Feminism, Gender Equality & Women’s Rights

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Marie Curry, Oprah Winfrey, Aung Sang Suu Kyi, Maya Angelou are only a few examples of phenomenal women who have left indelible marks in the world thanks to resounding careers, remarkable strength of character and/or notable charity work, thus paving the way for millions of other females to follow in their footsteps of greatness.

 

As I attempted to write a passionate manifesto for women empowerment, I couldn’t help but be reminded of this quote by late Kenyan environmental and political activist, and Nobel Price Laureate, Wangari Maathai: “The higher we go, the fewer women there are.” Her statement strikes a painful chord in my revolutionary heart every time, because it is unfortunately accurate; and naively chanting that females are awesome and that they can do anything they set their mind to would not increase the number of female CEOs across the globe, it would not instil solid and lasting self-confidence in women’s heart; no, it would equate to burying my head in the sand and maybe, motivate a girl or two, but for no longer than five seconds and that’s not my goal. I aim at initiating a movement that will change mentalities in the long run.

 

Only when one fully comprehends the roots of a problem, can they genuinely take actions to fix it for good. Society does not make people; we make society; and if society does not reflect women’s exceptionality, it is our job, first individually – “Be the change you want to see in the world” – and then collectively, to change society. The first step towards altering mentalities and women’s situation is to know our history. Knowledge is power. The second step is to acknowledge the mistakes we made throughout history, refuse to be reduced by them and be willing to work towards fixing them; finally, the third step, in Maya Angelou’s words, is to go out and grab the world by the lapels.

 

While feminism was not supposed to be the point of this article, it was essential to dig deeper on the issues fought by the feminist movement, as they are intrinsically linked to women’s current reality. What forged all these degrading clichés about women being weak, nagging, gossip lovers, “decorative beings” with no depth of character, not smart enough (be beautiful and shut up), jealous, envious, catty with one another; and do they hold any truth? What deemed women inferior to men, less capable than males to hold senior leadership positions within organizations and why in the world are females still being paid less than men?

It is vital to expose why and how, generations of women have perpetuated detrimental traits that ruin women’s lives to this day and stop them from reaching their highest potential.

 

Let’s start by defining feminism as “the theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes.” Now let’s try to understand how did women’s reality come about over the centuries. Only then, will it be possible to comprehend the difficulties faced by females today and how to overcome them.

 

A Quick Throwback In Time

 

Historically speaking, gender equality was achieved when men and women both contributed evenly to the economy of societies: during the Stone Age, women’s strength was up to the robustness required by garden exploitation. While men would hunt and fish, women would create pieces of pottery, they would weave and garden.

The big defeat in women’s history is explained by the changes that occurred with the division of labour, following the invention of new tools such as tin, bronze, copper and plow: with the extension of agriculture, which was the main economic activity of societies, intense work was required to clear forests and make fields yield profits. Simultaneously, women’s fertility would prevent them from partaking in the growth of resources, while constantly creating new needs. They lost their economic role in societies, which men took advantage of to establish their authority, thus leading to women’s oppression, patriarchal societies and basically, a world built by males.

 

Women were confined at home; their only worry was to keep their house as clean as possible; but this activity would not keep their mind busy. Women were stuck with their thoughts, bored after tidying up the house, patiently waiting for their husband to come home. Disappointed by Life, females grew bitter, unhappy, frustrated, resentful and manipulative. Instead of changing their situation, they came up with ways to get revenge over their husband by acting up and being frigid. Women have a history of blaming other people for their own problems and instead of taking the initiative to fix the issue; they give in to the lowest, dirtiest behaviours. Although nowadays women work and are financially independent, these toxic behaviours were passed along through generations of women and manifest themselves in situations where women are unhappy; so much so that bitterness, frustration, jealousy, resentfulness and manipulation are now considered normal female characteristics.

 

The Industrial Revolution enabled women to work in factories, because machines’ usage required physical strength that was up to women’s abilities. They made lower incomes than men and did not fight to change their financial condition, mainly because the male figure in their household, be it their husband or father, was responsible for the financial support of the family; women’s wages then only served as a secondary salary, so females did not feel the need to be paid more. Additionally, women were still in charge of cooking and cleaning at home, even after a long day at work. So they spared their energy and did not take their work outside seriously, so it was not well executed.

 

Feminist Authors Answer Questions You Didn’t Even Think You Had

 

It is astounding to read classic books on Feminism such as Mary Wollstonecraft’s “A Vindication Of The Right Of Women”, which was published in 1796; Virginia Woolf’s “A Room Of One’s Own”, issued in 1929; Simone de Beauvoir’s “The Second Sex” which came out in 1949; only to realize that most of the issues the authors highlight as the main barriers to the equality of the sexes are still very much pertinent in 2016. This may come as a surprise to you, but De Beauvoir, Woolf, Wollstonecraft and many other Feminist authors do not blame men for women’s condition, but condemn women’s education for their lack of willpower and weakness of character.

 

While de Beauvoir argues that active participation to the economy of the society in which one lives and financial independence are keys to women’s freedom, she and Mary Wollstonecraft both recognize that the way women are raised is single-handedly the biggest obstacle to their emancipation. Both authors go as far as claiming that women’s ways and behaviour prove they are not in a state of mental health and we’ll see exactly why below.

 

Girls’ Upbringing

 

The difference in the way boys and girls are brought up forces boys to surpass the propensity that children have to objectify themselves by putting on a show. A boy will be told: “only girls can do that”, “boys don’t cry”, “boys aren’t afraid of anything”; boys’ upbringing does not promote sensitivity, emotions and softness. It prepares them to face the world and its intricacies heads on. Whereas girls are always pampered when they cry, parents will satisfy their every desire and encourage them to perform in front of family members because well, it’s cute. Instead of having females carry burdens like in primitive societies, they are unloaded from all difficult tasks and worry, which ultimately leads to releasing them from all responsibility.

Girls are encouraged to be delicate, sentimental with no physical or soul strength. They ought to sit still, have self-control and be well mannered at all times, which kills spontaneity and results in tension, boredom and encourages girls to daydream. This inability to be self-sufficient entails a timidity that lasts a lifetime and even impacts women’s work. Author Mary Wollstonecraft argues that if, instead of feeding and even creating this timidity, it was treated the same way as boys’ cowardliness is treated, it wouldn’t be long before women grew more respectable.

 

Because parents and families treat their daughters like baby dolls, like objects; praising them when they perform, marvelling at their every move; girls grow aware at a very young age of the meaning of the words “pretty”, “beautiful” and “ugly”. They believe that in order to be loved, or to attract attention, they need to be pretty, to put on a show. So girls try to resemble the models they see, they look at themselves in the mirror, compare themselves to Disney princesses and later on to models, singers, actresses; they are the centre of attention in their family. This narcissism is encouraged by parents and is developed in the early stages of girls’ lives and it will play a deciding role throughout their adulthood. Girls learn from the constant attention they get whenever they do something special that in order to be happy, they need to be loved and to be loved, they need to wait for love. Bus as soon as they get married, they start to behave like kids: women are taught to give their all to their husband. That’s why the success or failure of their marital lives will have more impact on them than on men: men are citizens and creators before being husbands. Women are first and foremost wives and they demand the same dedication from their man. When the female doesn’t get what she expects, she becomes bitter, capricious, frustrated, she cries, and behaves exactly like a child. She doesn’t exist without her husband, because she lives and breathes for love and for him. She believes the extensive care she dedicates to her beauty rituals will help her keep her man, not knowing that beauty fades.

 

Women’s relationship with their body

 

A woman seeks the glorification of her body and other females’ admiration. She desires to be beautiful in order to seduce men and strives to seduce men to reassure herself of her beauty. Their obsession with their appearance subjects women to a painful dependence to other people’s judgement that steals all potential happiness from them. Through manifestations of envy or admiration, women look for an exclusive assertion of their beauty, their elegance and their good taste, as well as of their entire being. They will be flattered by a compliment, but failure to get appraisal will ruin them. Since one cannot always please everybody, women can’t win at the seduction game every time. That’s why females who take extensive care of themselves are so sensitive, that’s why so many gorgeous women feel they are not beautiful: they wait for someone else to validate their beauty which would ultimately validate their existence. In craving to be idolized women end up being enslaved by their admirers. Females’ narcissism impoverishes them, instead of enriching them. By dint of contemplating themselves, women destroy themselves. Most females’ only ambition is to be pretty, to inspire love, to produce emotions in others, instead of seeking to inspire respect.

 

Fashion, being tightly linked to the dream, to frivolity and beauty, provides a mental and imaginary loophole, all while representing one of the rare hopes of careers to which girls hold on to. Absence of a different ideal pushes women further in their state of mere “decorative beings”. Females’ fantasies of success are often limited to careers that would put them in the limelight and objectify them: singer, model, actress, or dancer, for instance. This unreasonable dream of a lifestyle solely made of fun, relaxation, succession of exceptional moment, doesn’t take into account that only “contrast” enables to fully appreciate those delicious moments of peace and lust. They only make sense if they alternate with moments where we face life heads on with its intricacies, its sometimes boring, dark and hard times.

But the lowness of women’s desires destroys all strength of character.

 

The fear of not being appreciated, of not meeting expectations; the certainty of not being good enough to deserve other people’s love or attention express psychological insecurities and self-contempt which extend their effects throughout women’s entire lives. It pushes them to accept everything from their entourage; to put their own well-being after others’; to always feel guilty; to always adapt instead of fixing their own rules; not knowing how to exist without seduction, thus condemning themselves to a perpetual state of dependence and putting themselves in the service of male figures instead of pursuing their own goals.

 

Mothers

 

Mothers play a deciding role in their daughter’s future. The great danger that society and customs expose kids to is that they are almost always brought up by unsatisfied women, which leads females to compensate all their frustrations with their child.

When you understand how unhappy most women are, how many unspoken desires, rebellions and vindications inhabit them; it is scary to know that they could be in charge of other human beings. Complexes, obsessions and neuroses are rooted in families’ past.

Parents, deeply marked by their lives within their own familial environment, approach their kids with their own complexes and frustrations; and this chain of misery perpetuates infinitely.

 

The Right Fight

 

The key to breaking this chain of misery is to raise girls in a way that will enable them to attain habits of virtue, which result from the exercise of their own reason, as it will render them independent. But this can only happen when women acknowledge and liberate themselves from the emotional heritage they carry from their mother, grandmother and ancestors; this can only happen when women… man up and take their lives in their own hands to be EXCELLENT at whatever they do, to throw themselves whole-heartedly in accomplishing whatever it is that makes them genuinely happy; this can only happen when women stop being so self-centred and instead of spending too much time trying to look perfect; get educated, strengthen their body, acquire solid training of their mind and intelligence.

Mary Wollstonecraft wrote that an upbringing that encourages women’s sensitive traits keeps females away from training their intellect, which often leads them to be unsatisfied with their lives.

 

Everything still encourages young girls to expect from their “prince charming” fortune and happiness, instead of trying the difficult and uncertain conquest of wealth and joy all by themselves. Women must strengthen their body, mind and soul; they must be convinced that sweet-talking, extreme sensitivity and ever so delicate feelings are synonym to weakness.

 

De Beauvoir claims that selflessness is the driving trait to accomplishing great things in life, which women often lack. But in order to be selfless, the author adds, one must be firmly assured to have found themselves.

The author stresses a valid point when she states that the reason why women have failed to make their voice heard on numerous occasions is firstly because they are not united as a gender in their struggles (are you even surprised?): for instance, women who were married to wealthy men never helped middle class women in their fight to be able to work, because the ladies were scared to lose their own privilege of not having to work all while living the good life; and if you want a more modern illustration of that example, rarely will you ever see a successful woman help another woman be as successful, some women would rather die than give another woman a compliment, you know, the list goes on; and secondly, women often content themselves with complaining about their situation without doing anything to change it.

 

So until we reach a point, where women will focus on educating and bettering themselves from the inside out, rather than be obsessed with their appearance; where they will stop comparing themselves to other females, where they will unite instead of tearing each other down; where they will work and evolve together; they will always be considered inferior to men and the unfortunate degrading clichés about women’s temperament will ALWAYS be valid. It is up to each and every one of us to choose to be the best version of ourselves, to choose virtuous role models that stand out with their work ethic, their drive, their career, instead of mediocre ones that mass media saturates our lives with.

Ze Square was created to help all women that are willing to embark on this female empowerment movement, reach their highest potential both personally and professionally. We need to make our generation of women so amazing; our children will have a great legacy to live on. Woman, wake up! Man up!