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It is a man’s world

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“It is a man’s world…” goes the lyrics of the infamous James Brown’s song. Perhaps, not the best way to start an article two days before International Women’s Day. Do bear with me though.

Did you know that Brown’s co-writer and onetime girlfriend, Betty Jean Newsome, wrote the lyrics based on her own observations of the relations between the sexes? In later years, Newsome claimed that Brown did not write any part of the song, and she argued in court that he sometimes forgot to pay her royalties. Ironic, considering, Newsome wasn’t too far off the truth when she wrote the lyrics.

“This is a man’s, man’s, man’s world, but it wouldn’t be nothing, nothing without a woman or a girl,” the lyrics continue but it seems 55 years later, not much has changed, and yes, it is still a man’s world, with or without women.

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In a Turkish restaurant commercial released online ahead of International Women’s Day, an actress well known for her role in a popular TV series based on violence on women, raises a glass to women. Then, in a bittersweet twist on the ‘never have I ever’ drinking game, she makes a number of statements about society’s attitudes to women from stereotypes to domestic violence. “All those who’ve never judged a woman’s character based on the clothes she is wearing, raise a glass,” she says, for example, as a few around the table put their glasses down.

It continues until with the final statement, “All those who’ve raised their voice against injustice towards women, raise a glass,” the last woman with her glass raised puts it down.

Incidentally, the TV series she stars in, ‘Alev Alev’, is based on the French period drama ‘Le Bazar de la Charité’ (Bonfire of Desitny), streaming on Netflix, which is based on the true story of the 1897 Charity Bazaar fire in Paris, which killed 125 people, mostly aristocratic women. The drama not only focuses on women losing their lives in the fire but also the mistreatment of women in society, regardless of their class or social standing.

One hundred and twenty four years later, it is still a man’s world, especially when a TV series isn’t too far-fetched in today’s Turkey where most recently, last week a 28-year-old general practitioner got shot 20 times, 11 of them hitting her head, by her 69-year-old father when she refused to tell him where his ex-wife was.

If you think it still a man’s world in the developing world, I would highly recommend you read ‘Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World designed for Men’ – an eye-opening and frustrating book just the same that packs a punch and delivers fact after fact that it is indeed still a man’s world, pretty much all over the world.

Caroline Criado Perez reveals how, in a world largely built by men for men, in all aspects of life, from government policy to healthcare, from urban planning to disaster recovery, we are systemically ignoring half the population with disastrous consequences.

Did you know that you are 47 per cent more likely to be seriously injured in a car accident and that it wasn’t until 2011 that the US started using female crash test dummies?

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Or that, 74 per cent of protective personal equipment in sectors ranging from emergency services to construction is designed for men, leaving women vulnerable to accidents at work?

Did you know that drugs tested only on men might end up being wrong for a woman and making her sicker?
Did you know that during the Ebola epidemic in Liberia in 2014, women were estimated to make up 74 per cent of those who died from the disease, as international health advice rarely takes into account “women’s limited capacity to prevent themselves from infection”?

Or that following the 2001 earthquake in Gujarat, and the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami in Sri Lanka, post-disaster rebuilding efforts ended up in homes without kitchens because women were not included in consultations?

Wrong type of advice and medicine, ill-fitting cars and PPE, that don’t take into account our bodies, our lifestyles and roles in society, or just can’t because of a lack of gender-specific data in a world designed for me, by men. It may be 2021, but alas, it is still a man’s world.

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In this article:
Sinem Bilen-Onabanjo
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