It’s already 11 pm.
Ok, let’s wrap this up, says Zeynep.
That’s enough. I am tired.
We need to finish tonight, she says, looking at Zeynep on the screen.
Can’t we just cancel it? asks Zeynep.
Cancel? But we put in so much work already. We did the content for social media, we contacted different institutions and started announcements for the event. Not this conversation again.
Yes, you always want to quit right before the end of the project, thinking it’s not worth it. But once we finish you look back and you’re glad you pulled through.
Water is pouring from the tap. You fill your bottle. Close the tap. It is getting dark outside and you switch on the lights in the kitchen and the living room. You turn on the kettle for some tea while checking your phone: four new notifications, three on WhatsApp, one on TikTok. You remember the tote bag with groceries at the entrance. You get them and start preparing dinner.
Growing up in developed countries, day-to-day life is smooth: water, heating (though that is a big question in 2022), education, jobs, entertainment, health, transport, and travel. All of that is easily accessible for many of us, though, some still struggle. In general, however, life is comfortable here. Maybe too comfortable and often taken for granted, which can be seen in the diminishing interest in politics, society, or lack of responsibility by the younger generation. We think.
Over the past two decades, incredible young people have caught attention globally for their activism and work, like Greta Thunberg, Amanda Gorman, Luisa Neubauer, or Aminata Touré. But how and why did these young women develop a social, political or environmental conscience? How come these women keep to their work despite serious challenges and intense media attention waiting for them to make a “wrong” move?
It’s 2008. A 23-year old woman stands for election to the city council, but fails to get elected. She doesn’t give up on her aim to “build a society where every child can become anything and every person can live and grow in dignity.” Four years later, she again stood for election and this time she was successful. In the years following, she rose to become the world’s youngest prime minister. Her name: Sanna Marin.
But what drove Marin’s determination to have a more equal society in a country that is world-leading in equality both economically and socially? What made her not give up pursuing a political mandate? Her answer in 2020: “I’m in politics because I thought that the older generation wasn’t doing enough about the big issues of the future. I needed to act. I couldn’t just think, ‘It’s somebody else’s job’.” ”
Fast forward to 2022: A video circulates over all media platforms showing the young Finnish prime minister dancing with her friends apparently at a private event. The debate that followed showed and stressed that even in acclaimed equal societies, it doesn’t mean there’s nothing left to accomplish when it comes to equality. Maybe not materially, but morally.
The debates and comments on social media after the leaked private video showed there is still an immense gap between several groups, for instance between men and women. Otherwise, how is it possible that one politician is being judged by countless of her colleagues for doing the same as her male companions?
On a daily basis, women exhaustingly fight to break out of double standards and stereotypes created within societies. Double standards means the preferring or rejection of people on the basis of their gender, ethnicity, sexuality or other uncontrollable distinctions in which none are relevant or justifiable factors for this discrimination. In other words: your actions are being valued differently because of something you have almost no control over.
Double standards are seen in dozens of areas: the workplace, in politics and even at school. If a student with a migration background is acting poorly, mostly it is blamed on her cultural background while the mistakes of a native student are caused only by the playfulness of the child. Until recently, this multifaceted double standard that treats and judges actions of people according to their gender or ethnicity is common in our current society. Why does nobody talk about it, if it’s such a substantial issue?
If a lion is born in the zoo, is being fed the same meat every day and taken care of by the same people repeatedly, do you think he would recognize that the cage is not his original habitat? He may assume that something feels off due to his natural instincts. But if he never saw the savanna, never felt its wind on his skin nor spent his time hunting for a gazelle or a zebra, do you believe he would understand that there is something “wrong” with his life?
For centuries, people have lived and breathed with double standards. It is not until someone, somewhere tells us to break out of the circle, tells us that there is something not okay with our situation that we recognize these issues. Sanna Marin’s debate showed us clearly the unequal treatment – not financially but socially. Now, for our future generations we need to change and stop enduring unfair treatment and judgment.
Unfortunately, reality is not as simple as acknowledging that a lion does not belong in a cage. In our society there are still people who don’t understand or who simply don’t know that the way they are treated is unfair. And those who know or at least have a feel for unrightful treatment, often don’t realize how to defend themselves.
That is why we have been socially and politically active for the past couple of years. Not only because it is our responsibility but also our duty as citizens in the 21st century to create a society in which diversity is lived and not only talked about. Because diversity is not having a bunch of people who look different, diversity is giving everyone the same rights as well as the same justice and judgment. It might be tiring but it is worth it.
Until we break out of this cage of double standards we will not give up.
About the authors:
Aynur Durak, raised in Berlin, Germany, is a multilingual student of intercultural communications with a focus on diversity and equality in the workplace. As a Fulbright alumna, who participated in the Fulbright Diversity Initiative at Trinity University in San Antonio (TX) in 2019, she is the author of several publications, such as her debut poetry book: the universe in me. Currently, she is working as a Content Creator at Fulbright Germany while furthering her education in journalism and communication, to provide a larger range of topics such as race and racism in Western media. Purchase the universe in me or flowers of mercury on Amazon.
Zeynep Alraqeb is the Extended Board member for Diversity Alumni.