Gender Inequality: What’s Next?

SlutWalk (SWHK) protesters in Hong Kong had their annual march in Central to raise awareness towards sexual violence and victim-blaming on 19th November, 2017. Below is a brief introduction of the worldwide SlutWalk movement:

Being a part of the international campaign, SWHK fights against rape culture and emphasizes on carrying out universal actions to combat gender inequality. They protest against commodification of women. One of their slogans is “don’t teach me how to dress, teach them not to rape”. Apart from highlighting their main advocacy that women deserve to be treated appropriately, it is also a claim stating that women should never be sexually harassed just because of how and what they wear.

Protesters holding signs during the march (Source: Vanesse Chan)

Beside of SWHK, different voices over the globe have been constantly fighting for awareness towards gender equality. Since the first wave of feminism in late nineteenth century, increasing attempts are made in various aspects, such as United Nations setting one of their sustainable development goals on gender equality ; famous Harry Potter star aka UN Women Global Goodwill Ambassador, Emma Watson launching the HeforShe campaign ; and the development of a Gender Avenger community found by Gina Glantz and Susan Askew, etc.

Despite the fact that more international societal effort are put into giving men and women equal statuses, the problem of gender inequality stays as a hot potato whilst some are still asking: where do we see gender inequality and how does it affect us?

So, Why?

Why do these questions keep arising? Why is the problem so difficult to handle?

In recent days, controversies arise as people question where the media stand in reinforcing gender inequality or women objectification. Among all disputations, the Barbie doll has always been the target. Though what the barbie story tells us is that Barbie brings positivity to women empowerment, our perceptions towards the doll is fundamentally sustained by what the media is stressing on: a perfect woman body ( that is impossible to possess).

“Impossible Barbie” posted by Christina Adamopoulou on Infographicsmania (Source: Pinterest)

Another media reinforcement goes to the portrayal of superheros, of which a highly contentious figure is the Wonder Woman from DC comics. At the time when the heroine was presented as a fictional character, instead of merely admiring her as a feminist icon, most people usually first got attracted by her appearance, basically on what she wears, a tight fit body suit.  Till recently, as she appears on the big screen portrayed by Gal Gadot, the protagonist still stands as representing girl power, but her representation also continues to cause disputes on putting feminism and sexism at odds.

Left: Wonder Woman Issue #83 in DC comics (Source: ComicBookRealm) // Right: Wonder Woman 2017 movie poster (Source: Wikipedia)

While different media representation of women seem to reflect the diversified perceptions of gender equality in today’s society, looking into a more local perspective, how does the problem stand in Hong Kong? Being a cosmopolitan that keeps up with international developments, what do local university undergraduates, the future pioneers, think about the issue? Most importantly, do they learn about this at school?

Rachel Kwong is a year-5 Bachelor of Business Administration (Law) & Bachelor of Law student at the University of Hong Kong, majoring in Marketing. She reflects that gender issues are seldom discussed in class, where lecturers focus more on how marketing strategies help promote companies and make significant sales of products.

Kwong at her classmates’ marketing campaign (Source: Rachel Kwong)

“As we learn about marketing, we seldom segregates customers into gender groups,” says Kwong. “It is more important to make use of the media influence to assist company positioning and customer retention. We don’t focus much on spreading messages to our audiences through marketing or advertisements.”

Kwong recalled that she only learnt about women objectification as she was attracted by the headlines of an article about Dove’s campaign to celebrate beauty diversity with body wash bottles in limited editions.

While another year-4 student studying Hotel and Tourism Management at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Chris Lee says, “I am personally very interested in equality issues, especially those concerning LGBTQ rights. But I really never get into normal chit-chats with people in Hong Kong that we would randomly raise topics about that. I just talk to those who are also concerned about this.”

Given that Lee is currently on his exchange semester in Vienna, he finds that there is a public policy called “gender mainstreaming” concerning gender equality in the country. An article from The Atlantic Cities talks about the ideas  behind this project that the country has been carrying out since the 1990s. This policy, which aims at creating laws and regulations that benefit both men and women equally, takes place in different areas of city administration and has been gaining great support from its citizen. While in Hong Kong, indeed there are several anti-discrimination ordinances granting people equal rights before the law. But still, minimal actions are concretely taken into consideration. 

As now we are all aware that gender inequality can be everywhere, in the media or in daily lives, it is crucial to think carefully of the question: “what’s next?” Just like what SW is trying to say, gender equality has to be treated seriously with a united effort, not just depending on the government or any sole party to make changes. In within, education, being one of the fundamentals of society, should take up larger roles to participate in global campaigns of bringing equality at everywhere and for everyone.


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