The two figures given below are the most commonly accepted symbols signifying gender equality at the global level. However in view of the recent developments in gender understanding the second one is more appropriate. The second symbol denotes all the presently known variations of sexual or gender orientations initialled as MFLGBTQ.
Essentially every human is equal to each other irrespective of the gender assigned to each person by birth and genetics. That is the Universal Truth; yet down through the centuries the degree of acceptance and the following of this Truth varied with people in their cultural and religious milieu. Throughout the 20th century the concept of gender equality swept through most of the countries in the world. In the 21st century there is no work which women cannot do, no position they cannot occupy; even in the most strenuous physical endurance cases they proved to be equal to men folk; they are there in the most dangerous occupations like combat forces in the air, land and sea; they are there on the top of the highest mountains and deepest seas; they are there in the aeronautical engineering and space travel. Intelligence wise they are said to be one step ahead of men. Today gender related roles are giving way to human related roles. In life all sexes are complementary to each other; and yet even in the 21st century many people still do not consider women equal in status. The latest Sabarimala related religious incidents and the rampant crimes against women are glaringly shameless examples of gross gender inequality: Invisible Injustices.
Regarding human gender four terms such as sex, gender, gender roles and gender equality need more clarification. Gender equality is also known as sexual equality. Sex refers to the biological and physiological characteristics that refer to all known sexual variations exist in MFLGBTQ. Sex and its associated biological and mental distinctions and functions are programmed mostly by genetical variations. Gender refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviors, activities and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for each one in MFLGBTQ variations and hence they vary across cultures over time and locations.
Gender roles are the particular economic, social and household roles and responsibilities considered appropriate for each person among MFLGBTQ variations in a given social set up in which people live and function. Gender roles and characteristics do not exist in isolation, but are defined in relation to one another. For example motherhood and fatherhood are two distinct and yet highly complementary and crucial gender roles for those who are involved in child bearing and rearing responsibilities in the society. Gender equality or sexual equality means that the different behaviours, aspirations and needs of individuals belonging to any of the sex variations are considered, respected, valued and favoured equally. Their rights, responsibilities and opportunities will not depend on their sex variations. Gender equality is the state of equal access to resources and opportunities including economic participation and decision-making.
Human life is not as compartmentalized as defined by the above terms and definitions. Obviously there are many overlapping of roles and designations. Above all there are many types of economic-psycho-social power equations operative in every interaction as individuals or as a group or community or cultures or religions or socio-economic status or political clout among the MFLGBTQs.
1. Most obvious expression of power equation in any group of humans is the dominant and recessive roles naturally occurring between individuals in it. This is also related to the genetic male dominance and female recessiveness observed in every species of living beings. In animals and humans dominance of male species is observed universally. Even in an interaction between two individuals of the same sex the dominant and recessive roles will be seen interchangeably: one is dominant in one instance while in another instance the roles are reversed. In the spectrum of man-woman relationships the bandwidth of dominance has a greater propensity to males than to females. In various aspects of family life dominance is a universally accepted role for the males though there are matriarchal societies in which female mothers take the full control of the family affairs and assets and men play a recessive role in the family matters.
2. Dominance may be expressed through physical or mental strength, intellectual or practical abilities, economic and income generation strength. Though in mathematical and theoretical aspects women may fare equally or even better than men in mechanical and fabricational engagements they expect men to take care for them. In fact they enjoy men doing all such things for them. All women without exception desire the presence of their men folk in everything they do. Women prefer men to choose their dress, decide what type of make up to put on, what type of food to be cooked. Between a man and woman, almost all women will prefer a male make-upper than to a female make-upper. Women in all cultures and civilization prefer to remain an inspirer of men folk than accomplisher. She enjoys the success of her husband, brother, sons more than her own. From household to battlefield she is a faithful and supporting companion to men folk. Her role as an inspirer, insighter, exciter and activator is not recognized enough. Women play a passively dominant role in the family and social life. She conquers the hearts of men by her loving submissive ways. It is women who inspired all forms arts: paintings, poetry, music, drama, sculptures, music, cinema and all other forms of creative engagements. “Beauty brews brain” is perhaps the most succinct expression of the age old pattern of woman-man relationship.
3. Among the dominant male characters physical strength takes precedence to all others in every day practical life. Studies have revealed that 80% of the women prefer dominant and masculine features in men. They enjoy being protected and cared by men who will attend to their needs even without being requested. Women value care and protection more than male norms of equality. Masculine features indicating potential achievers of high status is an important factor females expect in mate selection. It is also generally associated with virility and capability of men to satisfy women sexually. Women feel secure and safe in the presence of such men as husbands, brothers and friends. Such female expectation is a challenge to the universal concept of gender equality. In this aspect women in general adjust themselves into roles requiring less physical strength. We hardly see women engaged in building and construction works, fishing, carpentry, masonry, logging and timbering in forestry, quarrying, deep mining, metal works, machine tooling etc., which required greater physical strength. However women do enter into such works where such works are done with computerized machines levelling to some extent the man-woman distinction in occupations.
4. Studies by anthropologists show overwhelming evidence of males controlling the females in most domains of social life. For example, in 75 percent of these societies, the bride must move from her own family to that of her husband's, while the opposite pattern prevails in only 10 percent of the marriages. This shift in residence immediately places the bride at a disadvantage; it is she who must adapt to life in a strange household often far from supportive parents and siblings.
5. An ancient seer was listening to the heated discussion of his disciples on the status of inequality of women in the society. Finally unable to reach a conclusion they turned to their master for his opinion. He put a question to them, “Who is a little more than God and who is a little less than God?”. The disciples spent days and months to find out the answer but could not. Finally the master himself gave out the answer, “The one who is a little more than a God is the MOTHER; the one who is a little less than a God is the WOMAN”. He further added, “Motherhood and womanhood is beyond all categories and definitions of human or gender equality”. The disciples remained dumbfound and the Master in a solemn way uttered to the surprise of all those present in the hall, “in fact men are not equal to women; there is only complementarity between them: not inequality.”
(The writer is a retired Professor, XIM, Bhubaneswar. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)(Published on 17th December 2018, Volume XXX, Issue 51)