Sexual equality is an ever-present topic in today’s society. In many parts of the world, women are still fighting for fundamental rights to education and equal opportunities. Even in places more progressive such as the U.S., women are still put into boxes of who they can and cannot be. Boxes, it should be noted, that their male counterparts often do not face. There is the professional, working woman, the mother, the sex-positive woman, the woman who chooses not to have children. But all these entities seem to exist separately, and women who combine these aspects of their lives are often not taken as seriously. Why is this, and why do men not face the same barriers?
For mothers particularly, the double standards hold strong. Coined the “maternal wall bias“, the term basically explains the view that working mothers are not as reliable or dedicated to their careers. In fact, a 2007 study found that “women who didn’t have children were two times more likely to be called for an interview, as compared with similarly qualified mothers.” Such bias can seriously hurt a women’s career and place assumptions on women without validity. Why are working father’s not faced with these same assumptions? Clearly, something has to change.
Recently, the news of a study that had been documenting female doctors social media pages, noting images of them in bikini pictures, wearing ‘unprofessional’ clothing, or drinking alcohol, caused quite a stir. Social media is a big part of life in the modern age, but the study borderlines invasive as the researchers created fake accounts to stalk these women’s social media pages. While it is important to be mindful of what is posted on social media, platforms such as Instagram and Facebook allow people to show a relaxed, and yes, unprofessional, side of their lives. Personal lives and professional lives should be able to exist on separate planes to a certain extent. Furthermore, the study’s direct focus on female unprofessionalism on social media is blatantly sexist, completely overlooking the fact that the male co-workers of these female doctors likely have photos of themselves in “unprofessional” situations as well. The study did spark an online movement that resulted in the hashtag #medbikini to trend, however. Female doctors posted their credentials alongside bikini pictures in opposition to the study, empowering each other and redefining the narrative.
Must society view everything as all or nothing? Women are multifaceted, and can and should be respected no matter who they choose to be. It’s time for women to embrace all parts of their lives, whether they are a working mother, a stay-at-home mom, a woman who chooses to forgo children to pursue a career, a woman who is sex-positive and professional, and so on.