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Social Development

Women Should Not Be Free from Violence? Think Again!

Alys Willman's picture
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Women: Just when you thought it was safe to leave the kitchen, drive, vote, or wear pants, think again. Try Googling “Women should not,” and watch what the autocomplete function brings up. Top responses include “be allowed to vote,” “be in combat,” and “be in church.” This glimpse of the deep and pervasive sexism in our collective conscious inspired a UN ad campaign featuring women’s faces with their mouths covered in these slurs.

© Memac Ogilvy & Mather Dubai/UN Women

These disturbing messages did not emerge out of nowhere. They reflect social norms, and their rigid persistence reminds us that norms change slowly, when they change at all. According to the World Health Organization, at least 35% of the world’s women have been assaulted at some point, and many men and boys have also been victimized, particularly when their behavior goes against dominant norms.