Writer’s note: I’ve always been a careful writer. In the sense that I always try to write in a diplomatic manner so as not to hurt a cohort or community; hence why it took me a while to write about this topic. No matter which way I’d approach this topic, at the end of the day, it would appear biased. Sadly, the issues raised here are facts and only tip of an ice-berg. Sexism is a common issue faced by women all over the world, in various forms. Some issues are hidden behind shades, some as clear as glass. So, here’s an article targeted to the part of the world which has strong and beautiful cultural influences however, some of those rituals also promote male dominance. Recent worldwide issues such as bus gang rape incidents in Delhi, India, then a similar incident in Bangladesh, sexist comments towards Julia Gillard, and some real life incidences inspired me to stop the diplomacy and take a side. I am not a bra-burning, man hating feminist, but I do believe in equal rights for all. In this day and time I hear marriage prospects for less than 20 year old kids! Its truly very sad that we are still living in a world where in some societies marriage is not just a commitment between two people, but it is a means to escape the obstacles of life. Young girls are married off even before they reach their 20’s. When asked why, parents answer, “We’ve sent her to her own home, it was high time”, or “Marriage to a financially well off man will give her a better life,” or “Don’t take it otherwise, but we cannot afford her any longer, we have to send our son abroad for further studies”. Shocked? Well, if you come from a South-East Asian background, you will very well know what I mean. However, it is possible to tolerate and be patient towards these abhorrent realities when they are uttered by poverty-stricken families. What’s worse is hearing these from well-educated individuals in a modern society. Is it really that hard to let your child be herself and mature mentally into a woman while she is living in “her own house” surrounded by the comfort and warmth of the people she loves ?The idea of marrying off a child at 19( yes, just because they crossed 18, don’t mean they know the difference between, “I love you, baby” and “Can I hold your hand!”) needs to be changed. For someone who isn’t interested in further education, it is important for parents in our society to understand that, it is still not an option to marry them off, even if they say they are ready! There is no other degree more important than the degree of life’s lessons. The maturity of a 20 year old girl will never be the same of that a lady in her mid twenties.
An adolescent girl should be given the chance to open her wings wide and fly; educate herself, make friends, make her own mistakes and given the chance to mature from a young girl to a woman before she settles down for life and make a family of her own. When Jane Austen wrote novels like Pride and Prejudice and Emma, women used to get married off to improve their social status. There was a time when an educated women meant, school for girls which taught them the duties of a “Lady” and how to be a good wife. I’d like to think that I no longer live in that era. An educated woman now, means she is educated with the same curriculum as a man and once her education is complete, she will get an equal opportunity of employment as that of a man. However, not everyone thinks like me.
It shocks me to see the conditions and criteria men in my society expect, for marriage. Mind you, these expectations are not spelled out before marriage takes place. Regardless of love or arranged marriage, some of these expectations are never voiced, but are assumed to be followed once married. The expectation for the wife to to be educated, but not more educated than themselves. The expectation that the wife will not work or pursuit career after marriage. The expectation to smile and flirt when the husband is in a good mood and to stop enjoying life because other “half” is not having a good day. The expectation that the wife must NOT have male friends and severe any previous friendships. The expectation that wife only entertain female friends when the husband is out or busy. The expectation that it is acceptable for husbands to not socialize with the wife’s friends and family. Yes, in this time an era, women are no longer expected to be uneducated, they are expected to be educated puppets. Education nowadays, is only a status symbol for some. It is a criteria that the wife possesses a degree, but the support and mental strength a wife may need from a husband to pursue her career is absurd! And men who “allow” their wife to have a career – are frowned upon.
Female rights, thanks to feminism have changed the ways of the world for a long time. And yet, it is sad to see that a Prime Minister is scrutinized based on her appearance and made a victim of sexist jokes. If we call ourselves a modern world, where men and women are equal, shouldn’t we scrutinize her based on her performance as the head of a nation, rather than her physical attributes? Feminism and equality concepts are taken lightly by some and people ask questions like “if men and women are equal, why do we have seperate toilets”. As a decent woman, I’d like to ignore that question and walk away, but my honest answer would be, because men can’t take the sight of tampons and pads! Women are considered the weaker sex: because we are not strong physically. So tell me, do you bleed every month to keep your reproductory organs active? I mean surely with advanced medical systems, a simple operation can stop the vicious cycle. Despite having the technology now, women choose to bear children nowadays. Still dare to call women the weaker sex? These are the few examples of chauvinism in our society.
To me, as individuals men and women are NOT equal, they are complimentary to one another. One cannot exist without the other! Women are not subordinates to a man, a wife is “not responsible” for household activities, for the family’s well being, – a man is too. The difference is, socially, (blame this on female characteristics or cultural influence) the female member is expected to look after the household. But that doesn’t mean she should be confined within the invisible bars of household duties. Having said that, when a woman takes up a career, she has to divide herself into two roles: the wife and the career woman. Some chauvinistic men would comment that she need not earn for her family as it’s a man’s job. Such men really surprise me with their ignorance! A career is not for only earning bread, its an identity. A proof of individuality. We’re not in the era of stone age that we can mix up the act of chasing a wild boar with a job in the job market today!
Today, we live in a world, where in some countries women are still taunted in public and no one raises a voice!! Women are raped and violently tortured and left to die, sometimes mercifully killed and all the society do today is spread the word like fire! An action against the criminals takes years to come, and some criminals are let go because they are underage! So now that we as a society are aware of the crimes against women, what have we done to stop it?The concern is even after so many years of practicing equal rights, our world today witnesses sexism in shades of grey. The concern is, even after being modern day woman, I still find myself disturbed at the sexist comments of male (and sometimes ignorant female ) family, friends and colleagues;
And having said all the mean things about men that I could list up, as I have mentioned above: despite the widespread of the chauvinism disease, some men have kept themselves immunized from this chauvinism epidemic. I can proudly say, that the strong woman I am today is because of the principles I have learnt from my father. I have come to know the difference between chivalry and equality, thanks to the most precious man in my life. Every time my heart is darkened at the activities of chauvinistic men in my society, my dad’s words and activities turns it bright red again! I must also admit that apart from my dad, I had the opportunity to come across some true gentlemen who with their behavior and attitude made me restore faith in men. I find myself defending men when I hear the statement “All men are alike.” Appreciating women for their contribution as individuals and not sex-appeal always highlights a man’s chivalry in the crowd;)