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The perpetuation of gender roles is a repetitive, systematic, and recurring behaviour. It perpetuates within the social structure by defining gender roles. Normally, “masculine” is described as being opposite to “feminine”: boys adopt masculine behaviour, whereas girls learn non-masculine, or feminine behaviour. For instance, men are conditioned to show aversion to pink. Such conditioning, among other things, creates strict gender identities and results in a gender gap. Moreover, the struggle for achieving gender equality is currently perceived as the sole responsibility of women. To some extent, this bias is also reflected in the identification of gender equality: the acceptance of feminism but rejection of masculinism, which represents an imbalanced perspective.
Reproduction of gender inequality
The struggle for gender equality has historically been rooted in everyday activities since inequality perpetuates through seemingly inconspicuous actions. Socially constructed expectations regarding “appropriate” behaviour from both women and men establish a control system. This creates clear but unexpressed boundaries within which people judge behaviour as either feminine or masculine. Even though people are aware of this process, the entrenched practice is very difficult to change. This is because our emotions function within the controlled system that normalizes gender identities within society.
The repercussions of rigid gender identities are not just limited to expectations – they extend to opportunities in different spheres of life. For instance, the World Economic Forum’s “The Global Gender Gap Report 2018” assessed gender parity in the domains of education, economic, health, and political empowerment. The report ranks countries on the basis of a gender gap score. The rankings reveal that gender inequality depends on culture and is understood within social and historical contexts. Mountainous countries like Bhutan, China, India, Nepal, and Pakistan fall below the global average, whereas Scandinavian countries such as Iceland, Norway, and Sweden are ranked above the global average.
In the case of mountainous countries, the gender differences in terms of roles and responsibilities prominently results in inequality and socioeconomic constraints, especially for women. There is strong work division, less control over resources, and inequalities in decision making. These traditional gender-based exclusions are associated with the gender-based roles rooted in societal beliefs and values. Therefore, a huge gender gap exists in these societies, which is difficult but not impossible to address.
Gender equality is achievable
For some countries, gender equality is the foundation of society. In Sweden, everyone irrespective of their gender has the right to support themselves by working, maintain a good work–life balance, and receive equal access to and share of resources. In some developed countries, governments have adopted gender mainstreaming – ensuring that gender perspectives and focus on gender equality are integral in all initiatives – as the main strategy within their equality policy. The fact that some countries are ranked above others in gender gap scores clearly shows that gender equality is achievable through the implementation of context-specific strategies according to different social and geographic backgrounds. In developed countries, government policies are instrumental to achieving equality. Unfortunately, this is not the case for mountain communities.
As much as polices are important, changes in attitude and behaviour are essential for breaking rigid gender roles and achieving a gender-balanced society. Major behavioural change is required to stop gender-based stereotyping, beginning from childhood. Another way forward is to develop self-awareness within children so that they do not limit themselves to their assigned gender roles. This will develop a sense of equal concern between men and women to balance the gender gap. In addition, this creates space for both to equally participate in every aspect of social, economic, political, and environmental domains for society’s welfare.
Balance for equality or equity?
The journey to gender equality does not mean that women and men must become identical or immediately be treated in the same way. That is where the nuance of gender equity matters. Gender equity is the recognition of fairness in the treatment of men and women according to their needs and abilities; it is the one of the important means to achieve gender equality. And since the goal is to achieve gender equality, both men and women should contribute equally to the process. The (wrong) conception that only women should be at the forefront in the march for gender equality can be traced to men not being expected to take responsibility for and participate in women’s rights and issues. Therefore, men’s inadequate involvement in achieving gender equality is apparent and needs advocacy.
Another misconception about gender equality is that it holds enormous benefits exclusively for women. It should be clear that both women and men benefit from gender equality in terms of personal and societal wellbeing, economic advancement, healthy relationships, equal power distribution, and uniform access to available resources for sustainable use. For progress on this front, men’s contributions must be acknowledged, their issues considered, and their increased involvement and activism encouraged. This will change the perception of men as problem solvers rather than problem makers. The missing network of support between men and women needs to be formed, and the realization of the same goal – gender equality – is essential for attaining a gender-balanced society.
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