When you’re a woman aware of worldwide patterns of sexism, sometimes it can feel like there’s nowhere to turn. Between harassment on your daily commute, sexist media, and practices such as honor killings, the world seems like it always will be extra hard for females.
However, certain countries are making strides towards increasing the quality of life for women. New laws, such as the U.K’s new misogyny law, indicate that women’s rights are finally getting more recognition.
According to the US News and World Report survey of 7,000 women, Denmark ranked #1 for women, followed by Sweden, and Canada. These countries were chosen for their cultural attitudes towards human and women’s rights, policies and safety, all factors that lead to high levels of equality for women.
In light of a U.N report that announced that the U.S was very behind on women’s rights, I want to highlight the top three countries for women and examine what they do differently to help us learn from them.
1.Their Policies Help Women
Denmark, for example, has a unique set-up: free education and healthcare, something many U.S women can only dream of. In a world where girls are blocked from education daily, the gravity of free, accessible education is clear. Additionally, Denmark has unique policies such as earnings-related day care. These policies promote gender equality and help working mothers continue to work. Canada’s governing body has incorporated upholding women’s rights into their core domestic and foreign policy. Unlike the U.S’s cringeworthy lack of paid maternal leave, countries like Denmark and Canada both have paid parental leave. Sweden does too, with a whopping 16 months of paid parental leave when a child is born or adopted.
2.They Combat Sexist Media
The average citizen in the U.S is exposed to 3,000 ads a day. Other developed countries are likely similar. However, Denmark, like many Nordic countries, has legislation against sexist advertising. Sweden also lacks this legislation – however, powerful campaigns and women’s organizations such as The Swedish Women’s Lobby help its media be as progressive as possible.
While there are a few feminist commercials sprinkled here and there in American media, sexist imagery remains rampant. In an Advertising Standards Canada poll, only 4-5% of those polled believed sexist imagery of women or men was acceptable.
The U.S has groups such as National Women’s Liberation, who most recently tagged sexist ads in New York City with “this oppresses women” stickers, and has a smattering of change.org petitions geared towards specific companies like Dr. Pepper and Fiat. However, there is little solid initiative to push Congress to make a harsher law against sexist advertising.
3.Most importantly, their citizens have progressive attitudes
Media and legislation are arguably two of the most important factors in people making intelligent, informed decisions about society. Likely because of the above two factors, the top three countries for women have citizens who believe in gender justice. Evaluated on five factors including progressiveness, Denmark, Sweden, and Canada made the top three. In addition to earning second place, Sweden placed within the top three on a different list, for what YouGov calls “most progressive attitudes towards gender equality”. One of the most valuable and difficult qualities to achieve in a community, attitude is also one of the most important. At the end of the day, the actions of people living and teaching today will determine the direction our countries and our world turn in.
While the United States and countries like Denmark, Sweden, and Canada have first world economies in common, this list makes it clear Americans have a lot of work to do. It also shows how much potential the U.S has to become a safer, more encouraging place for women. With the potential for a female president in 2017, one hopes that more hard-hitting legislation benefitting women will eventually be introduced. But in the meantime? Hold advertisers accountable by signing petitions or giving your business to advertising firms who pledge against sexist ads. You can also make sure to vote for your state representatives who align with your values about women, and try to hold yourself and friends accountable for any anti-progressive attitudes you may have picked up from the media or elsewhere. When we do these things to help ourselves and our communities, we’re one step closer to the likes of Denmark, Sweden, and Canada.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kathleen Fatica is a rising sophomore at DePaul University working towards a degree in Creative Writing and Public Relations. Before she joined The Culture-ist, Kathleen worked as an editor and writer for student newspapers at DePaul University including Her Campus DePaul and The DePaulia. When she’s not busy writing or editing, Kathleen enjoys listening to female rappers and color coding her planner while she city-hops her way across the globe. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram a t@kathleeen2102