Sunday, 27 September 2015

The Outcome of Outcome Feminism – Part 4: Cultural Pressure

Author: Blaise Wilson

The Outcome of Outcome Feminism Series:
Part 1 – Factors to be Controlled: http://egafeminist.blogspot.co.uk/2015/08/outcomeoutcomefem1.html
Part 2- Assumptions: http://egafeminist.blogspot.co.uk/2015/08/outcomeoutcomefem2.html
Part 3 – Freeing Women's Time and Money: http://egafeminist.blogspot.co.uk/2015/08/outcomeoutcomefem3.html
Part 4- Cultural Pressures: This article
Part 5 - Discrimination: http://egafeminist.blogspot.co.uk/2015/10/outcomeoutcomefem5.html
Part 6 - Discussion of Assumption 6: http://egafeminist.blogspot.co.uk/2015/10/outcomeoutcomefem6.html
Part 7 - Discussion of Assumption 1: http://egafeminist.blogspot.co.uk/2015/11/the-outcome-of-outcome-feminism-part-7.html
Part 8 - The Outcome of Outcome Feminism Conclusion:  http://egafeminist.blogspot.co.uk/2015/11/outcomeoutcomefem8.html
Part 9 - Campaigns and Action: http://egafeminist.blogspot.co.uk/2015/11/outcomeoutcomefem9.html
Abstract/ TLDR

Cultural pressure is known by many names, but changing it provides a variety of challenges. If pushed in the wrong direction, it can allow for great evil.

It can be manipulated through media, laws and individual attitudes.

In order to reduce the Gender Wage Gap, women need to take non-traditional roles. Some suggestions on how to mould society to support women going into these roles includes:
  • Education
  • Incentives and career planning
  • Shaming and praising
  • Improving self-confidence
Education, incentives and career planning are already heavily invested in within the UK. Partially when it comes to women in STEM. Shaming tactics can easily backfire, causing harm to Feminism's reputation.

Women need to maintain their ability to choose their lifestyle and career. But while they can do so, if the key assumption that men and women are biologically identical is flawed then women will continue to choose traditional roles regardless of the intervention.

A rather unsung solution is to improve the self-confidence of women in order to empower them to make their own choices regardless of social norms.

Introduction

In the previous articles it was establish which factors play a role in the Gender Wage Gap. After highlighting a number of required assumptions the factors boiled down to three areas:
  • Freeing up women's time and money
  • Cultural pressure
  • Discrimination
In this part solutions to solving Culture Pressure is investigated. There is an assumption that cultural pressure, rather than personal choice, forces women into traditional roles, while avoiding non-traditional roles. Another key assumption is women and men are identical and that gender is a purely social construct, rather than men and women having biological tenancies to pick certain job roles over others. These assumptions were discussed in part 2.

These articles focus on developed countries, namely the UK and the US.

Cultural Pressure

Cultural pressure has many names, synonyms include conventionality, traditionalism, orthodoxy, fitting in, following the crowd, running with the pack, swimming with the stream, conformity, social pressure and peer pressure. Regardless of the name it is the social norms of society that influence an individuals behaviours, beliefs and attitudes [15]. They come into play through day to day interactions between individuals and the wider environment. They are the accepted conventions and boundaries of a culture that permeate through the media, government (through laws) and inform personal interactions.

Humans are social creatures and have a need to fit into society. Those who do not conform are often ridiculed and expelled, making individuals feel isolated and not valued – or worse, punished or killed. Thus, conforming to society has many benefits. Conformity is very powerful, even going so far as allowing great evils to occur. When no one fights back, no one feel they can [16]. Those who step out of line and don't conform are taking huge personal risks.

This implies the problem of women choosing their lifestyle and career can be influenced in two ways:
  1. changing society's cultural norms to ensure women do not feel pressured into taking traditional roles.
  2. improve self-confidence of women to allow them to place the importance personal choice over fitting into society, and accept the risks as a result.
All the research used for this article concentrated on the former solution, on changing culture rather than encouraging women to take personal responsibility to change themselves and take risks. However the two are not mutually exclusive and during the transition phase between the current culture and the proposed culture some women will have to take risks and lead the way to allow others to follow.

Changing culture takes time, as each generation grows they adopt different social norms to their parents. However these changes can be influenced and changed by the media and government, which will then create a self-correcting system through individual interactions of shaming and praising.

Discussing and raising awareness of the problem, education, and explaining why culture needs to change is a key foundational step to changing personal attitudes. Some outlets have even gone so far as to make a check lists to inform individuals what thoughts are acceptable under the new culture [5].

Naming and shaming those who undermine this new thinking is another tool to help control the change of culture. Individuals are shamed for acting outside of the acceptable parameters of society, and this can be used to improve the Gender Wage Gap. Historically, and to a lesser degree in the present, examples would be the treatment of homosexuals. Society tried to force them to conform to 'normal' sexual preferences, whereas culture is slowly changing to accept such behaviour as acceptable, evening creating laws to protect them.

This pressure could be used to discourage women from traditional roles as much as encourage them into non-traditional roles through shaming, degrading and ridiculing, for example looking down on women who are stay at home mothers.

The opposite to shaming is to praise role model women and encourage other women to emulate there success. These women took the risk of ridicule by making non-traditional choices. Through praising them, and shaming traditional roles it turns 'traditional' society on it's head, treating people the opposite to their expectation.

The Government can control education to support this new culture by encouraging children to pick any career they wish, rather than stick to gender stereotypes [14]. This could include education on the dangerous of harmful social norms to people in key positions of power and the benefits of sharing responsibilities [3].

Helping women to make choices based on potential earnings will help reduce the wage gap, but may not eliminate it completely [10] however, this will reduce the pervasive occupational segregation [3]. This can be achieved through self-confidence programmes and career planning that encourages women into non-traditional roles by developing and distributing information, tools and resources for career exploration [5] with emphasis on providing career advice and encouragement to young women into male-dominated subjects, even going as far as providing personal mentors to help guide them [3, 5]. Women could be offered further incentives by providing scholarships for entering non-traditional training and education [5]. As more women enter non-traditional roles, it helps creates social pressures that conform to the ideals of reducing the Gender Wage Gap.

Discussion

An investigation would be needed establish if these solutions are already in place, and if they are working as intended. However there are some negatives to such changes. As highlighted society can allow great evil, the example provided in [16] “in Nazi Germany, many ordinary people did not dissent to the ongoing atrocities because few other people resisted” which demonstrates that changes to culture must be fully considered and be held within principles such as freedom of speech or morality. Individual must be allowed to think for themselves and have the ability to speak out against conventional norms without fear of punishment.

Choice Feminism, as defined by Anita Sarkeesian [17], believes that women should not choose what they want as an individual, but what is best for women in general. This removes the principle of personal choice. Instead of the traditions of Patriarchy influencing want women choose regardless of their personal preference, Choice Feminism wants women to pick non-traditional roles regardless of their personal preference. This simply swaps one oppression for another without giving women the freedom to pick any career, traditional or not, themselves. This denies women the basic human right to pursue their own happiness.

Using shaming tactics can backfire. It makes Feminism look petty and negative as it tries to childishly shame other women into conforming to their set of goals – one that not all women may share. It has the same problems as Choice Feminism, by removing women's personal freedom to choose for the sake of an agenda. And Anti-Feminists use this as ammunition against Feminism, which in turn reduces the influcence Feminism has. In this way, the shaming tactic has backfired, producing a negative impact on Feminism as a whole.

There are already many campaigns to get women into non-traditional roles, with STEM being a highly targeted one. However they will only help to coax women who want such roles, which makes the key assumption that women wish to be in non-traditional roles vitally important. While women retain choice, if most women do not want non-traditional roles this encouragement will fall on deaf ears.

One area that could be given more attention is to improve the self-esteem of women, and empower them on an individual level. This concept was surprisingly missing from the research on solutions to the Gender Wage Gap, but would allow women to break from indoctrination of social norms and be free to make choices. In the UK and US self-esteem reduces the impact of the risks of being rejected by wider society as the women would no longer seek societal approval and allow the pursuit of personal happiness. However, in countries where nonconformity could mean death such self-confidence could lead to physical harm of the woman. The risks needs to be weighed by the woman on a case by case basis.

Conclusion

The main way to change cultural pressure in order to reduce the Gender Wage Gap is to change the social behaviours and norms, and support and encourage women going into non-traditional roles. This can be done through:
  • Education
  • Incentives and career planning
  • Shaming and praising
  • Improving self-confidence 
References

[1] UK Government request companies publish gendered wage data:
http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2015/07/britain-gender-pay-gap-world/398684/ accessed 29/08/2015

[2] Wage Gap in Rwanda, Burundi and Nicaragua is almost non existent:
http://www.spiked-online.com/newsite/article/global-gender-gap-equality-is-overrated/16110 accessed 29/08/2015

[3] UN Women Progess Report 2015 – 2016
http://progress.unwomen.org/en/2015/pdf/UNW_progressreport.pdf accessed 29/08/2015

[4] New Republic – How to Equalize the Female Pay Gap
http://www.newrepublic.com/article/118653/how-equalize-female-compensation accessed 29/08/2015

[5] New Brunswick: The Wage Gap Action Plan 2005-2010
https://www.gnb.ca/0012/Womens-Issues/wg-es/tools/pdf/5-Action_E.pdf accessed 29/08/2015

[6] Roosevelt Institute: How to Fix the Gender Wage Gap: Going Far Beyond an App
http://rooseveltinstitute.org/new-roosevelt/how-fix-gender-wage-gap-going-far-beyond-app accessed 29/08/2015

[7] American Progress: Seven Actions that could shrink the Gender Wage Gap
https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/women/report/2014/09/18/97421/7-actions-that-could-shrink-the-gender-wage-gap/ accessed 29/08/2015

[8] Policy.Mic: Norway Has Found a Solution to the Gender Wage Gap That America Needs to Try
http://mic.com/articles/87983/norway-has-found-a-solution-to-the-gender-wage-gap-that-america-needs-to-try accessed 29/08/2015

[9] IMF STAFF DISCUSSION NOTE: Women, Work, and the Economy: Macroeconomic Gains from Gender Equity
https://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/sdn/2013/sdn1310.pdf accessed 29/08/2015

[10] Graduating to a Pay Gap The Earnings of Women and Men One Year after College Graduation:
http://www.aauw.org/files/2013/02/graduating-to-a-pay-gap-the-earnings-of-women-and-men-one-year-after-college-graduation.pdf accessed 29/08/2015

[11] Quotas in the EU:
http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/65f494e6-f5e7-11e1-a6c2-00144feabdc0.html accessed 29/08/2015

[12] Pros and Cons of Quotas:
http://www.newstatesman.com/business/2012/09/quotas-women-boards-all-pros-and-cons-one-place accessed 29/08/2015

[13] Gender Wage Gap within the same job:
http://www.payscale.com/gender-lifetime-earnings-gap accessed 29/08/2015

[14] Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development: Closing the Gender Gap: Act Now
http://www.oecd.org/gender/closingthegap.htm accessed 29/08/2015

[15] Oxford English Dictionary definition of Conformity:
http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/conformity accessed 26/09/2015

[16] The power of conformity
http://www.lucifereffect.com/guide_conform.htm accessed 26/09/2015

[17] Anita Sarkeesian, How to be a Feminist Panel, 2015 All About Women conference taking place annually at the Sydney Opera House
https://archive.is/sBqb0 accessed 26/09/2015

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