Words by Tess Becker
The concept of gender equality is a central topic of public discussions at the moment, particularly in the US.
Just last year, questions of women's rights, bodily autonomy and reproductive health came to the fore with the overturning of Roe v. Wade.
Meanwhile, entire legislative sessions and political platforms have emerged in response to the fraught debate about trans women, other queer people and their rights.
Whether it relates to cis women or trans people, gender equality arouses frequently clashing viewpoints in the workplace, bathrooms, medical care, sport and society as a whole.
What does gender equality look like today?
For cis women, progress towards equality has slowed. The United Nations' gender equality organization, UN Women, analysed progress across its 17 sustainable development goals in 2021, attempting to paint a picture of the outlook for cis women around the world. The results were telling.
In areas such as poverty, hunger and health, cis women have experienced a decline in living standards. Over the last decade, for example, levels of food insecurity amongst women were 10% higher than men’s in 2020, compared with 6% higher in 2019.
Many of these changes came as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic - throughout which women faced a myriad of exacerbated issues, including unwanted pregnancies. In the first year of the pandemic, there were an estimated 1.4 million additional unintended pregnancies in lower and middle-income countries.
So action is increasingly vital if we are to achieve gender equality for cis women.
Equality across the wider spectrum of gender
But gender equality for cis women is just one part of a wider debate, especially in the US. Here, transgender issues continue to spark heated discussions in legislatures and courtrooms. Florida officials have led the pushback against trans rights, attempting to limit trans people’s access to medical care and enacting the first US bathroom ban with consequences including a jail sentence.
The positive news though, is that most people in the US support trans people, allowing them to live their authentic lives. “Roughly eight-in-ten U.S. adults say there is at least some discrimination against transgender people in our society, and a majority favor laws that would protect transgender individuals from discrimination in jobs, housing and public spaces,” a Pew Research study states.
The Human Rights Campaign estimates that there are about two million trans people in the United States. Many face challenges including poverty, harassment and violence. Around 29% of trans adults live in poverty, as well 39% of Black trans adults, 48% of Latinx trans adults and 35% of Alaska Native, Asian, Native American, and Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander trans adults.
Without sufficient legal protections or medical support, the trans community is left vulnerable, as we’re seeing with the legislative attacks in many states.
What can we do to promote gender equality?
Gender equality is still a long way off for cis women and marginalised groups across the gender spectrum. So what can we do to achieve it?
First things first. Educate yourself. If you have never experienced these issues first- or secondhand then you are unlikely to understand them.
There are organizations everywhere that serve as beacons of education for these types of things like the aforementioned Human Rights Campaign or the Stonewall Museum which preserves the history of the people that fought for queer rights. The Global Fund for Women and organizations like UN Women do much of the same for women and femmes around the world.
Next, apply that knowledge in your community and advocate for the better treatment of people everywhere. Action could be as simple as voting for causes that promote equality for all, or as far-reaching as joining protests and making your voice heard.
Just remember: even though we have not yet achieved gender equality, that doesn’t mean we can’t someday achieve it.