Sexual assault in Canada increased by 5612 accounts between 2018 and 2021, but that’s only one piece of the patriarchy puzzle that women in Canada — and North America as a whole —exist in. At this point in time, after movements like #Me Too and scandals like Harvey Weinstein, most of us should be familiar with the worrying statistics about women and sexual assault, not to mention domestic violence; but this ever-repeated narrative ignores the more mundane dangers women face.
I have had to have difficult conversations with people I love about why we still need feminism today in Canada. Apparently, the fact that we can vote, get a divorce, own property, work in science, and access birth control means that the work is done and we should be happy. Although it is absolutely true that women’s rights have made leaps and bounds in some areas, the improvements are filled with careless holes that only policy can fix.
The fact that women can be hired as a CEO and can earn the same wages and do the same work as any man, doesn’t mean that that’s happening at a rate we would like to see. For example, according to the World Economic Forum’s 2022 Gender Gap Report, we are still over 100 years away from closing the gender pay gap if we continue at our current pace.
Modern policy and efforts toward gender equality also fail to address baseline standards across our way of life that were put in place before this progress was made. How many elements of our life are molded by research or input based on past male samples alone?
Let’s use vehicle safety as an example. In 2019, a study conducted at the University of Virginia found that in a frontal collision, female occupants were 73% more likely to be seriously injured. This is because in the United States, manufacturers are only required to perform safety tests with male dummies, but not female ones.
Until this year, most available crash dummies were modelled after 1970’s proportions, meaning the current female models are closer to a modern child’s size than today’s average woman. A Swedish company has developed and released the first crash test dummy, called SET 50F, designed to represent an average, modern female body to address this inaccuracy and, hopefully, improve vehicle safety for women.
The difference in proportions between men and women are no secret to society; they are the reason we have divided sporting competitions along gendered lines, as opposed to ability or experience brackets. So why is that distinction so important in protecting the sanctity of sports, but not in protecting our safety and our lives?
Carelessness and a lack of representation where it matters, to say the least. It has been a slow climb for women to gain presence and recognition in fields like politics and science, so outdated research and policies naturally serve the population that made them the most.
If we want to truly see the patriarchal structures around us shift and dissolve, policy needs to reflect and reinforce those goals. Requiring certain fields of research and product development to consider all genders in a representative manner could have a lasting impact on the way we move forward in our society.