Gender analysis is a funny concept to me. Don’t kid yourself, I am a staunch feminist and loud and proud of that fact. So doing a gender analysis seems like such a great idea in a lot of scenarios. Basically doing a gender analysis is to identify the ways in which males and females interact in any given situation or society and the ways that those interactions could be improved to have more equal representation of needs and perspectives of both genders. I am totally ok with that part.
What I have been thinking about a lot though, is how much time I spend just trying to appreciate people for themselves and whatever their skill set looks like; no matter their gender. I believe it is crucial that we shed the stereotypes and expectations of one another to fill certain pre-conceived norms. I try to be inclusive by nature, to let my friends and aquaintences be whoever they want without apologies. (Caveat: this is who I want to be in the best version of myself – but let’s face it the daily grind of tediousness, ego,and impatience like to try and eat away at that).
If I am holding both of these perspectives in balance (the value of gender analysis and equitable inclusion) a flaw of gender analysis shows up for me. It seems that a tool like a gender analysis has the very high risk of creating new boxes and labels to categorize others experience. We hope that in doing a better analysis, true inclusion is attainable because we understand where the problem lies. I can’t help but wonder if we sell ourselves short by limiting people to their relationship to others purely based on sex. You will ALWAYS, and I mean ALWAYS, find exceptions of a person who is off doing their own thing (whether that’s a man doing a traditional feminine task or action or a woman doing a “man’s work”) and have that be respected by the people around them because they understand the human inside of them. If we spent more time focusing on each other’s fundamental humanity the world would probably be a better place.
I know I am pretty late to the game in how I understand this issue. In the international development world the term “a rights based approach” has been used for years. A rights based approach as far as I understand it is to approach a problem/solution with the goal of having all concerned voices being adequately represented to increase all parties overall human rights. But I think I am just starting to really experience and understand what these buzzwords really mean.
My whole line of thinking on this issue was triggered because I recently observed a scholastic type start to do research on the position of women in the workplace – specifically female field agents who work in conservative communities. The researcher was meeting with a man and a woman who did similar work. The researcher asked the male colleague what he thought but didn’t even consider asking the female before he called the meeting adjourned. I had to say something. I asked why he was asking questions around gender and he said that it could be a socio indicator that would affect his research. So I asked well maybe you should ask the female agent what her experience is since she is available to you now. He laughed, an obvious mix of scoff and nervousness. “How dare you!?” I thought, “how can you consider gender implications without talking to the both the genders concerned?”
For me, I think the bottom line is we need to lay as much of our biases down as possible. We need to come towards each other seeking viable solutions that are found collaboratively with all voices heard. This way we can have dynamic, innovative solutions to very real world problems. So simple to write now to go out and do.