“No.” My answer would always bring a frown to their face as if they were displeased with the fact that my mother had given birth to only two daughters. I wonder who they would marry their sons off to if every family had only sons for miles around. Maybe then the value of women would increase. A thought, if a displeasing one, that we, women, will only be valuable when there are fewer of us.
“You are studying engineering?!” They say in an incredulous tone ending with a high note, surprised that my family went to so much trouble, financially and emotionally, to get me in a mostly male-dominant field.
“A girl? I would have congratulated you if you had given birth to a boy but she is just a girl.” A statement by my uncle, who now has a daughter of his own.
“You know that the only reason you won that position is that you are a woman, right? They give you more opportunities and publicity because there are fewer women in the field, and they want to encourage them to participate more.” Words that leave me stunned; second-guessing all my accomplishments as if they were handed out to me and not earned by my hard work. Words made to diminish my value and worth to make all the hours I put into it go down the drain.
I am not a stranger to these questions nor to the bitter taste it leaves in my mouth to have to answer them with a smile of indifference, but I have grown accustomed to it. The truth is — I shouldn’t have to be accustomed to the way they blatantly disregard my value.
Times have changed, it’s a new decade, and we have earned some rights making some progress, but truthfully, we are moving at a snail’s pace.
Equality. A word with a total count of 8 letters marked by four syllables. A child who comes across this word for the first time would never realize how much weight is attached to this one word, would never think that there are so many emotions behind this word.
Equality rings so many bells when we hear it. It is not a new word by any means. We are not strangers to it, but to what it is supposed to represent. We have been hearing this word for a long time; the fight for equality goes as back as the mid-1900s. It has been cried out by our ancestors, and its echo can be felt in our households, in the workforce, in every part of the world. It is a part of history — part of our past and our present. We have been trying to make it a reality. Men and women alike.
It’s not a four-year course by any means. You can’t cram everything over a short period and expect results overnight. Like evolution, it’s a gradual process, and it should start at the roots. Snipping away at the dead leaves of a tree wracked with disease and expecting it to produce healthy fruits is preposterous. We need to start at the heart of the problem. Uproot diseased trees and plant new seeds. Seeds of new ideas and imaginations that will grant us a world where equity and equality both exists and the world is all the more a better place because of it.
Any word evokes an image when we come across it. When someone says phone, young children nowadays usually think of smartphones instead of payphones and old clunkers. Similarly, when someone says "girl" or "boy", an image appears in their mind of how they should be and how they should act. There is a prescribed notion already set in place for each gender and race, and it is hard to change that notion — to make someone willing to change their mind from what they already believe.
Stereotyping is a learned response. So, it is pliable to believe that it would be easier to teach children than to correct a learned response among adults. It’s hard to train an old pet any tricks but not impossible. It’s just more difficult and time-consuming. Children show signs of rudimentary knowledge of stereotype as young as 2 ½ to 3 years old. Research says that children are more likely to judge a person based on their sex than adults are.
So, what do we do to change this?
We start in our homes.
We need to establish a step in the right direction from the start. It doesn’t matter how strong a building is on the upper floors. If the base is weak, it will crumble. So we need to lay strong foundations from the very beginning so that we can build from there. Children need a strong female and male role model in their life. Having a female role model that stays at home, the caring, nurturing kind, and the male role model that goes out there working two to three jobs to provide for the family is an example we cannot afford to set for our future generations. The signals we are sending to the younger generation have to be carefully thought-out. One wrong word and everything comes spiraling down.
At a very young age, we need to be very clear that no occupation has men only or women only labeled. No job is related to gender and that labels don’t matter.
Wrongdoing knows no gender. We need to stop putting all the blames on our male counterparts for the inequality that women are facing. We abide by the examples we have been shown. Some people are not rude and cruel on purpose. It is just what they have seen, heard, and been led to believe as the truth. And so they regard it as hard cold facts instead of biased statements.
In the business world, women are getting lesser pay for the work of equal value as our male counterparts. And we, women, usually don’t ask for a raise because we don’t know what we should be receiving. If our male counterparts shared their salary information freely, it would make it easier for the women out there to demand their share.
Equality. According to the Oxford dictionary, two different meanings exist. Me being an engineering student, I lean towards the mathematical definition. “A symbolic expression of the fact that two quantities are equal; an equation.” Hmm. It’s not as complicated as everyone makes it sound. Everyone knows simple algebra, right? Now, let me write a simple equation.
8+1 = 6+3
8 ≠1 and 6 ≠3, but the value on each side is equal to nine. What we have all been saying is that equality does not necessarily mean duplicity but equal-value.