Opinion » Editorial

Sadly, sexism is alive and well



Canada Post has finally started to mail cheques to the women it had paid less for doing the same work as their male colleagues between 1982 and 2002.

The complaint of unequal pay was lodged in 1983 — yes, 1983. It has taken 30 years for those women to get compensation — some of them have already passed away.

In international news, we learned this week that organizers of the Miss World beauty pageant have decided to ban the bikini contest — but not because it objectifies women — no, it was banned out of respect for the culture of the host country, Indonesia.

In Whistler, we recently hosted the Miss Whistler contest — no bikini ban here.

And what about the recent news stories of rape chants by new university students that promote sex with underage girls and keeping it a secret?

While these are all totally different perspectives — taking place 30 years apart — they have the same root: sexism.

While we are fortunate to have some great women leaders in our resort rabble.ca reported recently that, "... only 35 per cent of all management positions in Canada are held by women. Only 23 per cent of senior managers in Canada are women (Catalyst.org). The higher up you go, the lower the proportion of women becomes. Only 21 of Fortune 500 executive officers are women."

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) reports that median earnings of B.C. women working full-year, full-time were $43,000 in 2011, about $12,700 per year (or 23 per cent) less than the median earnings of B.C. men working full-year, full-time. Yet there are more women graduating from universities though they end up getting lower paid jobs — perhaps in some part due to the hiatus many take to have families.

Reported rabble.ca: "At the current rate of progress, a recent CCPA report estimates it will take Canadian women 228 years to close the gender pay gap. To what extent is sexism behind the gender pay gap? Probably to a very large extent."

It's impossible not to be passionate about this topic, no matter your gender.

Only in leading by example can society change the double standard. Our families, our businesses, our institutions need to root out sexism.

Easy to say, but extremely difficult to execute — for while the idea seems simple at its root, it is not, thanks to the rather insidious way sexism pervades our culture.

Take, for example, another story in the U.S. earlier this month where a Texas decal company created an image of a woman tied up in a truck bed and put it on their vehicle to show how realistic their work was. Within days there was a public outcry, but the reaction came as a "huge surprise" to the company's owner.

On Tuesday, Sept. 24, we learned that three Toronto firefighters had been sacked after their sexist tweets. Here's a couple of the tweets: "Reject a woman and she will never let it go. One of the many defects of their kind. Also weak arms."

Another: "...would swat her in the back of the head been considered abuse or a way to reset the brain?"

Is it not shocking that anyone could tweet this and think it OK?

There is so much "everyday sexism" it is hard to pick up a newspaper, follow social media or watch television without seeing it if you start to pay attention.

Addressing how to affect change is far more difficult though.

Rylan Higgins, a professor of anthropology at Saint Mary's University in Halifax (a rape-chant institution), said in an editorial column in The Chronicle Herald: "To be sure, there is no one action or even set of actions. But one way to fight sexism is to promote feminism as vigorously and as often as possible.

"I... focus on feminism during the final two weeks in my introductory anthropology course. I am no longer surprised by the response from all but a few of the 200-plus students. The vast majority of men and women neither support feminism nor understand what it is. I explain that it is the political movement to stop sexism. But even after two weeks of challenging students to think about feminism in this way, few are convinced."

If we want to see change families, teachers, coaches, community leaders, and everyday citizens need to start the change with kids — we are all responsible for creating sexist attitudes.

Our message? Both genders are valued; equality of the sexes is possible, and respect.