Top 20 least sexist countries in the world

sexist countriesHave you ever wondered which countries are the least sexist in the world?

The Global Gender Gap report calculates such a thing. The study chronicles gender disparities and progress for rights across the sexes in several countries. It essentially gauges the treatment of women using various data points including educational attainment, health, and political empowerment. The study encompasses life in all types of cultural environments and provides a glimpse into some of the most and least sexist countries on the planet. For 2011, 134 countries were studied.

Many of the top countries for equal rights and opportunities across the sexes are European. Also, two African countries make the top twenty, South Africa and landlocked Lethoso – a small country bordered entirely by South Africa. Aside from those two countries though, African nations dominate the bottom quarter with several entrants from the Middle East as well. Iceland takes top honors at number one and is followed by three of its Nordic brethren in the ensuing spots.

Have you ever experienced sexism while traveling? Check out the full report here.

20. Canada
19. United States
18. Latvia
17. Netherlands
16. Sri Lanka
15. United Kingdom
14. Belgium
13. Germany
12. South Africa
11. Spain
10. Switzerland
9. Philippines
8. Lesotho
7. Denmark
6. Ireland
5. New Zealand
4. Sweden
3. Finland
2. Norway
1. Iceland

And the seven worst countries in the study:

7. Benin
6. Saudi Arabia
5. Côte d’Ivoire
4. Mali
3. Pakistan
2. Chad
1. Yemen

The Global Gender Gap Report 2010

A Canadian in Beijing: Umbrellas Not For Fellas

Today they’re calling for a high of 37 degrees Celsius here in Beijing. The sweat gathers on my skin within seconds of stepping outside and I was so agitated by yesterday’s (equivalent) heat that I went straight to the market and bought some super light-weight shorts and a light-weight, long-sleeve shirt to help me survive. My Canadian summer clothes cannot compete with this heat. I had to relent.

Oh, and flip flops. I had to abandon my sneakers and socks. My feet were threatening to leave my legs in dramatic abandonment; their long term relationship was near to crumbling in a fiery mess with my feet dumping my legs after burning my leg’s favourite pants in disgust and cleaning out the pedicure account. I can just imagine my leg’s shock at their departure (I’d obviously be sitting down for that news)… and, that gives a whole new meaning to the expression “footloose and fancy free,” don’t you think?! Perhaps it is best said: “Footless and fancy free?”

Alright, now that I’ve thoroughly amused myself . . . (I think the heat is getting to my brain!)
The sun here is way too hot for my white skin. I’m going to have to gather some more light-weight, long-sleeved shirts like this one. I have had to lather on the sunscreen to avoid a burn even on the cloudy days. I am really sensitive to sun anywhere that I am and the sun in China is no exception.

I’ve noticed that the women in Beijing all carry umbrellas on sunny days. It makes me think of the olden days (or old movies) where women are wearing corsets and flowing gowns with petticoats while twirling umbrellas with lace or fringe along their edges. Women here carry umbrellas to protect against the sun that are pastel in colour but otherwise look like regular umbrellas. It’s a great plan, really, and it makes for a beautiful array of bouncing colours everywhere. In fact, seeing these umbrellas all over town brings to mind images of balloons gathered and floating from the hands of children at fairs and carnivals. It seems happy somehow.

When I first noticed this practise, I looked out my window in the morning to check the weather before school and I saw a bunch of umbrellas in the courtyard and assumed it was raining. In fact, I didn’t even notice the sun, just the umbrellas. I grabbed mine (a black one) and headed out.

When I got outside, I noticed that it was a brilliant sunny day and clued into the fact that these umbrellas I had seen were to protect against the sun. I thought, “Great plan! I’ll do it too!” and I opened my umbrella and walked across the basketball courts and towards my classroom buildings on the other side of the campus.

About one hundred yards into my walk, I start to sweat profusely. The heat under the umbrella was intense, like I was being cooked. People turned around to glance at me strangely a few times and then, as sweat dripped directly into my left eye and stung me to the point of having to stop, put my bag and umbrella down on the sidewalk and fish around for a tissue . . . I realized why they were staring at me.

When I moved the umbrella away from my body, I was greeted by cool air and felt refreshed. I thought, “How could it be cooler without the umbrella? It’s 36 degrees today!” And then it occurred to me how genius I am:

The umbrella is black.

Yes, there is something to be said for colour. Sometimes colour is not about style and is all about function.

I put my umbrella away and walked the rest of the way to class unprotected. Either I get a pastel one, or I wear my hat, sunscreen and long-sleeves while walking under the trees for sun protection. I’ll go with the latter option. I don’t need any more stuff… and I’m truthfully not really ready for a pink umbrella in my life.

Now let’s get back to the fact that it is only women who are carrying these umbrellas. Why not men? Would it be too feminine an act to carry a pastel-coloured umbrella to guard against these aggressive rays? I guess so. And in China, where gender division is as obvious as the stupidity of my umbrella’s colour in this heat, I suppose such a question is also out of the question (!)

Although, as I am wont to do, I asked it anyway. I believe my questions was: “What do men do to protect against the sun? Do they ever carry umbrellas too?” First, I got only laughter as a response, but when I pushed for a real answer, this is what I got: “Of course I would not carry such an umbrella!” my friend said in slightly shocked and exaggerated English (and his cute Chinese accent), “That is for women to do, not for men!” And then he laughed some more.

I suppose “sun umbrellas” aren’t likely to become “son umbrellas” anytime soon!

I looked down at my feet and smiled.

So much for my visions of an umbrella-holding gender revolution in China.

A girl can dream.

A Canadian In Beijing: La La Bar Land

If I can suggest anything to a fellow traveller about entertainment and experience in other cultures, I would suggest taking in the gay scene in any major city in the world. Regardless of sexual orientation, I think it’s an amazing experience and I regularly seek out the “alternative” establishments to pepper my more mainstream music and dance club prowls.

Last night, I went to a women’s bar in Beijing.

Lesbians in Mandarin are called “La La” as a slang term (see character pictured – the larger of the two, repeated twice) and this is the main “La La Ba” (lesbian bar) in Beijing.

I went out with my new friend Sarah, an Australian who’s been here for six months and has offered to introduce me to people to help launch my research. I had learned in advance of coming to this city that a woman by the name of Qiao Qiao actually ran the “La La Ba” in Beijing. She is the same woman who recently released a single on YouTube called “Ai Bu Fen,” translated into “Love Doesn’t Discriminate” (literally: “love makes no difference or separation”). It is a song about love between two women. Qiao Qiao is considered the first out lesbian artist that the Chinese music scene has ever seen.And, it’s debatable as to whether the scene really even has seen her. This song was not commercially released in China, but was released outside of the country via the internet. At least, that’s what I’ve been told and I’m yet to know otherwise. I have so much to ask her about what it has been like for her. I was excited about the possibility of meeting her.

So, with this in mind, I trekked to the southeast part of the city to a venue called “Pipe” with Sarah and several other non-Chinese women living in Beijing who regularly frequent this venue. When we walked in, there was immediately a 30 kuai cover charge (50 kuai for men! Sorry guys!) and we filed into the crowded room filled with smoke and stares and gathered at the bar to order some drinks.

The dance floor was packed with gender-bending dance moves alongside of women in heels with hair piled high and arms in the air. I was hit suddenly by memories of 1994, the days when Ace of Bass and white denim jean jackets went hand-in-hand. I watched the crowd and the crowd watched us, a gaggle of “laowai” (slang for foreigners) whose presence was impossible to overlook.

This group of women told me that I wouldn’t meet Qiao Qiao there but gave me some good hope that a meeting would be possible while I’m here in Beijing. They promised to connect me through the Beijing women’s community to the right people with whom I can put the word out about my research.

Okay then. One of Sarah’s friends bought me a beer. Let the night begin.

We found some space beside a crowded booth in the back corner and some of the women I came with immediately spotted another non-Chinese couple a few feet away. Within moments, they were pulled into our conversation and drilled as to their nationality and their reasons for being in the city. Two more non-Chinese women came through the door moments later and proved to be more friends of this crowd and joined the crew. Now, we were an inimitable posse and I was starting to feel more and more uncomfortable by the blatant divide between “Laowai” and “Zhong Guo ren” (Chinese people).

A party of Chinese women were sandwiched next to us and I veered from the laowai group and smiled in their direction. One of the women smiled back and leaned towards me to ask me if I spoke Chinese. I responded that I did that then we had a brief chat about my reasons for being here and my interest in China. She consistently complimented my Mandarin and, despite the fact that these compliments are frequent from native Chinese speakers, I lapped it up and felt inspired by my comprehension, especially above the bad dance music.

Her friend also moved closer to take in the conversation and then asked me directly if I was a “T” or a “P”? I had been warned of this question by my friend Sarah who explained that there is still very much a gender division in the Beijing lesbian world along the lines of the western expressions “butch” and “femme.” Meaning, in Beijing, women identify as either “tomboys” or “pure girls” (which is loaded with implications that immediately trigger my feminist defenses!) and there is no room for a middle ground.

I responded that I don’t identify as either “T” or “P” and they nodded hesitantly and then re-phrased my poor Chinese into: “it’s not like that in foreign countries.” I nodded in agreement despite the inadequacy of my response and the conversation moved to other things like tattoos, dancing and alcohol. Generally, it was a bar chat like any other except this one was in Mandarin.

Shortly after this exchange, I went to the bathroom and glanced in the mirror at my long(ish) hair that has grown significantly this year. And in the squatter, I also noticed that I was wearing a pair of hot pink “Tomboy Girl” underwear and couldn’t help but laugh at the apparent contradictions in my gender get-up that evening.

But really, in my world, a combination of “T” and “P” just makes “TP” — toilet paper. And the notion of cleaving my gender identity into one half or the other seems such a waste to me – like flushing away one part of yourself to express the other. Of course, this isn’t my culture and I’ll keep my opinions about gender to my Canadian self… and my pacquet of TP safely in my pocket!

Please note: the absence of “people” shots in this post is a result of the nature of the bar. They even got antsy when they saw my camera in the first place. I had to delicately and obviously take a picture of that sign and then “studious” put my camera back in its case. I guess being “out” in China (and documented) is not yet high on the agenda. Then again, this is still the case in many places in North America.