QUESTION, CHALLENGE, VOICE
In many places around the world, women must cover themselves when entering temples or holy places. In fact, there are still many sacred sites, which are only reserved for those born with the XY chromosome - that is men. To have been born as a female with an XX chromosome was seen as a misfortune that somehow resulted in a lifelong punishment… as if choosing your chromosomal make-up is a choice? People say this is tradition, this is religion, this is culture - and that we should follow the rules and not question them. But I beg to differ. I think we should question everything and make up our own minds as to whether or not these rules or traditions are even still applicable to our 21st Century Scientific World. Respecting a religion, culture or tradition and questioning it - are two very different things. Of course I respect that people have different views and norms, but this doesn’t mean I agree with it and certainly doesn’t mean that I’m not entitled to question it.
Take for example the rule where women must be covered in certain countries or holy sites. To cover yourself is to respect the culture and some even go as far to say that it’s respecting your own female body. But how is covering up your body, respecting your body? How is this rule, set by men, respecting women’s bodies by demanding they are covered up? Every single body is unique, no matter male or females - and should be respected and embraced. By subjecting one gender to this rule and not the other, is an inequality I feel the need to address.
Now if both genders argue, that it’s for the woman’s safety that she not entice the eye of an unwanted man’s attention for fear of rape or sexual assault, then why not collectively educate the men to overcome their primal instincts and respect a woman and her body - while collectively supporting and educating women on how to engage in self defence and protect herself should the need arise. Being a women should not and does not have to mean being delicate, vulnerable and constantly the ‘damsel in distress’. We choose, through the way we collectively think, how a woman should be portrayed. She can be fierce but fair, strong but gentle. Bravery, courage and strength need not only be reserved for the men.
This is not an accusation against men but I feel there was and still is a lack of respect for women, an under appreciation and underestimation of just how much we are capable of - not just from men but actually from females themselves. Mothers tell their daughters to become ladies, but what exactly does being a ‘lady’ entail? Does it mean that if you are single past a certain age, then there is something very wrong with you? Does it mean you should dream of getting married, being a good housewife and raising your family and husband? I’ve heard mothers comment that their daughters are ‘too confident’ and ‘too independent’ and that she’ll never find a man with that bold character of hers. There still exists this stigma, that a woman needs a man to take care of her. But why can’t we associate a lady as being a clever, courageous and independent - as well as caring, compassionate and a good partner?
I realise that in the past, this was not possible given the conditions and standards of living. But now? In the 21st Century with the technology, data and globalisation - there really is no excuse to not challenge this old traditional mentality of female oppression. Change is already present in the younger generation, but not yet apparent enough in the older generations nor in third world countries. I constantly have my independence questioned as if it were a curse bestowed upon me - when in fact, to me - it is the gateway to equality and freedom of patriarchy.
So I think we should be careful that we not simply follow rules ‘blindly’ and ‘thoughtlessly’ when it comes to culture, religion, tradition, or even certain laws. I think it’s important that we actually understand the reason why we are following through with it and that after having questioned the set of rules, we still believe it to be applicable for us. I also think it’s important to open up dialogue about these ‘sensitive’ topics because only through open conversations can we challenge the norm and realise how many share the same opinions, and only through a collective mindset does change finally occur. It’s ok, to not agree with everything and everybody. But I think if you have a voice and an opinion about a matter that’s important to you, then I challenge you to use your voice.