Loading Map...

Gender and Privilege

Written on: Saturday August 9th, 2008

A journal entry from: YIIP, Ottawa 2008

Gender...wow this is a tricky one, but such an important subject! Since I've spent the summer in Ottawa I must admit that life as a woman hasn't been much different from what I experience in Toronto, but there should still be lots of stuff to discuss...actually there are so many things that come to my mind when I think about gender in general and women rights in particular that I don't really know where to start. If I were to start with myself however there is one word which quickly comes to my mind...privileged...which again makes me think that I should in fact try to combine the two blog assignments we've been given during the course of July...not simply because I'm already a bit late posting them, and should try to be efficient, but also because they are two subjects that in many ways go hand in hand.

The reason why I feel privileged is because as a Norwegian woman, currently living in Canada, and previously a resident in Sweden I have probably spent the majority of my life in some of the most developed and equal countries of the world. I have never had to worry that I would not get the chance to go to school, nor that I should be excluded from any type of career that I might choose. I have the right to vote, a right that Norwegian women were some of the first women to enjoy as 'early' as 1912...However, in a macro-gender-context this is of course not early, but in a macro-privilege-context it definitely makes me privileged.  1 year paid maternity leave, the right to dress whichever way I like, and to say the things l like without the consent of neither my father nor my brother, the possibility of having a CEO or top political position...the list could probably go on for quite some time, but there is no point mentioning these things without embedding them within a larger framework. I read a book at the beginning of this summer called "In the Name of Honour". It is a short little book, but the story within it is so powerful that I recommend all of you to take the time reading it. It is the story of a horrific 'honour'-crime taking place in Pakistan just a few years ago, but which, due to the unstoppable courage of one woman alone, turned into progress and hope for a better future for all poor and uneducated women across the globe. What struck me about the book was how close in time the events taking place in it were. From the dates mentioned in the book I quickly realized that while this one courageous woman was fighting for her life and freedom in the Pakistani countryside I was just graduated from high school, and on my way to spend the summer around in Europe. The contrast is insane! We are talking 2002, and still this is happening at the same point in time on this very planet that we call OUR home.

I believe that the first step in creating a more equal world not only between nations, but ultimately also between genders, is for the privileged to become aware of and acknowledge their privileged position. Then hopefully we can use this awareness to change things to the better, not only for ourselves, but for everyone. One of my hopes for the future is that I will acquire this awareness, not only partly as I have acquired it to this date, but completely, so that I can use my privileged position to create positive change for everyone and on everyone's different terms. Still, even though a macro perspective is important to maintain, I want to conclude by saying that we should not lose focus on the local just because we are starting to look at the global. Although we have achieved a lot as regards to equal rights in both Canada and Norway, it doesn't mean that everything is perfect.  Although, Dr. Morgentaler did a lot to give women the right to decide over their own body, it does not mean that this right is no longer challenged. Having got to know some ardent feminists through my internship this summer one does not have to look further than the recently proposed bill C-484 to realize this (learn more at: http://www.arcc-cdac.ca/c484.htm). In other words we have to keep working, be it local or global, if we want a truly just and equal society.

That's all for now folks: ) For those of you still working, enjoy the rest of your internship. For those of you like me who are back home again, or on your way, safe trips and enjoy the rest of the summer. I'll be looking forward to see all of you in September!