…Then I kept the newspaper aside, with a heavy heart and I wondered, “Are things ever going to change?”
It’s a question that pops up all the time, yet never seeming to have a definite answer.On further musing though, it becomes evident that change may not be achieved by merely snipping off the surface…..
Note: For all the words and phrases in green, there are related links provided at the end of the article, for all those interested.
There has been imbalance on earth, for quite some time now. There is this essence of inequality, that took form, perhaps a few thousand years ago, which proceeded to become so deep rooted in the minds of both men and women, that it has taken us so long to finally realize that there is a problem.. which needs to be addressed..
Perhaps, in order to move forward and create a positive future, it would help to be aware of the past, so as to know what to leave behind…
As we all know, there are different types of discrimination like caste, creed, colour, race, religion. But perhaps the oldest form of discrimination, and the most basic, would be that between two human beings… It is not mere discrimination, based on biological differences that posed the problem. But the fact that it led to the rise of two unfortunate concepts, misogyny and patriarchy.
We are naturally more informed and aware of our own past and present realities, let’s have a brief look at the others too.. It’s painful to learn that such concepts are an integral attribute of every country, every culture, every history…
Aristotle was the most revered philosopher of the Greeks, after Plato. His thoughts had a great influence on Arabian and Jewish thinkers of the time and on the Christian philosophers of the Middle Ages. He was the tutor of Alexander the Great. In Aristotle’s words, “Woman may be said to be an inferior man.”, “Females are weaker and colder in nature, and we must look upon the female character as being a sort of natural deficiency.” , “A woman, is as it were a mutilated man.” For more distressing info on the pathetic status of women in Greece at the time, the terrible fate of female infants, Plato’s ideas like “only males are created directly by the gods and given souls”, and Aristotle’s ridiculous understanding of reproduction, see Greece and Women.
Around 3500 years ago, the first of the Abrahamic Religions, Judaism was formed. In early Judaism, it appears that men and women were equally respected. The different roles of the husband and wife were considered of equal importance, and hence, the position of women was actually much better than that of women under American civil law till about a century ago! More info: Women in Judaism and Gender in Jews.
The misogynistic and patriarchal flavour is an inherent characteristic of the later Abrahamic religions which were introduced around 2000-1500 years ago. These are the two most followed religions today comprising more than half the world population. In order to establish the inequality and female subjection, they followed a story where the first woman was created from the man’s rib. And they made the term ‘man’ subsume ‘woman’. But that was not enough. There are other details in the story which aimed to portray woman, not just in a negative manner, but also as the root of all evil. And apparently, not just men, even women must not trust other women. For better understanding: Eve and Woman’s Identity, and, Woman in Abrahamic Religions.
Did you know, in order to be a real man, you need to detest women.
“All deviates and effeminate perverts among men have an adoration for women.” – August Strindberg (Swedish novelist)
In Hinduism, the Vedic period which existed 4000 years ago, was very similar to early Judaism in the west. Here the female was revered and worshipped, just like the male, and, men and women were equally respected, had equal status, educational rights, and so on: Women in Vedic Culture and Woman in Vedas. But trouble began in the post Vedic age, when texts like the Manu Smriti were selfishly misinterpreted. After this, women were held not only in disrespect, but even in positive hatred… Just like their Western counterparts. More details: Manu Smriti and Woman (positive), Manu Smriti and Women (negative). Although it was later tried to improve the situation by Buddhists or by revival of the Vedas, it was unsuccessful, especially due to the rise of the foreign invasions after the 8th century, and Sati became a common practice by Hindu women to escape being raped and enslaved by the invaders.
Appalling Quotes by ‘Great Men’ throughout the ages…….
Apparently, they have deciphered why woman exists!
“Women exist in the main solely for the propagation of the species.” – Arthur Schopenhauer (German thinker)
“Woman is perhaps a sort of larva, or pupa, out of whose somnambulist life a man will be created.” – August Strindberg (Swedish novelist)
“If women get tired and die of bearing, there is no harm in that; let them die as long as they bear; they are made for that.” Martin Luther (German priest and theologian)
“Woman is the beginning and the end–for us men, at any rate. In and by themselves they are nothing.” – August Strindberg (Swedish novelist)
Well, looks like the following quotes were designed for potential rapists.
“A man should be able to leave his stamp on a girl. It’s what women like.” – Adolf Hitler
“First let assurance come to your minds, that all women can be caught; spread but your nets and you will catch them.” -Ovid (Roman poet)
“For a woman to give herself to a man is no more wasteful than taking a light from a torch, or using water when it is needed. In fact, not to do so is a waste.” -Ovid (Roman poet)
But then, they say women are evil! Really?!?
“Woman … the port and gate of the Devil.” – John Calvin (Protestant religious reformer)
“The fundamental fault of the female character is that it has no sense of justice.” -Arthur Schopenhauer (German thinker)
“The ideal woman is a man, though women lie low and let that secret keep itself.” – George Bernard Shaw (Anglo-Irish novelist and intellectual)
“One of the most necessary tasks of humanity consists in the bringing up of chaste women.”- Leo Tolstoy (Russian Reformer)
“The difficult development which leads to femininity [seems to] exhaust all the possibilities of the individual.”- Sigmund Freud (Austrian physician)
“The dear Lord might have done better to exclude women from his creation; they are awfully seldom of any use; but mostly, as a rule, they harm us, and in the end derive no profit for themselves.” – Richard Wagner (German composer)
So it appears that around 3000 years ago, suddenly a ‘misogynistic era’ dawned on Planet Earth… And, born were some woman-hating men, who set out to ‘reform’ the world…To me it looks like these great philosophers and thinkers had some real issues… I don’t know, but right from the Greeks, it looks like some kind of insecurity prevailed…
Thankfully, there were a few sensible quotes. Perhaps the best ones were the Quotes by J.S. Mills (British philosopher and political economist) such as,
“From the very earliest twilight of human society, owing to the value placed on her by man, combined with her inferiority of muscular strength, [woman] was found in a state of bondage.”
“The inequality of rights between men and women has no other source than the law of the strongest.”
“What is now called the nature of women is an eminently artificial thing–the result of forced repression in some directions, unnatural stimulation in others.”
Sadly, in many parts of the world, until maybe a couple of centuries ago, at best, a woman could become a wife, and otherwise, a concubine or a slave.
Again, after learning all this, one would wonder why after enduring misogyny for millennia, did the idea of feminism began in Europe only in the 1850s, and not much before? The system of patriarchy can function only with the cooperation of women. In the book, The Creation Of Patriarchy, Gerda Lerner observes how it all began and why it has continued for so long…
If patriarchy had only meant ‘rule of the father’, it would be a very different thing.. What turned it ugly, is that unfortunately, along with that, for simply unfathomable reasons, the woman was stripped off her dignity and importance.
Thankfully that was all in the past... is something one can only hope to say, even today.
A country’s military is something you would regard as noble and honourable, well until you come across the concept of Comfort Women, who were kidnapped from Japan and its neighbouring countries, to be used as ‘military supplies’ for the Japanese military during the 2nd world war, or, the terrifying concept of Genocidal Rape.
Of course, we do have female perpetuators…
Apparently nature did not do a perfect job with girls, so they need to be ‘beautified’ and ‘feminized’ even more…The cruel practice of foot binding in China was abolished in the early 20th century, but today, the even more barbaric practice of FGM is still prevalent in many countries of Africa, as well as in certain other parts of the world.
Of all the violence that exists in the world, perhaps its most terrifying form would be that which occurs in a random street, behind closed doors, or which breeds in ignorant minds.
We all know of victim blaming and things like ‘How Not to Get Raped’, but people in certain parts of Africa have taken it to a whole new level!To prevent rapes and male attention, here an unspeakable practice of breast ironing is present today, in which 10 year old girls are abused, under the pretext of ‘protection’, where hot objects are pounded to their chests to prevent or postpone the formation of breasts…so that the girl’s puberty can be hidden from boys and men ‘who may think that girls whose breasts have begun to grow are ready for sex’.
They say men are visual creatures. Then of all the things they see, why do they forget to notice, that she is a fellow human being?
In today’s world, guys are quick to say, ‘Stop generalizing Men!’, but after such a long history of women being generalized in such a negative light, and given that today’s world scenario is far from healthy either… If it’s not something ‘major’, then it’s the need to permanently remain on-guard from being teased, or groped.. Or certain inequality in rights! Given all this, is it possible for women, not to harbour resentment?
Yes, men are not the enemies. But Domination of one sex over the other is. Prejudice is. History is.
I don’t think patriarchy is the rule of men over women. I think it is Domination by that which considers itself powerful and important, over everything else. Patriarchy, according to me, is the product of a distorted concept of masculinity. Discrimination, Oppression, Ownership and Self-serving attitudes are not true masculine characteristics, but it looks like they are the concepts on which patriarchy is based.
This fellow said it better…
“Under what category must she (woman) be conceived? Under being for another. . . . Woman shares this category with nature and, in general, with everything feminine.” – Soren Kierkegaard (Danish philosopher)
Thanks to people like him, today even the Earth and all its other inhabitants, are in a sorry state.
Actually, both men and women are victims, although it might not be so visible…
For example, in the case of infanticide, for which poverty has been identified as the major reason, new-born baby girls, seen as burden, are killed. But male child is preferred. Why? They are reared so that it will help the family’s economy. Investment is made on the male child, so that later, financial security will be assured. Aren’t they being used too?
One way to beat Patriarchy, could be by adopting the idea of giving, instead of getting. Maybe we could stop focussing on what we can get from him, or her, or it.
Life on earth has been carved out in such a manner to encourage survival of the fittest. We are made to believe that we would move forward by stepping on another… It would do good to realise that survival is essential, yes, but it is not the purpose.
Another issue which is widespread today…. A common aspect of daily life.
In a fight, or argument, The woman dragged in between. Why do people say things like son of a bitch or motherfucker…?? Why things like ‘wear bangles’, are used as insult? Women do it too… proudly. Or you would see women enjoying or accepting wife-bashing jokes on whatsapp. Funnily, many times these jokes are shared by bachelors. Are we masochists, or just stupid?
For millennia both men and women have been trained to be insensitive towards women. It is so deeply embedded in the psyche, that we don’t even realize there is a mistake. What a pity.
It is evident what has been going on for the last 3000 years… Now, perhaps it’s time for the damage to be undone.
….Perhaps a simple way to create change, at an individual level, would be to stop identifying with the biology so much. It is an identity, yes. But it does not have to be THE identity. It is a function and a necessity, yes. But it does not have to become THE meaning of life.
It is a basic aspect of life, but not the sole feature.
It is not degrading to be a woman and woman is not a lesser man, no more, than the feminine energy is lesser than the masculine. They are complementary concepts, based on which, the entire universe has been built. And just like everything else, every human being is composed of both energies…
That is not man or woman. That is a Human Being.
This is no new age idea, one is asked to embrace. It is a simple truth, a long faded memory, one needs to remember.
The true goal is not to refrain patriarchal men from committing sexual crimes due to fear of punishment, but simply because it is not right.Although currently, extreme punishments might be the need of the hour, in reality,
We need to change the system… we need to change the whole picture.
We need to cultivate self love and self respect, so that it extends to mutual love and respect, which should then turn into universal love and respect. It can be achieved by uniting the complementary energies within ourselves, the yin and yang. It will take a while, yes, but once every individual recognises this need, passes on the message and strives to succeed in this personal endeavour, not only will we become individually happier, the world may gradually become a friendlier place…
Let us stop looking at each other, and start looking into each other, instead.