I was looking through some of my older writing recently, and I found this one-liner I wrote in honour of International Women’s Day on equality. Even though I think that this conveys my message in a comprehensive manner, I realised I had a lot to say on the topic of equality, especially from the feminist angle. So that’s what my post is going to be about today.
Nowadays, there are many negative connotations associated with the term ‘feminism’, but it is my firm belief that feminism, in its essence, is the strife for equality between the sexes.
But what does this term ‘equality actually mean? This is what the Oxford Dictionary has to say:
ɪˈkwɒlɪti,iːˈkwɒlɪti/ (noun): the state of being equal, especially in status, rights, or opportunities.
It is my personal belief that this definition does not encompass the most important aspect of what equality entails– accessibility.
There is a general misconception that the path to equality is paved by equal treatment of all the groups involved (in this case, males and females). However, it must be noted that equality is only an end result, and in order to achieve it, we must take some measures which are preferential, non-arbitrarily. This is absolutely essential to ensure that all the groups involved reach an equal footing. In concurrence with the idea of equality being a set of scales, let me elaborate.
We know that a bale of cotton that weighs one kilogram looks much larger than a block of iron that is of the same weight. Even though the block of iron looks smaller than the bale of cotton, once weighed, we know that they are equal. It’s a case of five one pound weights and one weight of five pounds.
Let us throw the context of historical discrimination and the associated prejudices into the ring. There are several societies in the world where the very idea of a girl child being educated is viewed as scandalous. Girls are brought up thinking that their sole duty is to serve their husband faithfully and bear him children. Hell, there are hundreds of millions of people who believe that a woman must’ve ‘been asking for it’ if she gets raped.
In such a socio-cultural context, schools and jobs aren’t the only needs of the hour. Dignity, acceptance, empowerment– these are what should be the primary goals of gender equality.
After all, the schools will remain empty and jobs will stay unfilled if women lack the means the avail them.
What I mean to say here is that mere availability of equal opportunities is not what feminism needs– it needs equitable access. And in order for women to access these opportunities, society must first learn to treat them with respect and dignity they accord to males, treat their political, economic and lifestyle choices the same way they would treat a man’s and this is the only thing that will pave the path to empowerment.
This is the first step towards gender equality. A girl will only wish to obtain an education if she can see herself using it in the future. A woman will only wish to pursue a job if she sees herself being of some value to the workplace, and only if she her effort at making a livelihood recognised by her family. A woman will wish to voice an opinion only if she feels that she will be heard, and that what she says will be considered. I say ‘girl’ and ‘woman’ here, but this is true in case of any human being.
These are the small one-pound weights that will ultimately balance the scale. Just like any good economic distribution system, it is not only the availability of the good, or opportunities, in this case, but also universal accessibility that will truly make it successful.
And that is my take on gender equality.