Gender talk

All over the world, women are the weaker sex. Even in the West, women have to fight for equal pay, workplace benefits, executive posts and boardroom representation. In the Muslim world, women have God-given rights which due to male insecurities tend to be denied them. Whether in the East or West, women are deliberately made to fight a glass ceiling, or made to exploit their female assets. When everything is ruined in the process, the man will blame it on the woman for being ambitious and exploiting male weaknesses to their advantage and she is consequently punished. Classical literature, fairytales and folklores deal with this aplenty. In cases where the woman is not directly punished, but fate plays Twister, even her cunningness and manipulation is unable to save her divine hanging by the forces of nurture and nature. In all this, Man himself is not blameless.

Over the years I have come across strong women of varying degrees. Successful career women, some educated and successful, others just very experienced and successful. The domestic housewives or working women I have been exposed to in my travels, are mostly very strong dictators, queens within the four walls of their homes. In one instance the sister in laws were controlling their brother’s family, even to the point of making him take his frustrations out on his wife and daughters through physical abuse. The wife was married to him against her wishes. When she told her father, that death was preferred to marrying this fellow, he beat her up with his walking stick and forced her to agree to marry the man.

In Islam, no one can force you to marry anyone unwillingly. Unfortunately, many people are, resulting in mismatched couples. This sort of poisonous liaison of fate affects the children, because in the case of the women, they will even use their children as a tool to control the husband. In the case where the wife is the victim of fate, the husband will beat the wife and children for no reason, as mentioned above. The husband will even go to the extent of limiting wife’s and the children’s social interaction with maternal family relatives because he does not feel respected by his in-laws.

These examples serve to illustrate that spousal insecurities are manifested in many ways, but it is important to understand that love and affection is not won through force, cunningness and manipulation. Love cannot be bought, it is won through the heart. How you treat others is very important if you want them to like you, or even want to consider a future with you because no one has any entitlement over another person.

In this case, a mother obviously wants the best for her children, including a suitable spouse. However, just because she won the lottery by getting a prime example of the male species for a husband, who fulfill her rights, looks after her every need. In some cases to the point of doing the household laundry, ironing her and their children’s clothes and polish their shoes, she has no right to expect that she can dominate the ones she wants her children to get married to. Fate plays funny tricks, what goes around comes around, even if redemption happens 20 years later. Therefore, if you want good things to happen to you, you better keep the good acts flowing like a river and count your blessings when happy times finally arrive, because they do. When they do, always remember the unhappy, difficult times, when it seemed like there was no light at the end of the tunnel. Then pat yourself on the back for surviving it respectfully.

In my opinion there is more truth in a horror story, than some cute and funny rom-com. Moreover, some of the lives I have observed over the years, resemble a scary movie or a Greek tragedy more than anything else. When salvation finally does arrive, some people appear to have forgotten their past and joined the bandwagon of ungratefulness, greed and irresponsibility. To lead a successful, content and complete life, requires a lot of hard work, sacrifice and patience. There really are no shortcuts, however at some point in life we all hit rock bottom. People just handle their issues differently, some, by the grace of the Almighty, better than others.

True, women are considered weaker than men. Their share of inheritance is half than the male heir’s, in a courtcase 2 women need to give statement. Nevertheless, they can inherit and own property. Moreover, the husband has no claim on the wife’s income. However, she is entitled to a share of his income to run the household as well as for her own grooming and maintenance. This illustrates that if women have rights, she also has responsibilities towards her husband. She should obey him, spend his money sensibly, be grateful if he is kind, caring, and attentive. Moreover, she should never complain about him or accuse him for no reason. However, it takes a certain sagacity of mind to understand this, which most of the tyrant queens I have observed in the developing world severely lack. It is easy to get emotional about the plight of women around the world, but sometimes I think that the discussion of gender equality overlook the crimes against men. I know of cases where educated men get both physically and psychologically abused by their less educated wives. It appears as if they want to punish the husbands for their own lack of intelligence and common sense.

In the above case, when I discussed female domination and male subjugation with other married men, most say that a woman will only go that far if the husband allows her to cross that limit. To a certain extent they are right, but there are good men out there who don’t believe in beating the wife just to get her to comply, even if she deserves it. There are good men out there who don’t go all Uncle Scrooge, or divorce their wives or take a second or third wife, or mistresses because they can’t stand the sight of the first wife that was chosen for them by their parents. Just because they can, or because they are unable to control their wandering cravings. These men are also good fathers to their children. Such men are true gems. They deserve appreciation and respect. If women are victims of structural inequalities, men are just as vulnerable. This aspect of gender discrimination tends to be overlooked in the gender and development discourse, although it is acknowledged that gender issues include both men and women, but for some reason, the plight of women are more visible.

Nevertheless, when discussing women equality issues with an outspoken journalist, she said:

“men and women are different, just look at our biology, men don’t carry babies, women do. Men can’t feed babies, women do. By virtue of our different biologies, our responsibilities are different. In that case if we demand equality then men will treat us like men, they will stop doing the small things they do, such as opening the doors for us, or stepping aside when a woman passes by and it doesn’t look nice”.

Even in the West, successful families depend on the woman, the mother and wife. I know someone who once saw a high flying PR executive and, director of her own company, iron her husbands shirt, the person I know asked:

“what are you doing ironing your husbands shirts? I thought that’s only something eastern women do”.

The successful, highflying PR executive said:

“look, this has nothing to do with East or West, or being suppressed. This is my duty. My husband only wears shirts ironed by me”.

In conclusion, there is a difference between equality and empowerment. Legal approaches should address women issues, and equality by law is essential. However it is equally important to consider the differences in roles and responsibilities between men and women because in many societies they determine the distribution of influence. Where the rights are clearly stated they should be implemented, because only then can a society be progressive and modern.