Ratih Amalia Lestari
15 Nov 2022 at 09:22


By: Ratih Amalia Lestari Member of Duta Damai BNPT Provinsi Papua

Gender equality also does not mean that males and females must always be treated the same. Given the existence of biological sex differences, it is reasonable for males and females to have different legal rights in some instances. For example, only females can ever require maternity leave specifically for pregnancy and birth. In cases such as these, what is required is not equal treatment, but equitable treatment. Equity means recognising that differences in ability mean that fairness often requires treating people differently so that they can achieve the same outcome. At times equity is necessary to achieve gender equality, but there are many instances where this is not the case. Most of the time, women and girls are at no inherent disadvantage due to a lack of ability that warrants differential treatment. Gender equality can often be achieved just by holding everyone to the same standard. The problem, as highlighted by the evidence reviewed above, is the irrational gender bias that women and girls are routinely subjected to. The purpose of affirmative action policies to increase female representation is to counteract systemic discrimination against women. Affirmative action creates gender equity by overcoming the barriers women face simply because of their gender. If we can eliminate this gender-based discrimination, no such action will be necessary.

So if gender equality does not mean that males and females must be identical or always require the same treatment in order to achieve fairness, what does it mean? Gender equality is seeing males and females as being of equal status and value. It is judging a person based on their merit, and not viewing them as inferior or superior purely based on their gender.

Unfortunately, the evidence reviewed above suggests this prejudice is still widespread, and we often aren’t aware of our own biases. We cannot say that we have gender equality until this prejudice is overcome and we have eliminated the irrational bias that people have against somebody just because they are female.

Equal rights are not enough. Inequality exists in our minds, in our biases and prejudices, and that remains to be fixed. Equal does not mean identical, one might object that there are meaningful differences between males and females, and these in turn are the source of gender inequality. Some believe that equality is the wrong word to use, because males and females can’t be equal if they are different.

But when feminists refer to gender equality, we are not arguing that males and females are identical or indistinguishable on all behaviour, preferences and abilities. Nor does it mean all gender differences must be eliminated, or that we must have equal gender representation in every field.

For instance, there are many more male firefighters than female firefighters. Part of this is likely due to gender differences in work preferences. But it is also partly due to the physical strength tests used in recruiting firefighters. These include being able to lift a 72kg mannequin and  45 metres.