March 18, 2023
by Lexi Goodman
From my disadvantaged position in the room, I could not see the speaker’s face, merely her monotonous voice that uttered sentences without any seemingly coherent thought. And although I couldn’t see the face behind the voice, I could imagine it. If it was like any of the other anti-family speakers I had thus seen while attending the United Nation’s Commission on the Status of Women, a bland look would be etched on the surface with a perfunctory smile issuing forth well-meaning ideas.
The topic for this mysterious speaker was “Gender Equality as a Prerequisite for Democracy”. The title seems harmless enough, but the ideas spewed forth from her and the others on the panel were anything but honorable.
They opened with the statement: “…it is reported that it will take about 286 years to close gaps in legal protection and remove discriminatory laws, 140 years for women to be represented equally in positions of power and leadership in the workplace, and at least 40 years to achieve equal representation in national parliaments.”
They doubt the legitimacy of democracies around the world and posit the question, “Is it really democracy if not allvoices are heard equally?”. The thesis for their forum is easy enough to agree to, but it’s their means for the ideal end that becomes a snarled web of disagreements. A logical enough question, but here are some of the ‘call-for-actions’ they extended in response:
- We need to have a sustained and deliberate effort to include women into politics
- There is a need for countries to step up and recognize the violence against women
- All spheres and sectors must change and transform to achieve gender equality
- One needs to look beyond the obvious, like abuse against women in office, and look at the structural issues
- Equitable redistribution of power
- We need to push back the regress that is happening around the world
These are their means to achieve sustainable gender equality. Unfortunately, they chose to not provide any significant detail as to what exactly things like, “equitable redistribution of power” or “transforming all spheres and sectors” would entail or mean for the everyday family.
But an impression I had while sitting on the floor, squished between two other women (a seating arrangement I had to make happen as the room was entirely full), was, “What about the women who don’t want to be in political positions? Who don’t want to be in the work force, but rather are content as stay-at-home mothers?”
My question was quickly answered with comments like, “As long as women continue to do a disproportionate amount of work in the home (unpaid), they are barred from entering into the office” and “Women have obligations that don’t allow them to fully participate in democracy”. In the panelist’s eyes, women don’t really want to be stay-at-home mothers. Rather, they are conditioned into thinking that is their only option. So, will they force every woman and girl to want what they want, until that instead becomes their only option?
They ended with this thought, “If we times 8 billion by the energy that is in this room, we can achieve gender equality.” I looked around after such a thought-provoking statement.
My thoughts were as follows: first, the women gathered in that cramped room were not an accurate representation of all women. These women in the room with me nodded avidly in agreement to every statement issued forth from the speakers. Their eyes never left their faces as they almost involuntarily made sounds of approval. What about the women at home with their children? What about the women tending to what would be considered a “less successful” career?
And secondly, there was only one man in the room. We cannot achieve gender equality through only one gender. Otherwise, we will just go from what they consider to be a “patriarchal society” to a “matriarchal society”, which, on second thought, I don’t think they would consider to be a bad thing at all.
Lexi is a student at Brigham Young University – Idaho and attending the Commission on the Status of Women with United Families International.