Why the US abortion ban is just the tip of a sexist iceberg.

If you’ve recently felt your heart rate increase with every abortion ban post on social media, you’re not alone. It’s been difficult finding the strength not to comment on every post. What’s worse than reading about the horrific and limiting abortion bans, is the knowledge that this is just a very public display of a much larger issue.

While much of western society may believe sexism is a thing of the past, the Alabama abortion ban highlights the very real issues women still face.

In a recent phone call with my liberal, progressive, and activist mother, I was inspired by her words. Despite stating that she personally wouldn’t have an abortion herself, she doesn’t think that everyone has to live by her rules. If only everyone saw it this way. She recited a quote (I forget who by) that went along the lines of:

If you are privileged, then equality seems like persecution.”

This rings true in today’s society. Large numbers of people vote for regressive leaders in order to protect their advantage. They feel threatened by equality and feminism because they are forced to work for things previously given to them based on skin colour and gender.

So, while the Alabama abortion ban has got me feeling all kinds of things, I want to use this platform to shine a light on the bigger picture. The things I mention are mainly Western issues and, we ourselves are privileged compared to women around the world.

From tech to temperature

Most women will not be surprised to hear that we live in a world designed for men. The average height of supermarket shelves is set that little bit too high for us to reach, and not being fully able to see the exterior of our cars makes parking slightly more tricky.

abortion bans to freezing offices
Women often suffer with freezing offices whilst their male counterparts are comfortable

Metabolic rate is used to determine the optimum office temperature. Female metabolic rate is around 35% lower than for males. This means that the average office temperature is roughly 5 degrees Celsius too cold.

The standard iPhone and other everyday items are also made with men in mind. Most women find it difficult to properly hold an iPhone 7 in their hands while for men, this is no problem.

And let’s be real, if men didn’t need toilet paper, it wouldn’t be so readily available. In the US, viagra is available through insurance meaning that people get it as part of their medical treatment. Whereas women have to pay for their own birth control and sanitary products. In the UK, tampons and pads are taxed as a luxury item – clearly laws made by men if they think a period is a ‘luxury’.

From an abortion ban to fatalities.

These things, while being slightly annoying, are not life-threatening. Despite men having a higher risk of being involved in car accidents, when women are involved, they are 47% more likely to be seriously injured and 17% more likely to die.

Crash test dummies are typically a standard white male body type

The reason for this is that car safety tests are conducted using dummies with standard white male body types. This means that the average seat position used by women (more upright and closer to the pedals) isn’t the position used when the car undergoes safety testing. When female dummies are used, they are usually placed in the passenger’s seat. This creates a lack of information regarding how crashes affect female drivers.

Seat design further puts women at a disadvantage. They are more likely to be thrown forward during an accident and, the hard seats increase their chance of getting whiplash.

The abortion ban and safety equipment are designed for men

It’s arguable that the recent abortion bans are nothing to do with the sanctity of life and everything to do with men regaining power over women. Once these children are born, they will have fewer rights than when they were embryos, especially if they’re female, transgender, an ethnic minority or LGBTQ. This isn’t the only man-centred design that is seriously affecting female health.

Bulletproof vests and other safety equipment are also designed using the male body as standard. Despite laws stating that appropriate safety equipment must be provided for all workers, most employers believe they are following this rule by simply buying women smaller sizes. This, of course, does not work. Women’s bodies are not only smaller than males, but they have different proportions.

In professions that use bulletproof vests, women are often left feeling uncomfortable and in danger. The vests are created for male body types and leave insufficient room for a female’s breasts. Some female employees report having breast reductions to fit into the uniform. Others report that the protective gear sits too high, leaving their stomach exposed. In one incident, a female police officer was stabbed and killed while using a hydraulic ram. She had removed the stab proof vest because it was too difficult to use the ram and wear it at the same time.

Let’s sweat the small stuff

These are all examples of how sexism has become engrained in our world. Women are not only at a disadvantage but their health and lives are also put at risk by the way things are designed and implemented.

Sexism has found its way into our everyday interactions. From talking with their boss to walking down the street, women are often victims of sexism. The Everyday Sexism Project is a site where women can document the ‘everyday sexism’ they experience. The stories range from small incidents, that have become so normal a lot of people wouldn’t even deem them as sexist, to more serious acts.

It is not ok to be shouted at whilst walking down the street. It is not a coincidence that many women feel scared or intimidated by any male they may walk past alone, whether at night or in the day. Treating women as a commodity is ingrained into our psyches. This narrative has become so ‘normal’ that women are buying into it. The belief that a woman’s worth is decided by her relationship status or the size of her butt are both examples of sexism. A female is worthy. Regardless of how she looks, whether she has a boyfriend/husband or whether she wants children or not, she is worthy. If you’re a male and you are not outraged and standing up against this treatment, you are complicit.

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