“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” – Mother Teresa

January 1, 2013

It’s that time when people reflect on the year gone past, and the one to come. There are numerous lists of the women of 2012 and the hopeful heroines of the future. Both are interesting reads, but I’m more interested in what’s happening right now.

Network Rail has published CCTV clips of women falling under the pretence of warning travellers against running in heels to catch your train

I first saw this video in Euston, on a small screen just outside platform 3. There were three middle-aged men watching, clutching onto their trolley suitcases but unable to tear their eyes away from the hilarity playing out. It’s always women, isn’t it? Men don’t make fools of themselves, oh no.

Apparently Network Rail said that the incidents recorded on camera with men were “pretty nasty.” Fair enough. And yes, it’s all just a good joke during the festive season, but at the end of the day it paints all women with the same brush: silly, pretty faces running around in high heels. With this in mind, the second story doesn’t surprise me at all.

Almost half of Britain’s co-ed schools have no female students taking A-level physics

The Guardian reports on this story, for once with the amazing twist of actually showing an example of a school that’s bucking the trend. These stories come up every few months, as one organisation after another comes up with statistics that all say the same thing: girls aren’t studying stereotypically male subjects. The nay-sayers continually say that it is possible that women just aren’t as good or interested in those subjects, but check out the evidence:

According to a recent study by the Institute of Physics, using information provided by the National Pupil Database, 49% of state co-educational schools in England did not send any girls to study physics at A-level in 2011. By contrast, girls were almost two and a half times more likely to take the subject at A-level if they were at a single-sex school – a finding that suggests there might be an ingrained cultural perception in co-educational establishments that physics is somehow “not for girls”. — The Guardian

How often do you hear a female friend say that they “don’t do technology”? Or perhaps they say, “wow, I couldn’t do that” when discussing a scientific discipline. Young people hear all of these things. That, combined with the pressures of looking cool and fitting in, can easily lead to certain subjects being selected at school.

The Delhi gang-rape

No one can have missed the biggest story for the past few days. It’s been known for some time that India is ranked at the bottom of the scale for their treatment of women. But only a few months ago, the world was commenting on their Olympic delegation, the country’s largest yet, containing 23 women including Mary Kom, the boxer who carried the flat at the closing ceremony. Time ran an article commenting on the ‘golden girls’ and the expected beneficial impact on women as a result of these superstars.

It is sad to see that despite having female Congress President Sonia Gandhi front and center, this level of abuse is still so endemic. And that really brings us to what this fight is about, whether in the classrooms of the western world or the buses of the eastern. It’s about power. For as long as women are marginalised in the highest echelons of power, then there is inequality in the layers underneath. The problem is, people often doesn’t understand what power really consists of. It means a hell of a lot more than just one person.

Zoe Saldana recently put her foot in it by saying that black actresses should stop complaining about a lack of opportunity because they have a black president. And I suppose India’s women should do the same?

It’s the same issue in all of these places, whether we’re talking about a country or a company. We need real change, driven by demographical change at the lowest levels filtering up to the top. Until the masses rise, the odd one or two simply aren’t enough.

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