Wednesday November 1, 2017
By: Nagwan El Deeb
“In order to liberate women, we need to liberate men’’. – Anne Hathaway
Over the past few years, women in Egypt have been facing a myriad of significant issues such as FGM, sexual violence, marital abuse, unjust laws, lack of education in many rural and urban areas and deprivation of inheritance. It was difficult to decide which to tackle first, considering that many of them are equally pressing.
In an attempt to get a broader scope; I conducted a survey on a random sample of people, asking them the same question: ‘’What do you believe is the major hindering issue women in Egypt face?
The responses ranged from sexual harassment, inequality at work, gender roles, lack of freedom, male-figure control, to lack of support from family, spouses and society, just to mention a few. At a closer look at those issues; one realizes that they result from a lack of empowerment, which leads to undeniable injustice, both legally and socially; as well as a society that functions based on inherited social norms full of contradictions, ignorance and a shallow understanding of religion. A society that desperately lacks foresight and enlightenment.
While some may argue that there has been a breakthrough in womens’ rights over the past few decades like better rates of literacy and relatively more freedom, yet women continue to struggle at home, work or simply by walking down the street.
We have created the best environment to raise victims who are unable to challenge their abusers, call out unjust behaviours, and eventually become ghosts of their real potential. Even worse, we raise women who due to internalized misogyny and pressure to fit in a male dominated society end up shaming other strong free-spirited ones, in a futile attempt to keep them silent.
If we focus on our options for a better tomorrow, we find that root cause management is our only hope; that we need to transform how we as women think, and behave and to have awareness of how we’re perpetuating our current reality.
In order to break the cultural conditioning, we need both knowledge and logic. Knowledge and logic allow us to empower ourselves and each-other, to stand up for our beliefs, and to dare question expectations, arguments and rules that fail to appeal to that logic. We need to teach ourselves and our little girls to stop accepting less than what we deserve, to be unapologetically who we are. And needless to say, we also have to teach boys to respect women and treat them as equals. To achieve that, we have to understand how our small everyday acts, words and behaviours can have a major impact on them, when looked at collectively. And we can no longer afford to ignore them.
A small, seemingly insignificant act such as a mother telling her son not to cry ‘’because he’s a man’’ is actually teaching him that emotions are prohibited, and that girls are inferior to boys. Another common scenario that demonstrates sexism…… would be controlling career decisions, and classifying jobs into ‘’a man’s job or a woman’s job.’’ The argument that a woman should choose a career that allows her to spend enough time at home denies the right of both the man and woman to consensually decide on what suits them best. For instance, if a couple consciously decide that the man wants to work from home and share in childcare or house chores and the woman has a full time job, they should be free to do so without shaming either of them. Using religion to support such arguments is a disgrace, since not only are we teaching people that God has created women inferior, but also it shows that we lack true understanding of Gods’ teachings. Therefore, whatever religion we follow, we need to thoroughly educate ourselves before preaching it to children or adults.
This brings us to the realization that boys and men are equally victims as much as girls and women. With this in mind, we have to break the frame to make change. We have to discard the ideas that contribute to the marginalization of women, and actively set new foundation where both men and women can reach their full potential.
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