Synopsis : Women face many discriminations and exploitations because they are considered the weaker sex in many patriarchal cultures where they are still struggling for their basic right to education and gender equality. They suffer bias and many prejudices that fails to recognize them as equal partners in development of their society. Granted women have won many rights in the past century and have shown them to be capable of doing all men can do and perhaps more still it is an uphill battle for many.
The other half
Malala Yousafzai ( Google photo)
Women are often called the other half of man. If this is true then they must be equal to men in all respects but aren’t. The question therefore is why. Why aren’t women treated as equal to men even in countries where they are supposed to be treated as equal.
I will discuss this issue here because I have always felt that women everywhere are treated unfairly by men who try to control everything that is important in life. The news one gets to see and read every day is about women being raped, molested and subject to slavery, trafficking, and domestic violence and treated as objects rather than a human being. Women are teased, sexually harassed and taken advantage of daily while men go about their business as if it is quite normal. Often they blame the women for their woes and say that women who wear revealing clothes and act in a certain way attract attention of bad people who then molest them.
This brings back the question why it is always man who decides what a woman is supposed to wear or not and how she must act and behave.
There was a time not too long ago when women were not allowed to vote in the western democracies so women had to fight for their basic right to vote. Then there were the issues of slavery in the United States and elsewhere that allowed the abuse of women with impunity until a brave woman called Rosa Parks refused to sit at the back of a bus and insisted on her right to sit where she liked. This brought the policemen who then forced her to sit where she was supposed to sit being a black woman but she still refused and started the civil rights movement in the United States.
Throughout the history of mankind, women have always fought for their rights and had some success in some parts of the world while in other parts they are whipped and jailed for asserting their rights even today.
The United Nations charter on human rights explicitly says that all men and women are equal and their basic rights are inviolate but these are empty words in some countries where women are treated as the property of man and abused with impunity in the name of tradition and religious edicts as interpreted by the Mollahs or religious leaders.
We have seen time and again that women have the same ability to think, to act and to govern as men and in many cases are superior to men. They are called the weaker sex but only when it comes to physical strength although some women train themselves to be heavy weight lifters and expert martial artists.
Women have proved that they can do almost anything men can do and often do it better. They are the top athletes, climb the Everest even without the aid of oxygen and swim the shark infested oceans. They can row a boat single-handedly around the world and fly a plane like Amelia Earhart. They are writers par excellence, artists, gymnasts, poets, scientists and engineers that design rockets and send men to moon. They are the computer experts, programmers, graphic designers, apparel designers, jewelry makers and craftswomen in many countries. They make the most exquisite shawls and carpets in Kashmir and Iran. They are mathematicians, chemists, doctors, engineers, architects and have designed some of the most iconic structures in the world.
I cannot praise women enough and fill pages with it but the point is that women are not any less than men and have proved to be excellent leaders and have shown their ability to govern when they were asked to do so by the popular mandate. So once again I ask the simple question. Why the men treat women unfairly in many countries and why they oppress women?
To answer some of the questions we must now examine the historical, cultural and religious background in which the human behavior is rooted.
The historical and religious background:
A long time ago meaning millions of years ago when humans started to move out of the Rift Valley in Africa and spread out to various parts of the world to search for new homes and a source for food, they shared all the work needed to be done by men and women so there existed equality. Men as well as women hunted and gathered food, built shelters and cared for the young. They worked together to protect themselves and fought their enemies together when the threat became existential.
Later as they grew to be more sedentary and settled down into more stable agrarian societies where the agriculture and animal husbandry provided them with a reliable source of food, men and women assumed different roles where men tended to do the hard work of tilling fields and hunt while women tended to look after the young, cook and build or maintain shelters. They developed excellent skills in making clothes out of animal skins and learned to make potteries and jewelries fashioned out of whatever material available to them which they still do in some parts of the world. The Native Americans are a very good example who excel in pottery making, jewelry making and weaving while men do other chores. Basically this pattern of sharing work and responsibilities has not changed over thousands of years and can be found in many societies.
Women with their nimble fingers make excellent potteries, carpets and embroideries all over the world. They are the finest crystal makers who can turn a lump of glassware into a superb piece of art in Europe or make the embroidered shawls in Kashmir that are nothing short of wonderful.
Then came religion and its edicts. The primitive man was also religious but it was more like nature worship and he was not guided by dogma that came to be a part of organized religion.
The Bible says that God created man first and took out one of his ribs to create a woman who then enticed man with the apple etc. that led to some mischief but the word to note here is entice. It was the woman who enticed man therefore she must be the culprit and author of all the mischief therefore she is not to be trusted. This is the historic start of the subjugation of woman. When a man cannot trust a woman, he will make all kinds of rules and laws to make him superior to a woman so that he can benefit from it.
In other faiths like Islam, there are many rules for women and very few for men on how a woman must be treated, what she should wear and how she must behave as the property of man. This has led to the oppression of woman that continues today in the so-called civilized world.
I have noticed the same rules applied to a whole race of people by another race like in South Africa where the Voortrekkers considered the blacks inferior to them therefore subject to oppression to maintain certain advantages for themselves.
The whites in the United States oppressed the blacks because the blacks were slaves who had no rights and created wealth for the whites so the system of slavery favored the whites who maintained a rich lifestyle at the expense of the blacks. This narrative holds true of the colonial masters who colonized other countries to gain riches and considered the locals as second class people not worth their esteem. It is like asking the jailer to have sympathy for the inmates over whom he has total control.
So the human nature is all about control. The one who controls gains certain advantages. By this logic it is easy to see why man has always tried to control woman and made laws and rules to enforce his advantages.
This is also true among the wild animals. The lion always is in full control of the lioness and will not allow another competitor to come near her for mating. It is the lioness that hunts but guess who gets to eat first? She and the cubs have to patiently wait until the lion has eaten his share.
Human males are control freaks and tend to act like the lions. Where the women are in charge, men have to take a back seat and take over the traditional roles of women like child rearing. It is happening in certain Scandinavian countries or in a situation where the woman is the bread-winner. This reversal of traditional role comes with a price. Men who depend on their women tend to lose self-esteem or esteem among other men while women who depend on men do not have any such problem. It is considered quite normal that man is the bread winner and the woman is the dependant.
I think this role the society expects man to play breeds inequality between man and woman that can lead to oppression and exploitation. A Muslim man can divorce his wife any time by simply saying the word Talaq three times and the woman loses everything and may become destitute while she does not have such fearful rights over her man.
Fear of womanhood : I will now try to examine what makes a man fear woman and her sexuality so much so that he goes to great length to guard it just like the primitive lion. The strongest lion guards his lioness jealously and will fight to death to protect his right to mate but a stronger lion may someday defeat him so the better genes are passed on to the offspring. That is the law of nature but humans are not guided by such laws.
If that was true then the strongest and the most handsome males will have a right to mate with females and the humankind will greatly benefit from it by producing handsome and beautiful human race but that does not happen.
So man has invented laws to guard the woman and by its very nature suppress woman by making her totally dependent on him for sustenance and other needs. This is where the inequality kicks in.
A man cannot stand an independent woman because the society where he lives expects him to take the leading role. In primitive societies where there tends to be more equality between sexes, people live a more harmonious life and there are less societal stresses. There the men are not obsessed with female sexuality and may even offer their women to visitors as an act of hospitality although sometimes such benevolence can get out of hand and they start to question their own goodwill .
Once I heard of a story that goes something like this.
There was once a shipwreck with no survivors except one who somehow floated on some debris from the wreck for days until he landed on a remote island in the middle of the Pacific somewhere. He was a Nordic man with blond hair and was tall meaning over 6 feet so he was found on the beach by the natives of that island who had never met a stranger like him and were awestruck. Women were especially impressed by this handsome and white man so they took good care of him and brought him back to health.
Now the trouble began in earnest as women fought over each other to have sex with this handsome man who was only too glad to oblige and made scores of women pregnant. They produced a lot of mulatto kids who looked much nicer than the pure native-born increasing the demand for this man. This however did not sit well with the men of that tribe because this man singlehandedly was creating a social turbulence of immense proportions that disrupted their placid laid back style. It could no longer be tolerated so they tied up this fellow trussed up like a pig and carried him up the slope of the active volcano there and tossed him into it.
But the genes spread by this unfortunate man is still found in the descendants where you will still find tall good-looking mulattos in great numbers because this Nordic man worked overtime due to demands.
It is true that woman just like the lioness is always looking for better genes for better looking offspring so that she can brag about her children. This is especially true in island countries that are geographically isolated and where the gene pool remains the same making people very much look-alike. It is known that island women therefore tend to be promiscuous if they get a chance so if you happen to be on a ship and have to swim ashore for some reason, just hope that you end up on an island where there are no volcanoes.
How can women gain equality?
I think it all starts with the parents at home. If they treat their son better than their daughter, they sow the seed of inequality so blessed are the parents who treat their sons and daughters as equal and give them equal opportunities in life. This also means that the man must respect his wife and treat her as his equal thus giving good example to his children. In families where such is not the case, the kids grow up like Talibans and they in turn treat women badly.
The government also has a role to play here. They must make marriage laws favorable to women so that they have recourse if they are oppressed by anyone. The schools and colleges must admit students based on merit and not favor males over females or vice versa. Then there must be equality in jobs where a person should be promoted based on his or her ability so that everyone has a fair chance of success in life.
Wishful thinking does not achieve anything so laws must be made so that people are treated equally and fairly irrespective of sex, race, skin color or ethnicity. The UN has many such laws but countries do not apply them equally. There must be consequences if men and women are not treated equally.
However, the laws are only effective where people can disassociate themselves from their traditions and dogma that their brand of religion preaches. This is a lot harder than one may think. People are more afraid of social and religious pressure than a law and hesitate to take a stand on such issues that set them apart as an example.
You have to be proud parents like Malala’s parents who support that child and have put up with many difficulties in their life and even had to leave their homeland. Most people do not have such courage so what to do?
This courage to treat a human being fairly and equally and give a woman the respect she deserves comes from education and a liberal and generous mind.
Malala said in her famous words “One girl, one pen and one teacher can change the world.”
I couldn’t agree more. We need more girls like Malala in every country.
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