From the written laws of the land to their social consequences, much of the power and privilege across the globe is geared towards males. It has been this way since the beginning of civilization itself, existing in nearly every culture. Though it’s often said that things have changed in that the rights men and women enjoy in this, the 21st century, are no longer unequal, if we were to ask ourselves whether equal rights exist now, what would be the response? The answer to that question is a resounding NO.
The world’s social structure is overwhelmingly patriarchal; in most countries women are regarded as ‘lesser’ than men. While it is easy to assume that this is simply because of social standards — or what people think those social roles imply — it should be noted that these social standards have translated themselves into the laws of the land and, therefore, codified ruless that may or may not be fair or beneficial to women.
For example, the ‘little things’ such as the expectation that women take their husband’s last name is something so ingrained in culture that it is rarely questioned. Or it is displayed in issues such as how, in the U.S., women are not paid equally for doing the same jobs as men. Other examples include female genocide in China as a result of the one child law, or arranged marriages in India where men can choose their wives based on their beauty and those wives are expected to live a life limited solely to raising a family.
All of this began with agricultural societies. When people were migrants and had equal, but different, responsibilities there were no unequal gender roles. Men’s expected ‘natural’ role was to function as hunters while women were the natural gatherers. The difference between their behavior and the one present in the globe today is how despite their biological differences, neither sex held dominance over the other.
However when settlements became permanent and cities began growing, women were expected to stay at home and care for the babies. Men became the leaders of politics, city life, and homes. And it has continued to be this way, throughout history — albeit more subtle in this modern day. Female leaders of countries are scarce. When couples have children, it’s automatically assumed the mother will stay home even if both parents work. Boys are not typically told that they can’t achieve something (like a job) because of their gender.
One does not have to be a victim to sympathize with a cause. Men and women must unite to recognize the fact that equality does not exist throughout the globe if we want to ensure that a different course is taken in the future. This article is the first installment of a journey around the world in which we will question injustices within social standards and legal rights. By acknowledging that inequalities exist — rather than scoffing at the suggestion or asserting that anyone who cares about this is a radical — we hope to remove the negative connotation behind the word feminism, which simply represents a mission for equality. Women have been considered the weaker gender for far too long, and discrimination is never something to take lightly. In some places, women have property rights and voting rights — but it’s long past time to break down the barriers that prevent women from achieving all they can, without gender-biased restrictions.