5 reasons why we’re closer to equality for women today

Doodle by Google for International Women's Day, 2015.

See? We rock, ladies.

First off: a very Happy Women’s Day to all my fellow women. Sure, we may have disagreements. We fight. We scratch. We bite. But, in all honesty, we couldn’t do without each other. Love you all! 😄

The debate on women’s safety has never been so strident as it is now, especially in India, where the banning of the documentary India’s Daughter by Leslee Udwin based on the life of Jyoti Singh, the victim of the 2012 Delhi gang-rape, still rankles. While it is true that it is an issue–that the government should up the ante on women’s safety–what seems almost blasphemous is also true: that the world has never been safer for women than it is now.

Yes, it’s true. While misogynists still exist today, more people are actually in favour of women’s rights than, say, a century back. And this is a vital step towards equality of men and women (notice equality, not more rights.) Why on earth would any sane person think so? Here’s why:

1. Women are actually allowed to raise their voice.

See, just a hundred years ago, women were expected to be the backbone of society, to be the caring mother and wife, to have no existence apart from that in their homes. These words by Stanley Bowdle, Representative of Ohio in the U.S. Senate, pretty much sum it up:

“Women; have they a mission? Yes; it is to rule in the world of love and affection—in the home. It is not to rule in the State. They have a function to perform which precludes the latter sort of rule. Man is king of this universe; woman is queen. The queen rules when the king is dead, or becomes a mollycoddle, and the American man is not that yet.” [Applause]

These words were spoken on 12 January 1915, when Congress voted against women’s suffrage–for the last time. (Mashable has a pretty good article about this.) Fast-forward to 2015, where nearly every country in the world has universal adult suffrage–and those who don’t are fast moving with the times (the 2015 elections will be the first time women can vote in Saudi Arabia, for instance). It’s not just the vote, though; in every other way women are just as empowered as their male counterparts when they see something that has to be changed.

2. Men recognise that women are individuals as well.

You wouldn’t believe all that men said about women in the old days. Sure, we can handle insults well–it’s part of our nature. But calling us subordinate to men–well, that just makes us plain MAD. The words of “wise” men speak for themselves:
Woman was merely man’s helpmate, a function which pertains to her alone. She is not the image of God but as far as man is concerned, he is by himself the image of God. –Saint Augustine, Bishop of Hippo Regius (354-430)
Okay, three guesses to find out who gave us this pearl of wisdom:
 The word and works of God is quite clear, that women were made either to be wives or prostitutes.
Ahem! Stumped? Look no further than the Early Christian reformer Martin Luther (not to be confused with Martin Luther King, Jr., bless his soul). That enlightened being really had a high opinion of women, didn’t he?
Fortunately, hopeless misogynists like them are far fewer and further between than people like these:
 We have talked long enough in this country about equal rights. It is time now to write the next chapter – and to write it in the books of law.Lyndon B. Johnson
And finally:

 Woman is the companion of man, gifted with equal mental capacity. —M. K. Gandhi

‘Nuff said.

3. Women make full use of their opportunities.

Although this one is kinda obvious at first glance, it is astonishingly true that in spite of their lessened role in society, many women in the past did not even question their being dominated over by men. They accepted unquestioningly the role assigned to them of keeping the family together. While this was, and still is, a highly important role, it was given less importance than that of the male–that is, of earning bread for the family. In the words of Grace Kelly,

Women’s natural role is to be a pillar of the family.
These words sound almost naïve in 2015, when women cook, clean, work, keep the family together, and still have a successful career and work life.

4.With the ongoing controversy on women’s safety, women are actually safer than ever before.

While this may sound counterintuitive, it’s actually logical. It’s the awareness of the common man that women have the same rights as men that actually aids their safety. The average educated man is made aware of the fact that women also need their rights, that they too are individuals, and so they are put on the track which, in the end, leads to the safety of women (or so we hope).

5. The young generation is growing up in a world where men and women are finally given equal importance.

This may be the most important factor of all that leads to a world where men and women are completely equal. The way children think is influenced by the environment they grow up in, remember, and in a world where gender isn’t written in black and white and there are no assigned gender-specific roles in a family, it is likely to be the tipping point in favour of equality of women for once and for all.
However, I don’t deny we still have a long way to go before the ideal of equality for all is finally realised. Women’s safety is still an important issue, one of national importance, and the government has taken various steps to enforce it. Unfortunately, what the government thinks makes women safer may not always hold water. It’s not always true that the government’s policies are in line with what actually makes women safer. For instance, there have been a whole bunch of apps that have been released in India with women’s safety in mind. However, is it just an app that ensures the safety of women? Isn’t it the fact that people actually care what happens to our sisters, our mothers, our female friends? I don’t mean to criticise the government, but unless steps are taken to actually educate people and prevent violence against women at the grassroots level, all other preventives will be in vain. And–most importantly–that belief deep within you that in spite of everything, women are still inferior to men? Shatter it. Break it. Then shall we finally begin to make true progress.
So, fellow women, here’s to another year of being the most intelligent, beautiful, and sensible people you know. Cheers! 🍻
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