Photo Credit: Nik
Hi folks. This week, our guest writer Newman is taking on the obvious topic of unequal treatment of men and women. I like men who are feminist inclined because without them, we cannot make substantial progress. How many times have you seen a man speak up about this? I hope you enjoy his perspective on the subject matter
By Newman S. Gompil
I didn’t know what to expect when I signed up for the April Book Club in the Grand Duchy (Luxembourg), but I hoped it was going to be different. Culturando, a cozy upscale Wine bar with mouth-watering Mediterranean cuisine is the venue. If the venue was a good choice, the date made perfect sense. Let me explain. Tuesday, April 30 must be enticing as Workers’ Day (1 May) hung sweetly in the air, bidding all ‘weary labourers’ to come into her rest. I don’t know about you but there’s something about work-free days, n’est ce pas?
And then, there is Caroline Criado Perez’s INVISIBLE WOMEN: Data Bias in a world Designed for Men, one of the books to be presented that evening. Normally, a book like this will get my attention any day, except that, that was not a normal day, and assuredly, it was neither (Maigret’s Pipe by Georges Simenon, the other book that will be presented,) nor the ‘booze’ but the philosophy of the group that had the honour. Below, is an excerpt from their webpage:
“…The other (important) thing about the book club is you don’t have to read the book before you come!” Oh Yes, you read that correctly! Isn’t that what being a reverse book club is all about? Boy, that did me in. What an approach! On this night, it made all the difference.
Presenting Invisible Women is not for the faint-hearted as this, being nonfiction, with a truckload of eye-popping and very disconcerting gender data and statistics gives little or no room for evasiveness. For example, how nicely can you put out something like this: “One woman reported that her car’s voice command-system only listens to her husband, even when he is in the passenger seat?” Or, how that “Cars have been designed using car crash-test dummies based on the ‘average’ male.” For decades until 2011! Unbelievable? Well, I’ll let that sink.
And so, as Steffi (the presenter) continued rolling facts and figures from Criado Perez’s well-researched book in Culturando’s spacious cellar – lined up with some of Italy’s best wines, – I sank deeper into my seat, drowning in the callousness of cultures, practices or policies that debase vaginas and exalt penises. Overwhelming!
I mean, only last year, Carrie Gracie, BBC’s China editor quit her job, citing pay inequality with male colleagues. That singular action would unleash a brutal chain of events in the corporate world as much as in our individual corners. It was particularly unimaginable to me that a corporation I have worked for and have proudly defended in many fronts might be having a “secretive and illegal pay culture.”
So, as contributions started pouring in, I knew it was going to be a long, long night especially now that the debate had claimed a life of its own. I leaned back, took a quick sip. It’s a premium Travaglini Gattinara.
When Steffi wanted to know the country with the highest percentage of women in national parliaments in the world, some smart-ass participant was convinced that (it MUST be Norway or one of the Scandinavian countries,) even when it’s common knowledge that it`s Rwanda. Need I talk about alternative facts? But when the aforesaid genius’s intelligent explanation on Rwanda’s achievement in gender representation was that “…after all, all the men had been killed in the genocide that’s why Rwanda could achieve such feat”, I knew that our dear ‘Einstein’ had overridden their luck. I swirled my glass a bit longer than usual, took a long drink and jumped into the fray because I won’t suffer fools gladly. Not on this night!
“The Invisible Women was written, so we could commence a conversation…serious conversation.” Those were Steffi’s last words as she stepped down. The debate continued. Nobody was in a hurry to leave. Some will talk through the night. This conversation will continue outside the venue. It should. It must.
It was a good night. Engaging with book-loving folks from different walks of life was magical, but most of all, seeing and touching gender blindness in an increasing sexist society has made it unforgettably painful altogether.
Stepping out into the cool breezy night much later, I said to myself “If this catalogue of gender inequality and statistics does not unleash a furore from within, steering one to action, nothing will.”