It is a few hours before the end of the first day of 2014 and I am having a heated argument with my brothers. Am I just being cantankerous, plain silly, an ignoramus or what? One thing is certain though. I am a little bit disappointed. What is the beef with ambitious females? Please pardon my winding style – it is the angst.
I overheard someone say something about women being unreasonable in their quest for equality with men. He continued that women have to know that they are not men and that they cannot do some things that men can do, and that we should stop trying to prove points that we can do better than men. I have heard comments like this countless times, but I was terrified, hearing it from one of my brothers, and my fright worsened when the others concurred with him. I had to dig deeper, to know what he meant by the quest for equality, and proving points to men. He was talking about stuff like pursuing careers, aiming for top positions, working late hours, doing supposedly masculine chores, deciding to wait to attain some career positions or academic qualifications before getting married, and some other stuff I drowned out to retain my sanity.
This is not an invitation to take sides. I am really tired about talking about the stuff I am going to write here, and I have decided to pen them down. First, people need to understand this thing we call equality. If you add two and two, you get four. If you add three and one, you get four. Both sums have different players, but they sum up to the same thing. Men and women are different in many ways, but we are equal. Period! And we share many things in common. Men have dreams, women have dreams. Men have ambitions, women have ambitions. Men have abilities, women have abilities. Men have emotions, women have emotions. We may express ourselves, our dreams, our ambitions, our emotions and our abilities in different ways, but at the core, we are humans together and, in this lies our equality.
I agree that in marriage, there should be order, and that the husband is the head of the home. And who says women want to head their homes? I am yet to see the woman with a responsible husband, who just wants to usurp his headship (maybe such women exist, but I am yet to encounter them, even in fiction). Women only assume this headship responsibility when there is a vacuum, and any husband who is leading his family rightly need not be threatened. Yet, this divinely designed order in homes does not necessarily translate to superiority or inferiority. In fact, it is a call for sacrifice, where the head is supposed to love unconditionally, and be willing to lay his life for his wife and family. Importantly also, this order is for individual homes, husband to wife; it is not for all men to be the heads of all women.
Women have ambitions and aspirations, just like men, and I think it is cruel to ask a woman to hang all her dreams and aspirations because she is supposed to be a home keeper. I agree that a mother should care for her home, the same way a man should provide for his family (financially, material, intellectually, emotionally, as well as spiritually). But she does not necessarily have to burn the career or academic coat, just because she must serve her family. Rather than force women to choose between one and the others, I believe that the society should assist her in combining these multiple responsibilities. Thank God that some organizations offer their female employees opportunities like flexible work arrangements, telecommuting, and crèches in office buildings. I am also grateful for technologies like deep freezers, washing machines and dishwashers, and for housekeepers, grandmothers and laundry services. What is wrong if a woman is encouraged to take advantage of these opportunities? I am not dissing those women who chose to be stay-at-home moms. I have some great friends who have chosen that path, and I think very highly of them. I am just saying that it should be a choice, not a compulsion. And “stay-at-home” does not mean “no career”. I detest the insinuation that the mother is supposed to stay at home, nurse babies, cook, clean, and do only house chores. Imagine subjecting a creative writer or a pilot to that lifestyle. What sort of death sentence is that?
I believe that it is unhealthy for men and women with young families to stay late at work regularly. It is not something men can do but women should not do. Both mother and father have responsibilities to their children, and as long as they are alive and healthy, they should be physically present at home when their children are awake. Stop blaming only women.
Single women are not excluded from this issue. The other day, I was talking with someone who was complaining that her husband’s female colleague, who was not married, was competing with him, when she ought to be thinking of finding solution to her being single. Some people advice women to ensure that they are married before they pursue higher degrees like PhDs, and before they attain managerial positions or own their businesses. Some say, “Don’t buy a car, rent a house, or own big property before you are married”. They argue that these things have potentials of preventing suitors from proposing marriage. In order words, some men fear that successful women will not make good wives and mothers. That opinion is very untrue. Does success prevent men from being good husbands and fathers? Why do you think it would prevent women from being good wives and mothers? Also, why should women deprive themselves of things they desire simply because they are single? Why is it a curse for a woman to be single, but not so for a man? Why should a woman kill her legitimate ambitions and desires because she is single?
I really wish that all men will understand that when women want equality, we want equal opportunities, not sameness. We want to have healthy families and fulfilling careers, the way you do. We want to get opportunities because we qualify. We want our men to pitch in and help us in the homes (and I do not think that is asking for too much). We want our performance ratings to be based on our output, not our gender. When we try to do some things that you call masculine, we do it because you are not always there to do it for us, and it needs to be done; we are not necessarily trying to prove anything to you.
When we ask to be treated as equals, we do not mean that we want to wear men’s shoes, or grow moustaches. We are saying that we want our value to be based on our humanness and our character, and not our possessions. We are saying that you should not decide not befriend us or even marry us because we have PhDs, cars or property. If men are not outcasts because of their academic and career achievements, and because of their physical possessions, successful women should not be made pariahs.
And, do not be quick to judge us too. Consider the fact that our families may be dependent on us financially, so when we put our babies in daycare centres, it is not because we are heartless. Would you rather that we back our babies and beg on the streets?
Women are humans too. Our dignity should be upheld. We are different from men, but we are equal. Please support us to achieve our noble aspirations and goals (some of us support men too). Support us in our quest to be treated with gender equality in the society.
And, if you think we are crying over nothing, and that we need not advocate for equality or any opportunities, that is your opinion. You have a right to your opinion, the way we have ours. After all, we are equal. But, please leave us to cry over our nothing. We are not using your voice to cry. Stop undermining our efforts. Our getting what we want will not in any way diminish what you have. So, some of us want equality… and so? What/who does it hurt? If you do not want to support us in our quests, please do not hinder us. Just give way, do your own thing, and PLEASE, stop judging us!