“Men and women are not “equal” if “equal” means “exactly the same”. Our main puzzlements and indeed unhappiness comes from trying to figure out what exactly the differences really mean, or should mean, or should not mean”- Margaret Atwood.
Take your minds back to the first speech you heard on gender equality, remember that speaker who spoke convincingly on how female inequality to man should be a thing of the past - women are equal to men and vice versa.
Remember those astounding claps that followed at the end of the speaker’s speech. Finally, someone has said it how it should be, women are equal to the “supposed first class human being”, man.
In September 2018, as I stood in the fully packed room of an event organized to discuss the rights and abilities of women in modern times, I listened to this phenomenal speaker, deliver her speech on “Women in a Man’s World”. She talked about what needed to be done for women to achieve equality in male dominated jobs. By all standards it was an amazing speech, her words were beautifully chosen and knotted together. I absolutely agreed with her on the assertion that male-dominated jobs and female-dominated jobs should be a thing of the past, particularly because growing up, I had always dreamt of being in the combat military, which is “male dominated” and I hated that no matter how modernity had come to play, the dominance of men in this field giving chance to few women was perhaps never going be a thing of the past. This to me was infuriating.
When the meeting ended, I walked out of the room feeling very proud, my knowledge bank was full of how to challenge the status quo that said, “some things are for men only.” I was ready to school anyone who dared to say or even think that it was just fine for somethings to be reserved for men. WE ARE EQUAL! I screamed in my head.
But the reality is and will continue to be that women and men have unique abilities and capabilities. Yes, women are just as smart, talented and creative as men, but this does not make the abilities of women equal to that of men and this is absolutely okay. It is actually an injustice to equate women to men in this stead and this is the basis of my write-up.
To side in part with cultural feminists, genders are biologically different and should be embraced as such. Biological research reveals that the release of oxytocin by the human motivates positive behaviours, what we call moral behaviors - women release more oxytocin than men. Thus, women tend to be calmer, more trustworthy, more compassionate, and generous, while men tend to be more aggressive, adventurous and want to enforce the rules. This to an extent accounts for the choice of professions.
Children need all the love, patience and compassion in their developing stages. It is why more than three-quarters of all teachers in kindergarten through to high school are women. Professions like the military have historically been marked as camps of war and the art of war demands aggression. It is why the military is dominated by men. It is why all over the world, women in military record low percentages. In Canada and USA for instance women in military account for just about 15% and 14% respectively.
I am in no way insinuating that women should be pushed out of male-dominated jobs or men be pushed out of female-dominated jobs but fighting to see more women in a patriarchal setup without challenging the underlying notions only goes to institute inequality.
To succeed in a profession like the military, women are forced to deride their femininity and work harder to establish parity in the eyes of their counterparts, men. To give up oneself just to fit in is in no way equality. This superficial approach to gender equality which defines parity solely based on the opportunity to participate, fails to address inequality!
And so, instead of creating a world where women are trying to be equal to men in professions, why don’t we, together, find and create a middle ground where it is beautiful to accept our strengths and shortfalls and be the best at what we do.
The narrative that women can achieve just as much as men, thus to gender feminists women should be granted some special privileges, is why governments will reserve slots in parliament for women, it is why companies will ensure a percentage of employees are females, it is why institutions of higher learning reduce entry requirements for females and in as much as we will hate to hear this, this creates a situation where women are added on to fulfil quotas.
Even though the majority of men (in Canada 68%) are professors, when I walk into a room of female professors all I see are brilliant minds not gender. The politics of contributing to quotas will end only when we are comfortable in appreciating our abilities. Let us end the injustice of equating rights to abilities.
As Martin Luther King Jr. puts it, “If you can’t be a sun, be a star, for it isn’t by size that you win or fail. Be the best of whatever you are”.
Deborah Acheampong, MA, Global Communication Studies, Simon Fraser University