Tuesday, March 27, 2018

International Women’s Day 2018

Photo: Revenue NSW
Last 8th of March 2018 was my very first time to attend the International Women’s Day event held in my office. Apparently, they have it every year, I just didn’t pay attention to the invitations sent the past years. The purpose of the event was to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. This year’s theme was #Pressforprogress.

There were a couple of fantastic female guest speakers plus another 2 with them for the Q & A panel, one of whom was male. Let us not discount the fact that the participation of male in this event was very meaningful, including the 7 other from the audiences. They are all to be applauded for their most treasured support in empowering women.

The speakers delivered very inspiring insights and I felt my self-worth increased after the eloquent speeches. One of the speakers shared personal stories of extreme difficulties in life and to have witnessed her in front of us that day, successful and delivering inspiring words, was simply impressive. It makes one motivated to overcome daily struggles that seem infinitesimal as compared to what the lady had gone through. Domestic violence at a tender age and then the struggles of parenting a transgender. I just can’t imagine the pain she experiences with her daughter-turned-son’s battle. The confusion and judgment that usually come with the predicament is twice as hard for a parent.

Whenever women empowerment is talked about, “feminism” also comes about. At the moment I don’t think this ideology has a clear cut definition of what it encompasses. Over the years, advocates of feminism had achieved a great deal when it comes to enhancing the status of women in the society – right to vote, to hold public office, to hold significant positions in the economic and political sectors, to earn fair wages and given access to self-development programs. Indeed, we are experiencing a great deal of improvement now and are less likely to be regarded as domestic and less relevant and for that I am very grateful.

However, up to what point do we keep pushing for “feminism”?

Being the mediocre that I am, the rights and recognition that women receive now already satisfies me. I speak about the community where I live in at the moment, of course. I do realise, it’s different all over the world and because I do not have full knowledge about the status of women in other parts of the world, I do not generalise my thoughts on feminism. But where I am now, women are as empowered as men. In fact, I see as much women as men holding high positions in the corporate world, if not more.

Although there is 50-50 target for men and women in the managerial positions, the fact that this could not be achieved absolutely is not to blamed on discrimination. When selecting the best person for a role, we should not really use “gender” as a qualification, or that we restrict the position to a woman so as to achieve the 50-50 target. Doing so only augments the discrimination that “feminism” tries to get rid of in the first place. Therefore, recruitment should still rely heavily on merits, and that is the right way. Following this logic, there really would be jobs wherein the male candidates would outdo the females, and vice versa. Because, let’s face it, genders have stereotypes and I did not invent it.

I don’t think that stereotyping on genders will ever be removed. In fact, I think that if stereotyping on genders is removed, it will cause more trouble than benefit for the society as a whole. There have been extensive studies conducted on the male vs female brain – which I think are not being promoted out there because it is very controversial and many advocates of modern ideals think this is backward thinking. But it is reality – women and men think and act differently, and this is not just caused by the environment where a person grows in but rather, it is in our biological structure. For light reading about the differences of men and women brains, refer to Pease's Why Men Don't Listen and Women Can't Read Maps.

I once watched this stand-up comedy in YouTube making a light humour about the differences of a wife’s brain (female) and husband’s brain (male). Structurally, he said the husband’s brain was like a warehouse full of boxes, each box containing a specific thought – one box for the car, one box for the work, one box for his fave sports, etc. You get the idea. When the husband talks about the car, his brain would take that one box about car, open it and talk about the car alone. However, the wife’s brain is structured differently. Instead of boxes, there are wires and each wire is connected to the other in no particular order. So when the wife talks about the car, initially the wire about the car is triggered, which then triggers the wire about the car loan, the finances, the problems until it becomes an argument. Obviously, cause the husband’s brain is stuck in box for the car, it can’t cope. In this situations, the husband would usually pull out the box of “nothing” – which sends the wife even more hysterical. I note that the box of nothing caused a lot of the male audience laughing hysterically.

It was indeed hysterical because the audience find the reality being described to them in this light manner as hilarious. In a way, realising these differences help a lot of couples patch up their relationship. Everyone understood and could connect at what he was saying because each women and men in the room undergo this dilemma. These men/women came from different backgrounds, race, religion, environment and yet they experience the same thing. So I do believe that while the environment has influence in the gender stereotyping, it is not as significant as what we are already biologically made out of.

So how could we as a society remove this generalization? Is it the correct approach really or shouldn’t we accept this reality that men and women are different and then from there educate ourselves on how to cope up with these differences?

Another point on gender stereotyping and why it’s difficult, if not impossible, to get rid of was the example of one of the speakers herself about her transgender child. Biologically, she was a she – but from childhood, her child had exhibited an inclination to “boy” stuff – buzz light year instead of princesses and fairies. Did she influence this? I highly doubt. The speaker said from childhood and possibly as a baby when her daughter was born, these preferences had been there. And then when she later decided to come out as a he, his mom celebrated by buying/making a “blue” cake with the words “It’s a boy.”

I have also heard of parents who believed in this ideology making their children’s life confusing and messy by letting the poor toddlers decide on their own, such that the boys wear dresses but play with boys’ toys and vice versa. Kids’ choices are not necessarily done with gender in their mind. Toddlers won’t have a concrete understanding of this concept at their age and this only confuses them. It was a mess. In dire desire to prove an idea that has so many grey areas, these parents tend to ignore the fact that children could not decide rationally on their own yet. Just to prove a point (and they couldn’t) they’d go through lengths of using their own children as guinea pigs. It’s chaotic. I just can’t imagine how to make genders become identical.

Anyway, I think the point of the International Women’s Day is to empower all women and the society as a whole that no matter what circumstances we are in, we will not be hindered to become the best versions of ourselves. It is also to make people understand the different struggles that some of us encounter, and that these struggles are real. In the end, I don’t think it’s about gender only but more about people’s individuality (such as introverts and extroverts) and that this should also be addressed in next year’s event – not that I’ll be around. This time around next year, I’ll probably be engrossed with mommy stuff anyway. 

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