What does true equality look like?
All this talk of International Women’s Day has brought out the “sexist” in me in full, glorious form. What have women ever done to deserve an entire day all to themselves?
Look through history and you will find the great men that have made it their own, who have, in essence, made history possible. History is, literally, his story.
Who would have, first of all, put his entire kingdom at risk for he felt that Helen was his rightful soulmate? And who would have, subsequently, devised the ingenious plan of a literal gift horse whose belly was cut open to bleed Greeks into the city of Troy?
Not a woman, that’s for sure.
Then, look at science, mathematics, art. Save for a Marie Curie here and a Jane Austen there, the number of men who have continued to paint their souls into the corners of our lives is insurmountable: Theirs are the words we read, the paintings we see, the greatness we cherish; their ingenuity is what has allowed us to live in a world evolving, be it through technology, medicine, or engineering.
Their fingerprints are all over the planet, in the keyboard you use to type, the screen on which you are reading this article, the car on which you go to work, the ibuprofen which eases your pain.
Men have, in fact, given them the privilege of staying safe in their own homes, of not having to do much at all, merely because they are the weaker sex, and men know that too much work might make them fall apart.
They have been assigned easier jobs, such as that of home-maker and child-bearer, sandwich-creator and child-raiser, so that they might be, despite their ostentatious weaknesses, play some part in the world.
This has gone on despite the number of men who have gone out into the wild to hunt, into the coalmines to dig, into the concrete jungle to make a living, into war to give up their lives.
All that we have, and all that women have specifically, is a result of what men, out of the generosity of their hearts, through their sacrifice, have provided us.
How can we treat all women the same, when each woman experiences the world differently, even within the urban landscape of a single city?
Have women not enough privileges already? Are they not, truly, elevated to “womanly” status, as opposed to brought down to it, with the sheer comfort of not having to, if they wish for it, do anything at all?
In fact, when it comes to the world, there is no other focal point other than that which great men have set for us. Why, then, would we ever require a day, just for all the women?
Not my thoughts
These thoughts may not be mine but it is how many think, what many say, even in this day and age, without any sense of irony or self-awareness.
Sarcasm aside, the amount of abuse that women must put up with, either now or further back on the stream of history, is one I, as a man/boy/male (cis?) will never truly understand.
They have been harassed, assaulted, raped; they have been used as tools for by men, for men, as reproductive vessels, as sexual outlets, as objects for self-gratification. They have been beaten and tied up, segregated into certain roles, trapped inside “homes” of men’s own making.
However, if I were to be honest, I do not know, to what extent, an International Women’s Day works towards establishing any sort of equality or equity in the world, and to what extent it creates awareness amongst people regarding the lack of equality that exists within any given society. And, to what extent, it alienates them as separate entities?
That is not to say that men and men’s issues, in certain ways, and in certain circles, have not been ignored. Patriarchy, as they say, is harmful for men and women alike.
But true equality? What does that look like?
Is it one where women are allowed to be “themselves”? What is a woman who is herself? Is it one who has the freedom to do whatever they want? What is the nature of “whatever”? Is it to speak her mind, to express herself?
Is it the global assertion that all women are “superheroes”? Is it the contradictory generalisations and individualisms inherent within certain feminist (liberal?) dialogue? Is it the rather complex narratives of individual men and women which require us to treat each individual case within the bounds of context?
Is it giving them special “allowances” because they are physically different? Or treating them as the same despite those differences? Is it changing our language to suit what is appropriate? Or more freedom to speak however we wish?
And how can we treat all women the same, when each woman experiences the world differently, even within the urban landscape of a single city? One half boasts a freedom the other half cannot even begin to fathom, with parties, weddings, Western-envy fashion shows, while the other half thanks their God for being able to overwork themselves to death in a garments factory.
What the answer is, I do not know, and perhaps it is impossible to find out. But, if there is a way, could it be through the simple act of talking to the enemy? Which is such a difficult thing to do, considering the prevalence for “monsters,” these others dressed in political clothing sometimes, who, as recently as last week, sexually assaulted women in the middle of a rally?
But, what would we say to each other? How can you talk to a fellow human being, who you see as anything but, who speaks a language as dead as the concept of gender roles is to you, as dead as the concept of traditional values is seemingly becoming to him?
SN Rasul is an Editorial Assistant at the Dhaka Tribune. Follow him @snrasul.