COLUMN: Gender (in)equality in the modern world

After more than 50 years of feminism there are still places that deny education based on gender

A few weeks ago, I watched the grad parade down Main Street.

How wonderful to see all those lovely, young faces beaming with their accomplishments, dressed to the nines and brimming with hope for the new adventures ahead.

As they headed off to their night of celebrations, a wispy memory began to swirl around in my head.

My graduation party was held in the fancy ballroom of the Hotel Vancouver. Same gorgeous cars, lovely dresses and baby-blue tuxedoes. I’m sure my parents saw the same hopeful, shining faces when they looked at us.

As our grads prepare for new jobs, gap-year travels or their first year at a university away from home, I find myself revisiting the idea of post-secondary education and gender.

My older sister did not attend her grad ceremony or celebration. She had a fitting appointment for her wedding gown and fiancés were not allowed to attend grad celebrations if they were over the age of 19.

Indeed, many of her female classmates did not graduate because they left school to marry.

What a different world!

I watched my older brother pour over college catalogues and choose his program. My parents looked on approvingly and confirmed their financial support.

Three years later, I was confident when I brought home university brochures.

It was a terribly hard blow to discover my parents not only disagreed with my decision to go on to university; they also had no intention of lending me money for tuition or books.

They felt post-secondary education for girls was unnecessary, pointless and downright silly.

I then embarked on a furious job-finding expedition which landed me a summer job at the local salmon cannery.

Twelve-hour night shifts on the canning line earned me enough to cover my first year at the local community college.

So I began my journey into the world of gender inequality.

Rather than encourage me to “fill my hope chest, find a nice boy, learn how to sew and settle down,” that experience kindled the question inside me that has fuelled most of my life experiences: “Why can’t I do that?”

I am amazed that after more than 50 years of feminism there are still parts of the world and society that deny education based on gender.

In some ways, we have been standing still.

For some modern takes on this age-old issue, take a look at The time has come, by Michael Kaufman and Because I was a girl, by Melissa DeLaCruz.

Congratulations to all of our graduates and good luck wherever life leads you.

Sue Kline is the Community Librarian at the Summerland Branch of the Okanagan Regional Library.

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