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Feminspire | April 17, 2014

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EU Not Banning Porn: What They’re Doing for Gender Equality Instead

EU Not Banning Porn: What They’re Doing for Gender Equality Instead

On March 12th, the EU parliament voted 368-159 in favor of a proposal intended to reduce gender inequality. Prior to the vote, a section that would include a ban on all forms of pornography garnered a lot of attention, but it was removed. As every 5th grader trying to use a school computer to play games knows, it’s absolutely impossible to restrict access to an entire sector of the internet. A Pirate Bay (which isn’t impossible to access in the EU) search for “XXX” brings back 34 pages of pornographic material. That doesn’t even begin to touch on the issue of what is porn and what isn’t or if there is such a thing as porn that fosters healthy and equal sexual relationships, so the decision to remove that provision was a wise one. Let’s not ignore that mainstream porn has a lot of problems, be it eroticizing non-consent or objectifying and fetishizing people of color. But problematic porn is the result of an even more problematic society, not the root cause of sexism.

Comparatively, other sections that did pass did not get very much attention, even though they are more directed at the real causes of sexism. So, what changes can people living under the governance of the EU expect?

The report focuses on combating gender stereotypes (both deliberate and unintentional) in order to reduce economic inequality between men and women.

EU recognizes the incredible influence of gendered stereotypes on young children. Rather than blaming “evolutionary differences” for gender gaps in the workforce, the EU rightfully expresses a desire to expose young children to role models that do not fit neatly into their assigned role for their gender. As I’ve written about before, a huge obstacle to workplace equality is the unrelenting message that men belong in engineering and women belong in “flexible” careers that let them focus on their real job: being a wife and mother. Men and women who wish to deviate from these expectations meet a lot of resistance because of these social rules.

However, in terms of actually making changes, the EU report is lacking. Though that shouldn’t come as a surprise; it’s only a resolution (not a bill) and is obviously intended to be a starting point, not a perfect fix. We just have to hope that the EU follows through with more concrete legislation now that the report has gained approval in the parliament. But the report does give us a preview at what could come. Specific organizations and funds are listed as possible agents, such as the European Institute for Gender Equality and the European Social Fund.

Despite that specificity, many of the proposed actions are still very vague and would require a near-complete social rewiring to accomplish. Member states are told to “develop strategies that attack the root causes of discrimination and violence against women,” as if the actions of a state government can catalyze such an extreme social shift. And that’s almost as action-oriented as it gets. Many of the other proposals just ask states to “recognize” that certain things are problems for gender equality.

It’s very promising to see the EU – even though it realistically doesn’t have too much power in this regard – make a formal declaration that sexism still exists, is still hurting women greatly and government needs to do something to fix the problem. Whether or not any tangible changes will come around because of this remains to be seen. At this point, it’s all dependent on the actions of individual countries in the EU and the EU’s prolonged dedication to this cause.

Written by Sara Wofford

  • Litost

    Agreed banning porn would just be a bandaid on the problem, but I also believe it might be more a cycle of people being exposed to women being treated like that (like we see in some porn) at a young age and then growing up to view women in that regard. In boys in particular, the way they watch women around them being treated can sometimes make them likely to adapt to those behaviors as they get older.

    I’d also like to point out in Saudi Arabia porn and nudity is blocked by the government, and in order to watch porn or even see a half-nude ad you need to change your IP address. So while you say it’s almost impossible to block an entire corner (a very significant one at that) of the internet, they did manage for the most part, but probably not with a lack of time, money and effort.

  • Hellohello

    Its a known fact that the easy acces of porn is really damaging to young people. rapes between very young people (we are talking about 11 years up and we are not talking about the ages of the victims but also of the predators) happen more often. A friend of mine who works on a paper for this topic told me that 6 year old boys play gang rapes in school (taking girls who are unaware of what happens, pushing them in the middle and then dry humping them….). I dont think that its a coincident that its easier than ever before to watch porn and also that mainstream porn is getting more and more violent as well….