The Double X Economy by Linda Scott
|The Double X Economy by Linda Scott
|Category: Politics and Society
|Reviewer: Zoe Morris
|Summary: As uplifting as it is at times heartbreaking, this book explores the double standards for women all over the world, and the negative impact this has on health and wealth and life chances.
|Date: April 2020
|Publisher: Faber & Faber
|External links: Author's website
Women are economically disadvantaged in every country in the world. It's a bold statement for an opening chapter, but it's far from hyperbole as the following pages explain. This book shines a light on what is happening in different places, and the impact on the local and world economy. What can be learnt from the great strides in gender-equalising legislation in the west? What can be done about the selling of young women into marriage, and what can chimpanzees and bonobos teach us about mothering? There's a lot to pack in, but this book is both accessible and engaging. Though there are hundreds of references and citations, you don't need to dip into these unless you want further reading. Although the subject matter is academic, serious and, at times, bleak, the structure of the book is less scholarly and more every-day reading.
That women earn less than men is a given. That doesn't make it fair, of course, but it's hardly a ground-breaking finding. The reasons behind this, though, are interesting. There aren't enough well-educated women, they say, and yet in the UK universities have 31% more women than men. They are physically inferior and not able to run heavy machinery, they say, even when it turns out that machinery is controlled by the push of a button rather than brute strength. They are needed more in the home, to care for children or elderly parents, they say, even though studies have shown that young couples don't aspire to live in households with just one bread winner, and mothers do aspire to work full time.
This is an excellent book but it made me very angry. The Gloria Steinem quote at the beginning is very apt: the truth will set you free but first it will piss you off. I'm not completely naïve. I have seen first-hand what life is like for women around the world, from Colombia and Mexico to Sierra Leone. I know how lucky I am to live in a time and place where women can have careers, own property and, for the large part, choose how they live their lives. What this book shows, however, is that women's experiences differ from men all over the world, just in different ways. From the slums of South Africa, to the business schools of North America, the examples in this book highlight the continued injustices facing women around the globe.
For me, the most interesting chapters in the book were those that took us on those overseas trips; to villages in Uganda where men could justify spending 10 dollars a month on beers with their (male) friends but wouldn't consider spending 1 dollar a month on the pack of sanitary towels that would allow their daughter to continue going to school and complete her education, to the surprising rise of Avon in South Africa as a method for female empowerment and financial independence.
The analogies are hard-hitting. Why is it ok to talk, even joke, about male and female brains being different when this has failed to stand up to scrutiny? And still to suggest that some jobs are only suitable for men, in an era where you would not be allowed to say a job was not suitable for someone of Muslim faith, or from a BAME background. Why has gender discrimination dropped back behind other protected characteristics in this way?
It's easy to think this is someone else's problem, that it's only an issue in other, less enlightened countries, but it's not. And until the whole of society realises this, things are unlikely to change. I saw something on Twitter over the weekend, part of a conversation where a man was saying how the world had changed with Covid-19, and how now if you heard footsteps coming up behind you, you started to panic. That never happened before the pandemic, he said, while the women folk caught each other's eyes and smiled sad, knowing smiles. So no, it's not someone else's problem, it's everybody's business. When we empower women, we all win, says Scott, and I could not agree more.
Thanks go to the publishers for sending us a copy to review. Feeling it for all things feminine at the moment? Our reviewers have also enjoyed Why Women Mean Business by Avivah Wittenberg-Cox and Alison Maitland and Women of Westminster: The MPs Who Changed Politics by Rachel Reeves
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