Why we should all be gender-aware

Being aware of gender-related issues is part of the solution, not part of the problem

I happened to be questioned a lot about my “feminism” lately. I put “feminism” between commas because it’s a term that is no longer historically relevant. It is like saying I’m an “anti-colonialist” when colonialism is no longer in place. It made sense to call oneself a feminist when women were completely oppressed, and this is no longer the case.

Feminism has brought amazing progresses around the world. For example the right for women to vote, the right to divorce, to have an abortion, to decide whether they want to have children or not, the right not to be considered a property of their husband and all sort of positive things for the life of women.

Feminism is, however, an historically old term.

But does it mean that with once feminism has done its part and it’s buried in history all gender-related issues have disappeared? This is the big problems of the 21st century: some people think that society is now perfectly equal and there’s no need to talk about gender-related issues.

What issues am I even talking about? Women can do anything they want, right? They can choose whether to get married or not, to have children or not, to study engineering or language (that’s me…)

That’s true. The possibilities are laid in front of us. But there are things that haven’t changed yet, and the biggest one is our mentality. Our mentality hasn’t evolved yet, and it’s showed in how we raise our children, how we condition our children to behave in a gender-related way. Even though the biggest inequalities between men and women have disappeared, the effects continue.

Think about it with an example: even if pollution stopped completely today, would earth already be cleaned tomorrow? If war stopped today, does it mean the country is in peace tomorrow? Anything that is done long enough modifies not only the present, but the future as well. As pollution and war will continue to affect in the years to come long after they stopped, so will the centuries and centuries of inequality between men an women. And ultimately it’s not a surprise that some people don’t see this, because they got used to the status quo, they’ve been (we all have been, I should say) brainwashed into not seeing the inequalities any more. We just live in it.

I have to say I’m very grateful for my life, for being born in Europe where inequalities are not as life-disturbing as in other parts of the world. There are parts of the world where women get raped and they get jailed if they report the raper, they get genital mutilations, upset people through acid on their face, there are women who get sold, women who get killed as they are born, because they’re women. I suffer for those women as if this was done to a sister.

On the other hand, inequality in Europe is expressed in more subtle forms, for example in the fact that often women are the only one who do the house-works, even if both men and women have a full time job. It’s expressed in the fact that often children are considered a responsibility of the mother only instead of a couple’s responsibility. It’s expressed in the fact that if I’m 30 and I don’t have a family people will simply think “I told her she was to strong and she would have scared men, she should have been more humble and feminine, now she’ll be alone forever” while if a guy is 30 and unmarried… I mean, who does even need to find a reason for that? It’s considered perfectly fine.

These limitations are not important, and at the end of the day we can very well ignore what society thinks we should or we shouldn’t be. What scares me is the limitations that we women have inside our hearts as a consequence of centuries of inequality. I’m talking about:

  • we have a sense of guilt the size of a continent, for anything.
  • for example, we have a huge sense of guilt any time we do something for ourselves instead of something for others. Is it because biologically we’re programmed to give, in a wider sense, with maternity? Probably, but this affects our life when we sacrifice our time, our health and ultimately our identity for someone else.
  • we don’t perceive our identity as defined as men. When we get into a couple our identity starts melting with the other. Did you notice that often women start talking in plural after they get a partner? “We like this, we like that..” But what about your identity as a single person? It gets lost in the couple.
  • we don’t know what we want as much as men do, because for centuries we’ve been taught not to ask ourselves what we want. I know, I know: now we can choose anything we want so why should we blame the past? But again, we’re like a country after a war that lasted years. We are still rebuilding after years of destruction.
  • we teach our daughters to be humble and not to have too much aspiration, because men might feel intimidated by strong women.

These are just the first examples that come to my mind when it comes to psychological effects of years of inequality. I want to think that I struggle because I’m 30, and the years of inequality are just one or two generations behind me. Hopefully for next generations will be easier and easier.

Many men will say that things are not this way anymore, that everything is fine now. My answer is this:

That many men do not actively think about gender, or notice gender, is part of the problem of gender.

Being aware of gender-related issues is part of the solution, not part of the problem

Below I collected some of the most amazing TED talks about feminism and gender-related issues.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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