Gender equality for diversity, equity and better living
“A strong woman is one determined to do something others feel is not be done.” – Marge Piercy, American progressive activist and writer
As someone who has managed to juggle successfully the responsibilities of motherhood as well as the demands of a busy career, a strong inspiration for me is the life-changing article titled “The bitch manifesto”, penned by American activist Jo Freeman way back in 1968.
Creating a life philosophy
My motivation vis-à-vis this manifesto stemmed from the fact that it helped to germinate the seeds to articulate the shift in the culture, society, position and politics for women not only in the 1960s but also in the latter half of the 20th century. Being relevant even today, this much-needed shift is now strongly visible in culturally acceptable as well as social norms. It also provided me with a clear understanding and renewed definition when it came to the so-called gender roles applicable at home and in the workplace, which Freeman termed as “appropriate sex role behaviour” in her revolutionary piece of work.
We are not weaker
As women, we have always faced discrimination just on the basis of our gender, whether it is in society, the workplace or even sometimes in our own homes. We have been attributed with negativity and abuse when we have not erred. Whenever we strive to achieve, or even accomplish something, we somehow are always labelled as a “bitch”, a very-loosely used word even today. The success of women in the house, the office or in life is sadly often not recognized; it is rather discredited since they are categorized by some of the menfolk to fall under “a class of people who do not conform to the socially-accepted patterns of behaviour”.
Women who agree to “serve, honour and obey” a man often only ending up with the abuse of a shadowed life in exchange and are made to feel “the mere existence of bitches negates the idea that a woman’s reality must come through with regard to her relationship to a man”. As Freeman wrote and argued for in her article: “If you are tall, short, over or under what weight ‘The Man’ prescribes you should be, forget it”.
The manifesto made a very positive impact on me since it provided an in-depth analysis of why and how women are oppressed, a vision of a society in which women are liberated from sex-role stereotypes and a conviction that subjugation of women is a primary contradiction that we must do away to ensure progress in society. This concept included an emphasis towards equal rights, workplace equity, educational opportunities and policies that supported women’s participation in public life. It showered us with the new light that opportunities in life should not only be restricted to men and their sons but extended to their wives and daughters as well.
Empowering women through education
As women, we have progressed and contributed a lot to life today. We have realized that by being independent, blunt, achieving and more does not imply we should be disrespected in society. We have proved that by taking jobs and leading our professional and personal lives independently “to rise high, be creative and assume responsibility”, we are not doing anything immoral but just stressing on the fact that we are equal to anyone else in our lives.
As an educator and counsellor, I firmly believe that every woman is entitled to live with dignity and freedom. Empowering women is essential to the health and social development of families, communities and even countries. When women are living safe, fulfilled and careeristically-productive lives, they can achieve their full potential and fuel sustainable economies as well as benefit humanity at large. Not only can they contribute their strong skill-sets to the workforce but can also raise happier and healthier children.
A key slice of this empowerment is achieved through education and knowledge. It is definitely a milestone since it arms them to respond to challenges, to confront their “stereotypical” role and change their lives for the better. It helps to achieve gender equality for women by eliminating the vice of discrimination against women. This includes gender-based violence, economic discrimination, reproductive health inequities and harmful traditional practices.
We, as a society, need to applaud every effort made so far to bring to parity the gender debate and need to understand why this battle is not overrated and is completely important to be justified. Empowering a woman today will lead to a progressive society for tomorrow and this silver lining should be our motivation. I end with a lot of hope, with a quote by the great visionary Swami Vivekananda: “Countries and nations which do not respect women have never become great nor will ever be in future.”