Dispatches from the gender gap


Crommunist is on vacation this week, so blogging will be spotty. I’m going to make sure there’s at least SOMETHING up every day, but they’ll be short. Things should be back to normal by April.

If there is one thing that science can do for us, it’s challenging our assumptions and the resulting underlying myths that they propagate. While we are mostly blind to the narrative that we tell ourselves on a day-to-day basis, we can at least test the truth of those assumptions through the scientific method:

Despite its relative wealth, Canada is tied with Australia as the sixth best place in the Commonwealth to have been born a girl, a new study has found. New Zealand took the top spot in 54-country ranking, released Monday, followed by Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Dominica and Seychelles. Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Tonga, the Solomon Islands, Pakistan, Gambia and Bangladesh were among the lowest-ranked countries.

We have an amazing, wonderful country in which women do better than in most places in the world. We should not take for granted the fact that women in Canada are among the most privileged in the history of the world. We as a society worked hard (women particularly) to ensure that women have a greater level of opportunity than any woman has had as long as human society has existed.

However, going hand in hand with not taking the advances of women for granted comes not being complacent about the progress that has been made. Are we doing better by women than we have done in the past? Absolutely. Is that enough? Absolutely not.

Canadian girls, she added, report that gender-based violence remains pervasive in schools, on dates, in workplaces and over the Internet. They complain that girls remain under-represented in science and technology and that the problems are even worse for aboriginal girls, girls with disabilities and visible minorities.

This is the age-old problem of the downward comparison. Just because we are doing better than other places – countries that cannot compare to us in terms of economic power or political stability – does not mean that we can lean back and rest on our laurels when it comes to the rights and treatment of women.

The great strength of the scientific method is that it allows us to challenge the assumptions that lead to our gender complacency. We can make specific, targeted observations about the differential treatment of the disadvantaged sex, allowing us to investigate specific discrepancies in how we treat our vulnerable groups, of which women are one. It is this ability to ask specific, targeted questions – rather than simply relying on our cultural prejudices – that  allows us to ensure that all people are treated fairly, regardless of the circumstances of their birth.

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