Equality: The global gap between belief, reality

A Pew Center survey finds that most of the world supports women's rights -- but the fight is far from over

Published July 1, 2010 8:45PM (EDT)

Oh joy, a new study on gender equality by the Pew Research Center was released today. The good news first: Most of the world believes in women's equal rights. "Most also find a marriage in which both spouses share financial and household responsibilities to be more satisfying than one in which the husband provides for the family and the wife takes care of the house and children," says the survey. "In addition, majorities in most countries reject the notion that higher education is more important for a boy than for a girl." You go, world. Rock on with your egalitarian-minded self.

Now, for the bad: Most of the world has a problem when it comes to actually putting that belief in equality into effective action. "People in many countries around the world say gender inequalities persist in their countries," says the report. "Many say that men get more opportunities than equally qualified women for jobs that pay well and that life is generally better for men than it is for women in their countries." Granted, the survey focuses on people's perception of inequality, as opposed to an empirical evaluation of women's standing -- although those also exist, and they're also depressing.

If you're a glass-half-full sort of person, you could instead see this as good news: Hey, most of the world recognizes inequality! However, the study finds that women are much more likely to report major gender inequality -- "by double-digit margins ... in 13 of 22 nations" surveyed. Jacqui True, author of "Gender, Globalization, and Postsocialism," puts it perfectly with her response in the New York Times: "When you're left out of the club, you know it. When you're in the club, you don't see what the problem is." It's easy enough to say you believe in women's rights -- yeah, sure women are equal -- but talk is cheap, as they say. It's an entirely different thing to think critically about inequality and fight to recognize it in your day-to-day life -- not to mention to do something to actually change it.

By Tracy Clark-Flory

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