Gender still matters in a lot of our daily lives, but it doesn't have to. Lee Suckling shares five gender-based peculiarities of modern society that can be questioned.
1. When you're at the supermarket
There's something about walking down the personal care aisle at the supermarket that isn't right. Yes, there are some unisex products such as soaps - and these are presented in non-gender-specific green, or yellow packaging. However, when you get to the deodorant, razor, and even shampoo sections, supermarkets take a turn for unnecessary gender-stereotype conformity. "Women's" products will be pink. "Men's" will be black or blue.
Fundamentally, this is all just marketing by the grocery industry, though. A three-blade razor in pink does the exact same job as a three-blade razor in black. The other products usually come down to scent.
How is it we let extremely artificial chemical fragrances dictate the personal-care products we buy? Women should choose "ocean breeze" if they want to without fear of smelling "butch". Likewise, a lot of men don't mind the smell "cotton fresh" under arm, and shouldn't be frightened of putting a white-and-pink aerosol can in their trolley.
2. When you need to pee in a public facility
Nobody has gender-specific bathrooms at home. Granted, when there are stalls involved women are likely to feel vulnerable, therefore single-sex bathrooms can have their place. However, public toilets contained by four walls and a ceiling - such as those in restaurants, cafes, and offices - needn't be segregated.
Why are we so afraid of bumping into other at the hand-washing sink? Do we fear we'll need to pop a zit or apply some lippy and don't want the opposite sex to see us do it?
The 1990s TV show Ally McBeal was onto something when it incorporated unisex bathrooms into its set design. Perhaps some Kiwi corporates might take a page out of Ally's books and let both genders pee alongside one another? Whilst still allowing for privacy, of course.
3. When you're buying or selling a car
Ever noticed the term "lady owner" used when looking at car advertisements? It is often featured to bring to mind images of a car's good condition, as women are somehow supposed to be more careful with their cars than men are.
Yet, contrastingly, when women go to buy cars, dealers assume they know nothing of automobiles. Unless there's a man with them, said car dealers will focus their selling techniques only on aesthetics and economy, not power and mechanics. However, there are lots of men who don't know their cambelt from their trouser belt. To contrast, plenty of women know not just what a V8 engine is, but how to maintain one, too.
Contributing to car dealers' assumptions are the historic ways in which cars are marketed to the two genders differently. "Men's" car advertisements have typically featured epic Autobahn adventures or Bear Grylls-style mountain climbs. "Women's" car ads usually see mums dropping their kids of at football practice. Yes, there are exceptions. Overall, though, we haven't moved on from stereotypes. Auto industry ad gurus, you have the power to change this (which may contribute to changing the whole car buying/selling experience).
4. When you're watching a blockbuster movie
Gender inequality in the film industry has been highlighted this year, heralded by Patricia Arquette's acceptance speech at the Oscars. When we look at the landscape of Hollywood films, anything with the term "blockbuster" attached to it always comes with a big-name male lead, whist females are left to support.
Angelina Jolie's Tomb Raider series (now more than a decade old) seemed like a turning point, but since then even Scarlett Johansson's Avengers role gets obliterated in the presence of various actors named Chris. We do see the occasional female-driven blockbuster such as Melissa McCarthy's Spy (which is a tongue-in-cheek action flick anyway), but every trailblazer such as this is bookended by the likes of blockbusters such as Jurassic World, Entourage, and Tomorrowland. All feature starring roles for men, all targeted at a predominately male audience.
What does this teach us? Blockbusters are for boys, unless they're spoofs, basically. Let's get more ladies in the top action roles.
5. When you're on social networks
According to market researcher Ruby Media, women dominate every single social network - from Facebook and Instagram to Twitter and Tumblr. This means social media's influence (both positive and negative) affects more females than males.
Given this knowledge, you would assume there would be more important women at the helm of social media accounts. Not so: most of the women who command attention online are pop stars, not politicians or powerhouse CEOs.
This means the messages we consume online are often trivial when they come from influential women (seen last week with Katy Perry - who has the world's most Twitter followers - and her Moschino fashion campaign).
When messages come from influential men such as Barack Obama (number three on the Twitter list of accumulated followers), they are about real issues such as climate change.
Influential women, start Tweeting about policy and political polls. Influential men, throw us an Instagram post about fashion collaborations and fancy shoes here and there. This will allow the gender-bias in society-benefitting social media content to balance out. This will, in turn, boost the cultural, social, and political empowerment of both genders equally.