The Sum Of Its Parts
I have to admit that this month's theme took me a little bit aback. Not because gender is a bad thing to write about, but because in many ways I feel that I approach any writing about gender from an inherent disadvantage. I am a male.
Let me start by quoting a definition of gender from the World Health Organization:
“Gender refers to the socially constructed characteristics of women and men – such as norms, roles, and relationships of and between groups of women and men. It varies from society to society and can be changed. While most people are born either male or female, they are taught appropriate norms and behaviors – including how they should interact with others of the same or opposite sex within households, communities and workplaces.”
As a TCK, I have had the opportunity to personally examine gender issues all over the world. Having lived abroad and having visited or worked in so many countries, it is overwhelmingly apparent to me that, worldwide, there is a gender bias, generally pro-male and generally negative towards females. Females are discriminated against in terms of work, responsibility, economic status, legal status, etc. We have all heard about it, haven’t we? The glass ceiling, violence against women, FGM (makes me cringe just to write that), females forbidden to drive in Saudi Arabia, ad infinitum. I’ve had first-hand experience of dealing with these issues when I worked in the Middle East. It beggars belief.
I wonder about my ability to write anything about gender in a positive fashion, especially considering that my lifelong experience as a man has left me with a fairly negative view of my own gender. In fact, for many years now, I have judged men by how they treat women. Well, to be fully clear, how they treat anyone. It is quick and easy to assess their treatment of women by how they speak about them in their absence. When I see that women are referred to as ‘less’ in any sense that is the moment I am finished. Well, I’m finished after making a few cutting comments about their point of view, if I deem it worth the effort to expostulate about it to them. Some people just aren’t worth the oxygen necessary for an explanation.
The one thing that I can say that is positive, is at that I have learned just how bad gender bias is and I’m perfectly willing to discuss it at the drop of a hat. I think that many people don’t even realize the issue exists. I certainly think it is the responsibility of every male that may read this, as well as all males everywhere, to do their absolute best to fight against this pervasive bias. Here is my judgment creeping in: I’m presuming that males are the guilty parties. You’ve caught me. I don’t have balanced views either.
Men, women and transgender people form together an entity that is much greater than the sum of its parts. It is true that everybody does have a tendency to have some biases. But the human race could not exist without all parts of this equation. Regardless of when or where gender bias has crept into society, it is still utterly reprehensible.
If anything, there are many countries where I have been guilty of reverse gender bias. I would by far rather employ women than men. There are countries (that shall remain nameless to protect the guilty) where the men are arrogant and lazy, and almost any female you care to hire is going to be the exact opposite. Not a hard decision there. Oh, and yes. I paid the same wages, regardless of gender.
There is an excerpt here from a UNDP/WHO study that says it all:
“Studies in 46 developing countries showed that a one per cent rise in women’s literacy had three times the positive effect of a one percent rise in the number of doctors available. Research on economic growth and education shows that failing to invest in education can lower the gross national product (GNP). All other things being equal, countries in which the ratio of female-to-male enrollment in primary or secondary education is less than .75 can expect levels of GNP that are roughly 25 percent lower than countries in which there is less gender disparity in education.”
If that isn’t a resounding cry that countries should be doing everything in their power to reduce gender inequality, then I don’t know what is.