words, the unemployment rate since 2004 has been three times higher for women than men. According to the consulted data until the reform of 1998, women did not have a right to inherit land, also men retained ownership of the land in case of divorce. What is more, women find it more difficult to exercise their right to access bank loans. As a result, less than 7 percent of women, as reported, are property-owners.

This economical disparity puts women in a vulnerable position when it comes to domestic violence, which, in Dominican Republic is pretty widespread. According to research from 2007, around one third of the interviewed women had suffered physical violence by the hands of their spouses or other men, and more than half of the victims did not receive any help. In case of abuse, their economical status renders women powerless and complicates the process of leaving. Rape is as well a serious social problem, with 10% of the interviewed women reporting having experienced at least one act of sexual violence in their lives.

There was a considerable step back with the introduction of the new Constitution in 2010 which outlawed abortion in all forms (including cases of rape or to save the woman’s life). None of the previous constitutions had done this. The countries which deny abortion access, including when the pregnancy threatens mother’s life or her health, tend to have the highest rates of maternal mortality.

According to UNICEF’s the levels of enrollment and attendance in primary education are practically equal for girls and boys. At the secondary level, the enrollment and attendance are higher for girls. This would indicate no preference for boys in access to education (good prognosis).

So much for the data, tables and statistics. Day to day reality has taught me about Dominican gender issues also pretty well. Dominican mothers teaching their daughters to be pretty and get a rich husband. Women all around me exposing mainly their physical attractiveness instead of their personality, knowledge or interests. Women accepting abuse and pretending everything is fine in order to maintain their sole source of income, or the neat image of their family for the outside world.

But what really made me deliberate on the topic of gender inequality was those lyrics: I don’t want no wedding, being alone is better. Being married is hell, I don’t want no wedding. What for all your wealth while I’m in prison. Had my hands tied, as well as my feet. Now I can live my life –without you, just me. I don’t want no more commitments, get it? I cheer for my freedom, now that I am free…

Even if it’s just for entertainment purposes, popular singers tend to expand the limits of what’s acceptable and to express what common people shy away from expressing. That is why while hearing this song I do not see only one infuriated, hurt woman, that, thanks to her success is able to say NO to what society tells her to do. I see multitudes of women who, slowly but surely, will start saying NO to having their hands tied and their mouths shut, yet beautifully colored. Love is something innate to human nature, don’t get me wrong, I do not oppose that. But, everything needs to be done for the right reasons. And not, be it by your own decision, or the lack of other options, being (there we go with the irony again) being materliasta…

This article has been written, inspired by the song, in order to celebrate freedom. Whatever women’s decisions might be, I wish they are purely their own. As simple as that.