The term sexual or gender equality has very often been linked with a horde of shameless man-hating feminists who comb the streets in masses advocating equality for both sexes. These ugly images are often turned into public jokes as men comment that the female species has already been given more rights than it really deserves. Does that mean that the feminist movement is already a war that has been fought and won? Does gender equality prevail in every society in this new millennium?
Gender equality basically means that both sexes have access to basic human rights such as food, portable water or what their particular country defines as basic human rights. This obviously is not happening in countries like China where baby girls are choked with ashes once they are born. Gender equality also means that whatever rights or benefits that males have will be likewise allocated to females. Again we do not see this happening even in more economically developed countries such as Singapore where the wages of a women holding the same post as her male counterpart is 30% less.
Therefore why is it so impossible for gender equality to exist, especially at this age and time where technology prevails and traditionalists are being seen as “sticks-in-the-mud”? After so many years since the women’s suffrage movement, the glass ceiling has still proven impossible to penetrate. One main reason is religion and its enduring importance to society.
Religion has always been and will continue to be an intricate thread in modern society where the existence of a higher power is almost undisputable. Most religions advocate that a woman’s role is one of subservience to her husband, quoting from the book of Ephesians from the Christian Bible “Wives honour and obey your husbands.” Spanning Christianity to Confucianism to Islam, most religions believe that a woman’s fate is to first obey by her father, then to support her husband and later on to be a mother to her children.
Religion therefore clearly states the role of both genders, that the men are leaders and breadwinners and that the women are supporters and mothers. These dictated roles left a deep imprint on the division of societies that we live in, becoming a tradition, part and parcel of our everyday lives.
How much society chooses to conform to it can be clearly shown by statistics, even though the current society is one which believes it worships economic progress and information technology. Every year in Singapore there are slightly more females graduating with a degree than males from the same batch. On the other hand, the number of top executive positions given to this same batch of women is far less than that given to males because of the mindset that females will place more emphasis on their children than their jobs.
On the other hand, the new wave of information technology sweeping thorough our global community has produced a faceless, genderless nation. Everyone is identified as just a number in the system and everyday countless business transactions are taking place under a credit card number. The boundaries between work and home are slowly being blurred and so are the roles of both sexes. Both men and women are able to work with just a computer whilst being involved in domestic responsibilities at home.
This would translate to more job and promotion opportunities for females, and males are expected to contribute more to the paternal nurturing of their children. Along with technology, also come birth control, contraceptives and the legalisation of abortion, all of which threaten to undercut the traditional role of women as mothers by giving them a choice. Therefore technology is an integral component in blurring the role between men and women, thus making gender equality possible.
No matter how advanced technology is, it still does not contradict the fact that women are physically weaker than men. This allows leeway for rape, molest and domestic abuse which once again support the fact that men are dominant over women and that women are constantly at their mercy. The psychological and emotional make-up of a woman is also, stereotyped or proven, more towards the maternal and nurturing side. As the popular saying goes, “men think with their minds, women think with their hearts.” This would make women less rational, a quality which is not respected in an economic society where rational decisions are of topmost importance. This fact will therefore be a disadvantage to women who are competing in a “men’s world”.
After years of advocating gender equality, some women these days are pulling back and changing their principles, choosing to believe that it is undesirable to have gender equality. This change in mindset echoes the ones made by our maternal ancestors who frequently frowned upon any act that suggested female importance. This change in view could be caused by an onslaught of juvenile delinquents often coming from homes where both parents are chasing economic status and no maternal care is provided. A blurring of roles could waste away the maternal gift of females, leading to a society defined by angular features without a softer touch to it. The next generation will be confused about gender roles and that could lead to a whole host of social problems such homosexuality or a new breed of transvestites
. If gender equality is undesirable, why then do millions of people across the globe still fight so fervently for it? That is because it is a fundamental moral truth that all human beings are born equal. If we look at it from a Christian viewpoint, it is written that “Eve was created from a rib at Adam’s side, not above him to rule over him, not below him to be trampled by him but from his side so that she will rule beside him.” Therefore to neglect or refuse gender equality is refuting that fundamental moral truth that all human beings deserve to be equal.
There is also no proven evidence that women are in any general way less talented, less intelligent or less brilliant than men. There are many cases where women are even more talented than their male counterparts in areas that are predominantly male, such as the engineering field. Case studies have also shown that some males are more talented in domestic areas such a hairdressing or domestic household responsibilities.
Therefore, to provide job opportunities based on the stereotypical male – female roles instead of the individual’s capability would be such a waste to human talent and would impede the growth of expertise in that particular area. Not providing women equal rights in the workforce would also impede economic progress as half of Singapore ‘s workforce is made up of women.
Concluding this, I feel that it is highly desirable that total equality exists between the sexes, total equality meaning that both genders can choose to contradict gender stereotypes and not to suffer discrimination as a result of it. On the other hand because of reasons that are beyond the control of any civilisation, such as traditional mindsets and natural attributes to both genders, time has proven that it is impossible to have total gender equality. Meanwhile, the fight for gender equality still persists, transcending from the last millennium to this new one.