There are certain virtues which I like to find in people who I interact with. One of them – underrated and often neglected – is consistency. In other words, I appreciate people who can evaluate a topic objectively and not just emotionally, people who do what they say and aren’t hypocrites. For example, if someone is emotionally upset about the way animals are treated in pharmaceutical testing, this person is usually neither consistent in their opinion nor objective in their statement. After all, the comparable suffering of animals that are used for food or for clothes is usually accepted. In addition, most people who are against animal testing are still going to use certain drugs which – without exceptions – have been tested on animals. Thus, the argument is everything but consistent. One might even say that this is a case of hypocrisy: crying about suffering animals while eating a steak. It takes some effort to overcome such superficial evaluations since many people prefer talking over acting. They might seem passionate about a certain topic, but once it actually relates to them and what they are doing their opinion changes.
Take gender equality. Women in western societies have become so tangled up in the fight against certain labels that the focus on everyday problems may have been lost. Does it really help women that every German word has a feminine and masculine version, meaning every occupation, for example, has to be written twice so that men and women are individually spoken to? For example, in English the word “student” is neutral and can be used for males and females, but if English were like German there would have to be two forms: student (male) and studentess (female). Would it really help if quotas regarding the percentage of women in certain jobs were introduced – or would it possibly hurt them, belittling their achievements (“You just got the job because of the quota!”)? After all, women in countries where gender equality is irrelevant might wonder why we even focus on such insignificancies.
However, I know women who like to talk about female empowerment, their independence, and how they don’t let themselves be treated as if they owe anything to their partners – until they get a call from their boyfriends or husbands and have to leave because they have to make dinner for them. I could care less about such inconsistencies, but somehow it annoys me. In countries such as Germany or the United States where you do not have to fear serious repercussions for standing up against male oppression, gender equality should be lived in a way that it serves as a shining example for the rest of the world. Many female activists around the world risk their life fighting for equal rights. Wouldn’t they feel ashamed that we have such rights but choose not to make use of them?
It all boils down to this: In many cases – but of course not in all – women are treated poorly because they let themselves be treated that way. As long as assholes find girls who fall for them they have no reason to change. As long as wives who experience domestic violence don’t leave their husbands, the men can just continue to utilize them. As long as mothers agree that their daughters should be put second to their sons the fathers don’t have to change their old-fashioned traditional beliefs. As long as women take on their husbands name when getting married they will keep the belief up that their name is somewhat less important. As long as women agree that they should stay at home for the sake of their partners career the gap between both won’t close. As long as boyfriends get served food and don’t have to worry about chores, stereotypical ideas of who does what at home won’t change.
Recently I taught a class of intelligently gifted students for a day in the lab. Out of 18 only three were girls. I asked their teacher why this was the case and he assumed that it had to do with society since usually just as many girls as boys would qualify. He even mentioned a case where a family had both of their children tested to be in the class. While the daughter qualified for the class, the son did not. The father couldn’t accept the results and decided that the daughter couldn’t become part of the class since the son couldn’t. There is still a strong stigma regarding male and female roles in our societies. If a male professor marries a secretary, no one cares. If it is the other way around, it is a big deal. The same is true regarding age differences. Hugh Heffner is just a stud for having all of these young girls around, but who would accept an eighty year old woman with a bunch of thirty year olds? Men are still expected to make more money and to be superior to their wives regarding social status. Women, on the other hand, are expected to stay at home with the children or for other reasons. As stated earlier, with half of the population being female, it is partly their choice that this mindset still prevails. Women have every right and every chance today to pursue their own dreams and aspirations instead of being second to a man. It saddens me to see that so many choose not to make use of this liberty. Of course, some women might say that they prefer it this way, staying at home and raising the children while their husbands see the world and bring home the money. However, I feel that this very argument just shows how well men are still in control. After all, to me at least, it seems to be similar to the argument that, as Muslims, women actually want to cover themselves in order to not seduce helpless men. You are put in a cage, but you are indoctrinated so well that you say it is your own choice.
So, not being a woman myself, I am not going to suggest what they should or should not do. I can only talk about how I treat women I know including my girlfriend and how I would like my daughter to behave (if I had one): confident and independent of what outdated stereotypes expect from her. No woman should be second to a man; neither would I argue for the opposite. What I would argue for is that we stop focusing on irrelevant labels and fight gender inequality at its roots to serve as examples for the rest of the world.