67 of 79 people found the following review helpful
Do we have an equal society?
, 5 Mar. 2010
This review is from: The Equality Illusion: The Truth about Women and Men Today (Paperback)
Arranged in the form of progress through a typical day - the book starts with appearance and eating disorders. Anorexia and Bulimia are primarily women's diseases and over 90% of sufferers are women. Even young girls are expected to go to school wearing makeup and with their hair done properly and to diet until their bodies conform to the generally accepted ideas of beauty. For women a great deal of time must be spent ensuring they are fit to face the world. Appearances are all important and women will be judged on them throughout the day. Unlike men they can't just shower and throw on a few garments.
The book highlights the way women are still regarded as bodies first and foremost rather than people. Women are judged on what they look like, what they wear and how they behave rather than being judged on their capabilities. The author raises some of the same questions as Natasha Walter in 'Living Dolls'. Is it really empowering to take up a career in the sex industry? The women the author talks to show clearly that being a lap dancer is not glamorous or even very well paid and that most women involved do it because they have been unable to find any other work which fits in with their other commitments.
At work or school women and girls run the risk of being harassed and criticised for their appearance. I was horrified to read about the schoolgirls who suffer sexual abuse - both physical and verbal. Even if they complain they are just told `Boys will be boys'; which is hardly a constructive attitude. At work similar things happen and women are rarely judged on their ability to get the job done. Women are still in a minority in Parliament and in the top 100 companies. One fact which stuck in my mind is that Rwanda has more than 50% women in its government and that the position of women in that country is improving tremendously as a result. If they can do it why can't the First World? Anti-discrimination laws cannot change people's attitudes and even though legislation in the 1970s made overt discrimination illegal changing the law will not change people's attitudes so covert discrimination will still exist and is very much more difficult to identify.
There is no doubt domestic violence of any sort is a serious problem in modern Britain but the book fails to discuss women's violence against men and children. It concentrates on male violence against women. Obviously this is important but I would have liked to see some mention of violence where women are the aggressors rather than the assumption that where women use violence it is always in self-defence.
I thought the section on pornography and the sex industry in general was very interesting and conveys the way pornography is becoming ever more extreme. Aggression towards women is commonplace and women are treated as objects which men use for their pleasure. Lads mags are freely available - not even on the top shelf in newsagents - though their content is ever more pornographic and misogynistic. Pornography is almost exclusively heterosexual and strongly influences fashion and beauty - most notably in the way women are expected to remove all traces of body hair.
This is an extremely interesting and well written book which raises many questions about the state of gender equality today. It contains a comprehensive list of organisations fighting for gender equality, together with notes on each chapter and a short list of useful reading. There are many references which can be followed up for more information and an index. As this book has `The Truth about Women and Men Today' in its title I would have liked to see a bit more about the way stereotypes and expectations affect men as well as women but that does not detract from the overall message - the fight for equality has a long way to go.
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