Last weekend’s Golden Globes saw a whole host of political statements thanks to certain celebs bringing along their activist friends. From helping victims of Hurricane Maria to advocating Native Treaty Rights, everyone was trying to have their voice heard. Connie Briton, however, chose to have her message seen not heard. The slogan ‘poverty is sexist’ embroidered on her t-shirt caused quite the stir on Twitter, with a wave of questions about how, in fact, gender is relevant to poverty. So, for all of those who were genuinely perplexed by the statement, and those who need to explain it succinctly to the token meninist in their life, we’re here to answer that very question.
Firstly, it’s imperative to note that the statements being made at the Golden Globes weren’t limited to the US or UK, they are relevant to the entire world. While the UK does have more women living in poverty than men, the gap is miniscule compared to the gap in lower income countries. That doesn’t mean we should ignore the issue though, since poverty in general is obviously worse outside the UK, but we still care about that (I bloody hope).
Why is poverty sexist?
In simple terms, poverty is sexist because just like every bloody other injustice in the world, there is a gender gap. Women are more likely to live in poverty than men, the UK included. Due to the restrictions women face not just through societal expectations (like working in lower income fields and taking the burden of child care) but actual institutional restrictions (like gender pay gaps and glass ceilings), we’re more likely to live in low-income households -especially if we’re single. According to Trust for London, 55% of all London’s low paid jobs are held by women. In the entire UK, around 5.1million women live in poverty in the UK, compared to 4.4million men, according to figures released by JRF for the BBC’s 100.
While this is largely due to the fact that more women hold part time jobs than full time compared to men, there is also the question of why this is the case. One reason for this is societal expectations, as women are expected to take more time off after giving birth. However, it is also due to the fact that there is only one majority female industry, of the seven that exist, that is in the top seven industries for employing full-time workers, according to The Guardian.
Essentially, the opportunities for women to work full time are less than men, as is the case for general opportunities globally. Romilly Greenhill, the UK Director of ONE which campaigns against gender inequality states that: ‘Nowhere on earth do women have the same opportunities as men, what we’ve found that in the poorest countries its far worse. Poverty is sexist because women and girls are less likely to get an education, they’re at greater risk of disease and of poor health.’ Comparing the UK statistics globally, they look insignificant, with girls in poorer countries unable to even access education and forced into early marriage and childbirth.