One of the benefits of being a part of the blogosphere is getting a ‘fly on the wall’ perspective of other cultures. One of these perspectives recently caught my eye and has been in the back of my mind since.
One of the bloggers I follow is a young educated woman in the Middle East, whom I believe to be early twenties in age. She is a lovely writer who has written about such things as her impending arranged marriage. She is accepting of that, and has great respect and confidence in her parent’s decisions made on her behalf.
She recently posted another view in regard to gender equality that said she does not support the idea of equal rights for women, preferring instead the idea of equal respect for both genders. This certainly piqued my interest. What did that mean exactly?
I was further intrigued by the number of readers who liked the post, some declaring it her best yet, and other comments that were highly in favor of women knowing where they are meant to be as women. Some congratulated her on her mature and reasoned outlook. Some made me sad about the way they disparaged other women.
The much shortened version of what she said was essentially that men and women are different with equal value, but not equal in strengths such as leadership. Women are really meant to grow families, and men are meant to rule. One of her replies to a comment on the post said: “Yes I know some of history’s greatest rulers were women but ruling is an attribute of men because they are more emotionally stable than women”.
I don’t think I have to point out how most of us in our part of the world would react to that statement, nor to any of the comments that followed.
I wrote her for some clarification, offering circumstances where their ideals might not suit all women’s situations. She said she understood Western ideals and agreed with most of what I had to say, but she was speaking from her own cultural stance and to what is important in her part of the world. She said she felt the issue for them is not so much about ideas like equal pay, as they are already paid equally there, but more around social interaction like those that use humiliation to coerce and make women feel badly.
I thanked her for explaining herself to me, but I still came away feeling a little uneasy.
I’ve been a self-sufficient woman for the majority of my life, and I have been dependent on a husband for part of the balance. In either case, I firmly believed that I had full and equal rights in all decisions and responsibilities in my home and in all realms of our society.
Along with the power of making one’s own decisions is the burden of responsibility for them, and of any consequences. I wonder how the idea that women make poor leaders, or whether or not women have ability, is a justifiable statement from a place where one does not yet have full responsibility for decisions. What kind of fear(s) is this based in?
The bottom line is that I believe that making decisions about your own life is the intrinsic point of a ‘right’. It is a right that belongs to all people. It is all having a voice in all that matters. Certainly that involves exercising it or giving it away at will.
To hear, and see it supported, especially from young women, that women are not equal to men and to imply they should not have equal rights, is disheartening to me. Regardless of culture, to have it stated that women are equal in value to men, just not in strengths is puzzling given the amount of history easily attainable. One woman’s ambitions are another woman’s weaknesses?
I hope someday they can compare all the amazing and inspiring women leaders the world has known to all the numbers of men who have failed miserably in the same role and see that it all had nothing to do with gender. Maybe there will even come a time when they will see that some men make exemplary stay at home parents too. It’s their ‘right’ to be whatever they feel best suited for; it’s their right to act upon that.
It was very interesting to get a personal glimpse into a part of the world I’ve never been, and to get to be a part of a discussion I might never have had outside of these blogging contacts.
In the end, she and I respectfully agree to disagree. It’s an enormous conversation and not one that was going to be completely resolved or understood in a few emails. This will be about eventual circumstances and time to see what is to evolve.
I am curious though, about the things they do want to change about their culture. In particular those things that they said were hurtful to women. Who will pick up the lead on those changes if not themselves?
Referral post: foodpeopleloveandstuff.wordpress.com/2013/10/12/you-say-equal-rights-i-say-equal-respect/