A Feminist Approach To Social Work

By Leslie Dawe

Gender equality is when both men and women live in a society that gives both genders equal opportunity and equal human rights. Both genders contribute as equal citizens to a national, economic, political, social, and cultural perspective and both genders benefit from the results.

Gender equality should be practiced everywhere, in school, work, and daily life. It is beneficial to every individual. Women tend to be taught at a young age that STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) programs are meant for boys. While few girls fight this stereotype, the stereotype shouldn’t be taught anyway.  We are also taught as young people that women shouldn’t have muscles or be strong, that women are weak and that women are meant to be stupid, and all of this should not be the case.

Gender equality is prevented by sexism due to people believing that women are worth less than men in the workplace, at home, and when doing the same job. Sexism is referred to as prejudice and/or discrimination determined and based on the persons sex. It is a discriminatory set of physical and social controls, derogatory beliefs, and institutional and societal level policies. Most often sexism is loud and can prohibit people of a certain sex from getting a particular career or reaching a personal goal.

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The complex interplay of race, class, gender, sexuality and other factors that impact life experiences intersect in shaping women’s experiences. In the book, Social Work in Canada, it is defined as intersectionality, and this is used in critical Social Work practices in Canada today. In 1935, women in the workforce stayed around 20%, while men were near 100%. By 2013 though, women were around 80% and men were down to 90%, making us more equal. The patriarchy is defined as, “rule by the father,” which has become to be the domination of society by men and male interests. As referenced from the book, Social Work In Canada, by Kathleen C.

As an example, the Republican party in the US wants to make abortion illegal. They are mostly men deciding what a woman can or cannot do with their body. That is not fair and that is a patriarchal society. Men continue to be represented in higher numbers than women in positions of authority, and male interests continue to take precedence over those of females. (Refer back to the example from the USA) that is today, in the past women could not vote or work. Now we run a risk of having men choose what we can do for our own body. This is not a good situation for women in the 21st century.  

Women are underrepresented in the workforce today, as we are not in the managerial roles that we could be in, this is because our male counterparts are sitting in those seats. We can be there, but a lot of women don’t try because they believe they can’t make it to that point because of their gender. That is not fair to women because we are capable of getting to those positions. Just because a woman is working at your company, it doesn’t mean that you can take out money from their pay to cushion them for maternity leave. There are men that want paternity leave and there are women that don’t even want kids or don’t want to take maternity leave. Just because of a female gender, it does not mean that you can stereotype them for wanting to choose what they do with their bodies.

As well, the concept of consent in the textbook I was given for social work 1710 at Memorial University Newfoundland, says that ~33% of Canadians understand what consent means. That is actually a concept that makes me sick. As well the textbook states that 1 in 10 Canadians believe that consent to sexual activity is not needed between long-term partners and spouses. That is NOT okay. That is actually disgusting, but with these horrendous statistics, I am glad that 96% of all Canadians believe that sexual activities should be consensual. According to Canadian law, Sexual Consent should be both positive (saying an enthusiastic “yes” or initiating and/or enjoying the sexual activity) and ongoing (the feelings must continue during the activity). It is critical that everyone knows what consent is, not knowing can create a gap and increase the risk of unwanted sexual activity and assault. This is a clear sign that Canadians need more than ever, education on what consent means. Sexual harassment and assault is rising, and the knowledge is coming out now too. For example the President of the United States and Judge Kavanaugh have been accused of sexual misconduct. While women testify against them, Judge Kavanaugh still got into the supreme court with Dr. Ford’s testimony against him.

I have learned that Feminism is an important thing in the occupation of Social Work, and a social worker will protect others with these views helping in their choices. Social work is an important thing in society today. It is beneficial for everyone and its important for everyone to hear and learn about because it involves everyone, men, women, and children. How society will view everyone in the future is up to us to change today. As Emma Watson once said, “If not me, who? If not now, when?” every single person has the ability to change the world, it just takes commitment and passion for what you believe in.


References: Ch. 8 Social Work in Canada, Kathleen C. Sitter (textbook)