Is ‘gender’ destiny?
This unique issue of National Geographic, unlike any I have ever read, commences with the opening subtitle: “What if all could thrive?”
This question feels like a dagger to the chest. I am a young woman, still a teen in fact, and that very question sums up what is so utterly wrong with the world today. Putting aside, for the moment, everything else that plagues mankind, gender inequality is a major problem in all countries across the globe, not just developing ones like India, Nigeria, Mexico and so on. The disparity between genders in areas such as healthcare, education, economic participation and politics, is still very high, despite the fact that many countries have made substantial efforts towards equality. According to the statistics provided by National Geographic, 18% of the world’s firms now have a female as a top manager or chief executive officer. This shocked me as I assumed this figure would be much higher, at least scraping the 30-40% mark.
“Youngsters describe big dreams for future careers – but boys don’t see their gender as an impediment, while the girls, all too frequently, do.”
Therefore, the question remains: is gender destiny? Will you thrive or even survive in today’s society if you are a woman? Should gender be considered a strength or a weakness?
Anne-Marie Slaughter, the president and CEO of the think tank, “New America”, says: “Given the gulfs between us, it is impossible to write about “the state of women” collectively. But women do all at least have one thing in common: We are all prisoners of our culture.”
Whilst girls in Sierra Leone are undergoing Female Genital Mutilation and being married off as young as 13 to men as old as their father, young women in America and Europe are being raised as politicians, engineers, doctors; with aspirations of a lucrative career and the possibility of changing the world. And I wish the world were different. I wish culture and belief did not play such a big part in equality, but it does. The world has changed drastically in the last 50 years, but many countries are still trapped in an old-world thinking. Whereas mentality has evolved in some lands, others still cling to and cruelly impose their women to a lifetime sentence of pain, suffering and slavery, and whilst we would all like to believe “first-world countries” like America, Britain and most of Europe are much better, let me remind you of that statistic above: 18%. And in these more ‘developed’ places, young girls are plagued by an enemy not conventionally considered: themselves; where bombarded by media and advertising, they are convinced their real bodies are ugly and to be hated when compared to fake ones, generated and retouched by a computer program. Our ‘blessed’ digital age is really a discussion for another day, though.
“It’s Hard to Be Female: Ensuring education, protection, and equal opportunities for the world’s 1.2 billion girls is key to solving some of the planet’s pressing problems. Yet despite gains in access to education, health care, and employment, more progress is needed to put women on an equal footing with men.”
It is of course, wholly unfair to blame men for all too often, boys are trapped in the same cultural norms: the constant pressure to be ‘strong, powerful’ creatures who harbour their aggression and use it as a tool to portray their masculinity, never showing any emotion other than ‘anger’. But how is that fair? For they are human beings too, created with the ability to feel and love.
“Men are also trapped, forced into culturally defined roles.”
We live in a world where people largely perceive gender as a spectrum. ‘Male’ and ‘Female’ are loose terms that some view as outdated. I neither agree nor disagree. I am a woman and very proud of that, in fact. If I must be completely honest, easy access to the Internet and to other’s opinions confuse me many a time. Regarding topics such as politics, the economy, sexuality, and now, gender, I have found my thinking and mentality constantly changing. Everyone has a strong opinion about everything these days, and everyone believes they are right, and while I cannot say I agreed with everything discussed in the ‘Gender Revolution’ issue of National Geographic, I must say that it was refreshing to read such an unbiased and raw piece.
“Trust the unique voice inside of [you]. And to be sure and listen as much as [you] speak, so that [you] are honouring the other unique people.” – Gloria Steinem.