5 Reasons Why We Need to Stop Saying That 'Women Are Half the World’s Population'
You’d think saying that “half the world are women” is a good case for women’s rights – except that this language hurts all of us in the end. Here’s why.
Feminists, I have a pet peeve that I really want to talk about. Namely, this business about women being half the population.
Have you heard this before? An activist is explaining why focusing on women’s rights is so necessary, and as they passionately make their case, they tack onto the end of their speech, “After all, women make up half the world’s population!”
And of course, there’s agreement all around – we can’t perpetuate an injustice against half of the world. That simply won’t do!
I’m not a woman, but I understand the impulse to advocate for women by pointing out just how many women there are. No doubt, it’s compelling to talk about the sheer number of people being denied their autonomy and human rights.
The more people suffering, the greater the injustice, right?
Here’s the thing: I believe in intersectional feminism. I sure hope you do, too. I don’t see this “women are half the world” thing as being intersectional, nor do I see it as being correct.
And perhaps most importantly, I don’t see it as a step in the right direction: It marginalizes other people in a heck of a lot of ways, trying to uplift women at the expense of others – specifically people of marginalized gender and sex.
When I was a wee baby feminist – name-dropping bell hooks in conversation and proudly displaying my new nose ring – I didn’t realize how ineffective and harmful it was to hinge my arguments about women’s rights on a percentage.
It didn’t occur to me until I began my gender transition, living now as a genderqueer trans guy, that the phrase started to rub me the wrong way – because it erased transgender people like me, for starters.
That’s why I’m writing this article.
If we want to make a case for women’s equality around the world, we need to do it in a way that doesn’t erase or harm people of other genders and identities. We need to be bringing in a more intersectional approach.
It’s time we did away with this talking point once and for all. Because as you’ll see, it’s not doing women – or anyone else, for that matter – any favors.
Here are five things to consider the next time you’re thinking of spouting off the “women are half the world” argument.