It is not a surprise that we live in a sexist world. Those who speak otherwise are in denial either because they think it would be shameful to validate such a statement – and that’s generally the case of men – or they just think it would be shameful to agree in general – and those are usually antisocial folks who cannot go in line with public opinion, especially if it reflects something controversial and provoking.
Today we talk often about a category of rights that we have come to call women’s rights, and we have reserved a place for the cause dealing with the equality between genders – mostly referred to as gender equality – in a modern universal charter that we call Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs. These contemporary notions are so new to us. In fact, they are so new that we have not been able to achieve gender equality neither in the capitals of Norway, Canada, and Japan, nor in the capitals of Botswana, Iran, and El Salvador; we are all the same. When it comes to the rights of women, it’s always a struggle, a fight, a protest, a domestic violence, a rape, an unwanted female genital mutilation, a forced marriage, a school dropout.
Many would describe the inequality that women have been forced to endure since the beginning of recorded history as a failure of the human development. Anthropologists and historians say it was inevitable the outcome of the ways humans coped with their surroundings. Many men say it’s not always as alarming and as ugly as it seems. Others, many of whom are politicians, fathers, brothers, and husbands, say that women’s roles are by default different from men’s roles, and therefore there could be no equality between both. As wise as a philosopher can be!
But then, what women say is a wholly different story. It’s usually mere sad, and at times angry, complaints made to accentuate the degree of oppression and injustice they are subjected to. If they are fortunate, they would be given the space and opportunity to address the heavy workload, the unequal pay, the burdens of motherhood, the patriarchy of society, the culture of male power, the objectification of their bodies, the exploitation of their femininity. But what happens when a woman isn’t fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to complain, raise her concerns, and speak up for her human rights? Well, the answer is nothing. Nothing happens.
The problem is, we can fathom the reason behind our actions and habits only when the action has been performed and the habit has become a norm. Only when the oppressed has understood the meaning of oppression, and the persecutor has learned comfort and privilege over oppressing others. That’s when the distinction between genders becomes just as clear and obvious as the distinction between today’s “developed” and “developing” nations. So what can we do now to change this extremely rigid status quo? Needless to say, the kind of generations that we produce depend largely on the kind of education they inherit from their ancestors, and that is the one lesson we have learned throughout hundreds of thousands of years and miserably failed to incorporate fully into our line of lives.
So is it really all that simple? It couldn’t possibly simply take some questioning of our past rituals to shake our present behaviour and make changes to it. Because questioning has to be followed by a tangible and measurable action that would make the questioning meaningful. Why would we need to waste time reasoning if we will end up the same as before? Logically, it would be useless. Cogito Ergo Sum! So as soon as we think, we exist. But why would we exist if we will have the exact same presence over the course of a lifetime? Nothing sounds more boring, meaningless, and sad than that.
The main takeaway from such a scenario would be a real opportunity to establish equality in our cities, parliaments, offices, schools, and families. It would be a chance for women and men to want to be equal in right, and in duty, without judging others based on the way they looked. It would be a perfectly peaceful world where we challenge our ideals and defend the sacred and inalienable notion of human rights. Free from any forced historic societal ties, we can do so much better, and go so much further. But it’s the habits dearest to us that are harder to break, especially when they make someone the enjoyer of an unequal world.