Writing about gender equality?
Of course! But I had no clue where to begin due to the fact that there is really no such thing as “gender equality” – men and women are fashioned differently.
To me that is a distilled truth that cannot be modified. The truth is that we are unequal in far many ways than we care to admit. We are two diverse kind of creatures that share more differences than similarities and in fact diversity is the law of nature and uniformity will likely never reign.
Finding the similarities in our differences would be nice, but such lofty tasks are easier said than done. However, there is an immense difference between the puzzling term “Gender Equality” and the actuality of equalizing gender roles in society. Thanks to modernity and evolution, a revolutionary transformation occurred in our society and we are now more equalized than ever before. But did this transformation occur in all societies or just in certain societies?
I am a Jewish woman of Arab descent. I grew up listening to Arab music, I was frequently watching Arab soap operas with my mother and sisters, I was eating Arab-Jewish food and I was listening to my parents speak more Arabic than Hebrew, which they still do more often than not. My Jewish identity was never battling my Arab one, to me it’s two parts of a whole that cannot exist without each other. On the other hand, my gender identity has recently started questioning the role of women in the Arab culture. This is this questioning process I want to share with you.
In the West, the Arab society and Islamic culture in particular are believed to be the symbols of oppression and submission of women par excellence. On the other hand, in the Arab society and Islamic culture, the West is believed to be the symbol of women’s objectification and sexualization.
In certain countries in the Arab world, women are not allowed to have a driver’s license because, according to a Saudi Sheikh, it can damages their ovaries and pelvis, nor they are allowed to unveil their faces in public or they might be harassed by the religious police.
In America, leading role models in the music industry appear naked in their videos while delivering a disturbing message to young girls that they will only be valued for their sexual appeal than their talents, and if they happen to lack it, taking drugs or committing suicide may not be a bad choice of solace for them.
The bottom line is that for me that, Western and Arab/ Islamic cultures have their own forms of insidious discrimination, and both cultures, in their own special ways, promote a way of thinking that is clearly misogynistic and discriminatory.
The only difference is that women in the Arab world or under certain Islamic laws have no choice, while in the West they certainly do. Western culture allows for a choice, yet within Islamic culture there are certain practices women should follow and they have no choice whatsoever. But then the question is, just because you have a choice does it mean it’s any better if the end result is the same, if women are still being discriminated against? You tell me. But at least you have the choice to choose without fearing for your very own life. At least you have the power to chose and decide for yourself. At least you have the power to change and fight against that you cannot tolerate. At least you have the choice to be what you want to be, the choice to practice whatever you believe without having your faith constantly scrutinized, at least you have the freedom to choose what your heart desires without needing someone else’s permission to do so. At least you have the freedom; at least you have the choice.
But don’t be mistaken: having the power of choice doesn’t promise us a fairy tale life; we still have to work hard to get far in life and be successful, and to paraphrase Golda Meir: “To be successful a woman has to be much better at her job than a man”, but as long as we have the power to choose, that is all we need to have in order to equalize not just our roles in societies, but transform our very own societies. Would I want it to be any other way? Not today.
YaLa Young Leaders