Gender equality is not about empowering women alone. It’s about educating men to understand and appreciate women too. By focusing on enabling women alone; we have ended up alienating the most crucial player in the gender equality paradigm- the man.
As more and more parents of girls try to raise their daughters like they would raise sons; more parents of sons need to raise their sons like they would raise their daughters.
As Judith Martin wrote in “Common Courtesy”; there is no female equivalent of the “boys will be boys” concept.
If there is anything that I would want to work on as a priority; apart from empowering women in communities; it would be to drive a clean slate approach towards the upbringing of girls and boys.
In a panel discussion on gender issues at a women technology conference last year; ladies present spoke about how badly they are treated by their male colleagues when they assert their knowledge in technology at work.
The disrespect and bias of men towards women who assert themselves is a deep-rooted psychological phenomenon and not a function of the logical reaction to their stimuli. If the same argument were to be submitted by a male colleague; the reaction; even if the argument were not sane, would be different.
Gender equality starts at home. For most parents; the sex of their child drives the gender perception. In reality; sex is the biological and physical attribute of a personality whereas gender is the complex interrelationship between the biological traits and the person’s sense of self. Gender cannot be restricted to biology and physical attributes. Gender cannot be binary. There is enough variation in characteristics of people belonging to all sexes to drive the notion that gender is more about continuum of possibilities of human nature in its character, propensity, intellect and capability rather than just anatomy.
Men and boys have a very crucial role to play in driving gender equality. This is not a crusade or war. Gender equality is not about women fighting men to make their point. It’s about men and women together creating opportunities of equal advantage for each other whether these be economic, cultural or legal in essence.
Gender issues are not women issues. Focusing entirely on women to eliminate gender inequality is a strategy that will not yield results. Men are a critical component of the gender balance and powerful agents of change.
Enabling men and women both to understand and adopt behavioral changes needs to be introduced in schools, homes and workplace environments.
Gender expectations are set around us from the time we are born. Upbringing, community, peers, religion and media create gender as a socially construed concept. Not only does the gender relationship start early in our lives; it is ratified through every aspect of the society and environs around us – be it clothes, toys, colors, behavior et al.
Most children, boys and girls both; have already been exposed to gender specific environs by age three; enough to choose activities and exhibit behavior typically ( as advertised) attuned to their sex. They will rarely question why they are slated in a binary behavioral arrangement.
It is important to realize that gender sensitization is an ongoing process as is introduction to gender diversity. Research suggests that Gender identity in men and women is realized between the ages of 18 months and 3 years. This is when they learn how to express their gender roles. Unfortunately, societal norms are so hard coded into our lives that the expression of gender through behavior, clothes, appearance and mannerism creates an expectation of gender role beginning at that age. Our societal structures recognize two types of gender roles- the masculine and the feminine. The expectations from each of the roles are highly well defined and presented in societal norm and ratified by media propagation.
The change should commence in our homes. There must be greater focus on gender sensitivity in homes to drive gender equality in our societies and workplaces.
Out of the 48 chromosomes that we carry as human beings; only one differentiates men from women. We have based our entire societal framework of separation of male and female based on that one chromosome; not the 47 that match.