This year’s International Women’s Day theme is #EachforEqual, inviting individuals to take responsibility for their thoughts and actions to promote a gender-equal world.
Yet the theme of equality sounds so scary to some, mostly due to a misunderstanding that providing women and girls with equal access to healthcare, education, work, and representation in politics means losing femininity and ultimately destroying gender roles.
For instance, the “Marathon of femininity” is a month-long initiative by Russian aluminum producer Tatprof that rewards women 100 roubles (1.52 dollars) for each day they come to work wearing a dress or a skirt. During the marathon (June 2019), 149 female workers were also encouraged to wear natural makeup and do elegant hair updos in an attempt to fight with the mixing of gender roles.
Such fears are mostly present in developed societies where women’s share in the workforce has been continuously growing. However, while females are bringing bread to the table alongside their male counterparts (because having one parent support the family is hardly feasible anymore), women are also expected to have the same responsibility as household keepers, mothers, and seductresses as they did 30 years ago.
Researchers from University College London looked into data on over 8,500 heterosexual couples in the UK, concluding that in 93% of cases women did the majority of domestic work. On average, women were spending around 16 hours on household chores while men did around six. This type of “invisible work” is part of the reason why the median earnings of women are lower than those of men. Women are just not paid for their work.
A 2013 research on Modern Parenthood in US households compared how much time women and men spend in housework and child care when unemployed and their partner is the sole breadwinner in the family. An average stay-at-home mom was found to devote 46 hours weekly to the household versus 29 hours for stay-at-home dads. Bottom line is that even when the gender roles about who provides for the family have been reversed, they are still often intact when it comes to house chores.
The main flaw with expecting women to excel at all is that we only have so much time in a day. Regarding the femininity marathon at Tatprof, Russian feminist Tatyana Suhareva pointed out. “Cosmetics, and this whole feminine image in general, take the time that the woman could use for self-development.”
In fact, females have been increasingly investing more time into education and according to the US Education Department estimates, 56% of college students were women. What is more, 2019 is the first year when women on a par with men in the college-educated US workforce. Likewise, boosting female’s labor force participation in the EU is considered paramount to economic growth.
Nonetheless, females are often evaluated based on their appearance as dress code and hairstyle still defines them in the workplace or as women. Research shows controversial results on the matter. Some point out that women who take care of their appearance receive higher pay, while other studies outline that attractive women are considered incapable or less qualified. Whatever the case is, studies agree on one thing - women are heavily judged based on their physical outlook.
Giving women equal rights hardly has anything to do with negating femininity. Whether a woman is maintaining her appearance or taking care of the household, her effort is rarely recognized or appreciated. Equal rights would mean women have more time to pursue whatever path they choose for themselves. Ultimately, isn’t that what we all strive for, freedom to choose a path for ourselves and an opportunity to walk it.