Wed, Mar 07, 2018 - Page 13 News List

Still a distance left to march

The second Women’s March in Taiwan will take place tomorrow to draw attention to the fact that despite Taiwan’s institutional achievements in gender equality, there’s still work to be done in the private sphere

By Han Cheung  /  Staff reporter

Participants in Monday’s sign-making workshop for Women’s March Taiwan display their signs and knitted “pussy hats.”

Photo: Han Cheung, Taipei Times

It’s a simple yes or no question, but it can spark a long discussion when it’s brought up: Is Taiwan close to achieving gender equality?

Some may think it’s a no brainer. Taiwan has comprehensive gender equality and protection laws, high international marks in women’s rights indices and, of course, a female president.

But it’s exactly these achievements that have led some to think that Taiwan is doing enough says Joy Chang (張友慈), co-organizer of Women’s March Taiwan.

“How can there be inequality when there are laws in place?” Chang asks rhetorically. “Harassment in the workplace doesn’t always get to the point where one has to take legal action. And the law doesn’t cover everything.”

Under the broad theme of recognizing latent discrimination and marching for equality, Chang and other women’s march organizers will tomorrow meet at Liberty Square at 4:30pm and march to the Red Room International Village.

While the organization holds events year round, they ramped up the game this month with a pre-march “Women’s Rights 101” forum on women’s rights, various related workshops.

A post-march Celebrating Women in Taipei art show and festival will be held at the Red Room on Sunday.

IS THERE EQUALITY?

Annie Chang (張琬琪), a researcher at the Foundation of Women’s Rights Promotion and Development (婦女權益促進發展基金會) says it’s easy to discuss women’s rights in the public sphere, with non-controversial items such as sexual harassment prevention laws, she says.

“But how about in the private sphere? Do we have an environment where all women can choose how they want to live?” she asks. “On a certain level, we don’t seem to have progressed that much.”

Chang acknowledges that Taiwan has come a long way in certain respects — from her grandfather never doing household chores, to her father doing only what her mother tells him to do, to her brother-in-law volunteering to share the duties.

But from pressure to conform to preconceived gender roles to misogynist groups on the Internet to the lack of women in the ever-important science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) field, the discussion led to example after example of the inequalities that still exist today.

Fellow researcher Helen Lee (李立璿) says that the international gender equality indices often measure items that Taiwan does excel at: equal opportunities for education and numbers of women in the workforce.

“But there’s still a disparity with how people really feel and what national policy indicates,” she says.

Representation and participation is a big part of it, as Lee’s foundation has launched a number of initiatives to get more women into the STEM field.

“The world will be relying more and more on technology in the future,” she says. “But if women don’t have a voice in these fields, we’ll fall behind and lose our chance to have a voice. It’s very serious especially because Taiwan is known for its high-tech industry.”

Fan Ching (范情), chairwoman of the Taiwan Women’s Film Association, says that there is a dearth of female directors and producers, which is detrimental to the filmmaking industry. And because making movies requires considerable capital, women often may miss out because an investor did not believe in a woman’s ability to make a film.

“The majority of movies are still made by men, telling male stories,” she says. “Women love to watch movies, but how many films actually connect to a woman’s life experience? Not many. Our perspective and voice is still missing in this important industry.”

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