So, its lunch time on a Friday and whilst eating my healthy but bland butternut squash soup, I think to myself “why not start a blog?”. But what would I write about, what if I make a fool out of myself, what if I spell something wrong or have an opinion that causes too much controversy??! Ahhhhhh
Despite the numerous questions that have run through my mind in the past 4 minutes (the time it took me to set up my WordPress account) I think I’ll give this blogging thing a go. I can’t promise that what I’ll say will be particularly insightful, funny or interesting (to you anyway) or that I’ll always spell correctly, but I reckon I can always delete the account if turns out to be more than I bargained for.
Apart from today being a Friday (or inedible soup day- I knew I should have gotten the Burrito instead), It is also the day before International Women’s Day , celebrated each year on March 8th. I didn’t think this would be what my first post would be about, but when I found out that tomorrow was International Women’s Day (IWD), I remembered a recent conversation I heard on air between two radio presenters. The first IWD was held in 1911. In the last 103 years we have definitely come a long way and that is something that should be celebrated.. That is not to say that we have reached the end, high levels of extreme violence against women globally still exist, as does inequality. This was made painfully clear when I heard the radio hosts (one male and one female) discussing how women have become increasingly “chafu” or dirty as society has embraced women as equals (or so they say). Needless to say, I was particularly surprised when it was the female host who made the above statement, especially as she was also simultaneously arguing that women need to be more equal in society and that girl children need to be protected ( I missed the part where she was explaining what they need protection from.. but like I said the levels of violence against women are still ridiculously high). The male host went on to argue in response, that the increased attention provided to female children and women in recent years has meant less and less attention is being given to male children, which in turn is leading to dysfunctional male adults, thus leading to a dysfunctional society in general. (This is a side point and leads to a whole other conversation but: He also said that in Kenya, most male teens reported that their first sexual partner was a male friend.. I havent had time to research this, but the radio presenter was adamant that this was a fact from recent research conducted in Kenya.)
On the whole this got me thinking, was he right? Not about the fact that we are living in a dysfunctional society (I already knew that), but was he right about men and male children receiving less attention and the spotlight has been on the women recently? And if he was right, what does that mean for the future of our men and children? Of course as a woman- having read and heard about horror stories concerning women from across the world – I will to a certain extent, always vouch for the women’s causes… But having said that, do we need to change our mindset and think about society as a whole, giving each gender equal importance and thinking about how best to to respect, co-exist and live in harmonious balance, rather than attributing importance or significance to the achievements of any one side alone?
I am absolutely in support for equal opportunities for women, and NO I do not believe it is okay to pay women less than men, or not to allow women to vote, or ban them from wearing mini skirts or driving – I am absolutely against all of these… but I also believe that fundamentally men and women are different and rather than trying to dull down these differences and get caught up in a race for equality, we should embrace our differences and become a more inclusive society (provided all the above and similar hindrances are taken care of, of course). Before I get any posts accusing me of being anti-feminist, let me say this, I wholeheartedly believe women around the world should be celebrated, particularly those whose inspiring and courageous work around the world are securing women’s rights. I am also fully aware of the positive outcomes resulting from the empowerment of women and that decisions women make about their families are the key to improving life for many of the poorest communities in the world, or that educating women not only benefits women, but also allows women to contribute towards their families as well as economic growth. I am not arguing against any of this, and I support women’s rights down to my core.
I am just trying to understand if celebrating women individually, pushes men further away from embracing women as their equals, or if in fact, it assists in the equality endeavor? When empowering women, I believe it is just as important to focus on the men in their lives and community, so that these men can be allies for gender equality. Also necessary, is a recognition that “gender equality is not possible unless men change their attitudes and behaviour in many areas, for example in relation to reproductive rights and health” .. In addition, the focus should also be on the system which determines gender roles / responsibilities, access to and control over resources, and decision-making potentials, to truly have any significant impact.
I understand that historically men were the considered the dominant gender and so we may feel the need to catch up and even out the playing field.. but are we actually just part of a dangerous cycle that is initiating further segregation which will lead to men eventually being the undermined, undervalued, under-appreciated underdogs , who will then start advocating for men’s rights, violence against men etc. in the future? That is not to say that by women becoming more equal to men, men’s rights are being diminished or eliminated. But do you think that when women fight for equality, we also secretly have an innate sense of competitiveness underlying this whole thing? Do we actually want to be the dominant sex or are we in fact just looking to be equal? Because despite our achievements, we unfortunately still live in a world where people (like a caller to the radio show who said people-himself included)still believe: “boy children are the prioritised gender and will always be the leading sex”. If the majority of people in this day and age, actually think this way then we are actually a lot further away from being an equal an inclusive society than I thought… and even further away from being a dominant sex if that is the underlying agenda. But if this divide is still prominent, how do we break the cycle we are currently in and what can we do to channel the conversations about equality in a socially responsible way for future generations?