This has been the most fulfilling event I have attended as of March 11th AM. The event was sponsored by the YWCA (insert countries). A panel of young women sat at the front of the room while people continued to squeeze in a tiny room. The emcee from Australia welcomed everyone and proceeded to recognize the indigenous land we were on and explained why it is important to acknowledge the effects of colonization across the world. The panel began with a young school teacher from YWCA in Honduras. She pointed out that stereotypes are culturally specific and some cultures are more male driven. She then did an over arching historical overview of women’s labour has affected stereotypes and touched on how media can be a tool of change, but is frequently a tool to perpetuate these stereotypes.
The second speaker, who identified herself as an Indian migrant growing up in New Zealand, opened with a Maouri (indigenous people of NZ) greeting. Again respecting the land and acknowledging the colonialist context in which we live. She describes living in a culture where you must respect your elders and to challenge them can be seen as disrespectful and inappropriate. Culture is used as an excuse for abuse and as women we need to shift culture and hold people accountable for there actions no matter there culture. She went on to discuss her experience with her male feminist friends, that have marched in anti-rape culture rallies and identified as feminist, but when she had mentioned that her partner is going to stay home with the kids, they could not let go of their ingrained cultural stereotypes to be support that idea. Which I think is a common experience for many.
The next panelist was a young women from Myanmar. She went on to describe how violence is ingrained in her culture. Due to the gender stereotype present in her culture, violence is justified and tends to be constructed as the women’s fault. A women is responsible for the family’s honour and dignity, therefore women is shamed for what had happened to her and sometimes can be forced to marry her perpetrator because she is “damaged”. This attitude toward women and the stereotypical gender roles within the culture works to protect the perpetrator and blame the women. Though the context of the culture is different you find a similar over arching theme across cultures and the demands they put on women’s bodies and roles.
Moving onto Paulette Senior, who was representing the YWCA-Canada. She made some very prevalent points about being part of an organization or government and how to work to tear down these stereotypes. “We say we value diversity but do we walk diversity, and what values are reflected in the organization.” Stereotypes in culture are reflective of how society values women and what they see as "woman". Because almost across the globe women are seen as less than man, this ingrains an attitude that makes violence against women accepted and naturalized with society.
Laurie Gayle of YWCA-Scotland had some very interesting things to say. She also announced a pilot report from the government called the Status of Young Women Report. This report works to gather cross-sectional data to better understand the specific needs of young women to better serve them and empower them. “One of the first things girls experience are stereotypes, it causes women to hesitate.” They hesitate and doubt themselves as to if they can really do it.
The emcee then wrapped up the session with some very helpful actions to work to combat stereotypes.
1) Call them out
2) Link the stereotypes with the negative attitude
3) Pay attention to the interaction between different stereotypes
4) Use humour when possible and appropriate.
5) Promote unique and varied voices of women across the world.