General equality is a value founded on the universal dignity of the person and an obligation under international law that turns it into an inspiring principle of the other fundamental rights. It implies not only absence of discrimination (legal equality), but also position equality (opportunities and resources). Parity, a matter of justice, launches a challenge to the democracy because it requires positive action measures. That results even more necessary when the gender power asymmetries are intensified by social class, race or religion. On the other hand, neither equality must be synonymous with uniformity, nor the recognition of the difference must be used as an excuse to justify inequality.
Historically, feminism, a political and moral philosophy and plural social movement, has been the driver of the fight against the subordination of women and in favour of their emancipation from the patriarchy, which, while considering them as inferior human beings and necessary male protection and guardianship, kept them in the domestic sphere and childcare. The collective memory of generations of women involved in defending equality allows the scope of the changes to be recognised ethically and understood. As the result of those struggles, national and international bodies and rules have progressively included the human rights of women and have driven equality plans both in the administrations and in society to foster the socio-political, work and personal empowerment of women.
However, the asymmetries persist as the results of the abetting between direct violence, structural violence and cultural violence. The first (physical, verbal, sexual, psychological) is the most visible. But there are also underlying unjust social structures that foster the continuing of the wage gap, the so-called “glass ceilings” that hinder women reaching high positions and women’s double working day. In turn, such structures are legitimised and naturalised by an invisible legitimising framework that continues to feed gender stereotypes and different types of small-scale male chauvinism.
Promoting gender equality has the following implications for the behaviour of individuals, the organisation of civil society and public institutions.
Citizens defending gender equality can be expected to be aware of the sexist components of certain models and messages transmitted by agents of socialisation from childhood, family included. And to be committed to ensuring parity in their couple relations and maternity- paternity and which promote male and female identities that can harmoniously combine the development of their professional expectations with caring for others and the expression of feelings of affection.
They are expected to promote gender equality when designing their external and internal activity. It is important for synergies to be fostered between women’s and men’s association to fight for the parity and whose incorporation may help them to redefine priorities and strategies, without that being their main objective. Important tasks are the discovery and showcasing of the contributions that the women have made to humanity in different fields of knowledge, defending the use of non-sexist language in the public arena and in the media, the work in configuring new femininities and masculinities, and fighting gender violence.
In this area of public responsibility, the emphasis, in discussion with women’s associations, must be on activities that foster: a) female leadership in the media, cultural, scientific, social, economic and political spheres; b) work-life balance from the perspective of co-responsibility between men and women; c) zero tolerance of gender violence.