This article is dedicated to all women regardless of your nationality, educational, racial, socio-economic or cultural backgrounds. It is meant to salute you as an equal in every sense with men. It is written to remind you and also all men, that equality with men is your principal right as a woman. When a man respects a woman’s equality with him, he is actually respecting his own status as a man. The equality of women to men is the platform on which all other rights of a woman are based.
Equality with Man: The Principal Right of Woman is enshrined in the convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women (http://www1.umn.edu/humanrts/ instree/women/engl-wmn.html#cedaw). The topic of this article rests on a solid rock foundation of human rights (women rights) that was crafted, ratified and given accession after much debate and agreement. Abhinav Aima in Realizing Women’s Rights – Pragmatic Steps towards Immediate Goals (http://oak.cats.ohiou.edu/~aa342389/chi602ppr1.html), succinctly points out the need to educate men on the rights women. But why educate men on the rights of women?
The answer to foregoing question is “Androcentrism”. How can we describe androcentrism in layman’s understanding? Androcentrism is the belief that the male (man) is the norm and that the woman is to be appraised by this norm. Another way to put it is that man is the centre of the universe (religiously, politically, economically, scientifically, socially, culturally, medically, legally, academically, technologically, and linguistically). Among all the fields that have been listed, the fields of Religion and Politics in themselves have sufficient power to enforce male norms and dominance over women in all other fields. Therefore we only briefly look at androcentrism in religion and politics. Let’s look at androcentrism in religion.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, in the Woman’s Bible said: “The Bible and the Church have been the greatest stumbling blocks in the way of woman’s emancipation”. The Skeptic’s Annotated Bible (http://www.skepticsannotatedbible.com/women/long.html) gives numerous examples on androcentrism and the discrimination of women. To begin with God is described in male pronouns. Checkout this interesting site on: “Is God Male by Rich Deem”, (http://www.godandscience.org/doctrine/male.html). The use of male pronouns is found generally among most religions. Besides religion, politics is another field where androcentrism is active. The dominance of women by men begins with religion in which even God is perceived as a male. The questions are why was God not perceived as a female? Why God can’t be perceived as a female? Androcentrism is also seen in politics.
Mick Leach in his The Politics of Masculinity: An overview of contemporary theory (http://www.xyonline.net/politicsofmasculinity.shtml) gives an excellent description of masculinity as a structural fact of male dominance over women. R. W. Connell in his “Masculinities and Masculinity Politics in World Society (http://irw.rutgers.edu/lectures/connelllecture.pdf) gives a more thorough analysis of the androcentrism in politics. But what clearly stands out in Connell’s article is that confirmation of the existence androcentrism while acknowledging the potential changes it might undergo due to global dynamics. Though there are exceptions now, generally in a male dominated politics, all subsequent legislations and policies naturally favors the male (men). Thus it is clear androcentrism dominates religion and politics which in turn gives blanket dominance over all other fields in human endeavor. And women are thus directly and indirectly dominated by men. All appraisals of women are thus subjected to male norms. So the education of men (males) about women’s rights is crucial as it is primarily the men that hold the power over the women. And educating the men (males) on the principal right of equality of women with men should begin in the area of gender stereotyping of women.
Gender Stereotyping of a Woman
Gender stereotyping of a woman are commonly shared beliefs in a society about a woman’s personality traits, abilities, and expected social behavior (gender roles). And in many instances these stereotypes are based again on “androcentrism”. Androcentrism can be found in many different work situations. Here is an example of it in the workplace. See how men and women are labeled for their behavior according to androcentrism.
Men’s Behavior Women’s Behavior
“He’s good on details. She’s picky.
He follows through. She doesn’t know when to quit.
He’s assertive. She’s pushy.
He stands firm. She’s rigid.
He’s a man of the world. She’s been around.
He’s not afraid to say what he thinks. She’s outspoken.
He’s Close-mouthed. She’s secretive.
He exercises authority. She’s power mad.
He climbed the ladder of success. She slept her way to the top
He’s a stern taskmaster. She’s difficult to work for.
(Weiten & Lloyd, 2006, p. 305)
As for Gender stereotyping of women, it begins in childhood with the giving of gender (female) – appropriate toys like Barbie dolls and cookery sets (Basow, 1992). During 1820 to 1860 there was a cult of true womanhood that stated that women should be appraised by the virtues of piety, purity, submissiveness and domesticity (Welter, 1978, p. 313). If you look at the list, submissiveness and domesticity is a direct promotion of values that needs submission to male norms. It was not just in the past but even now in the twenty-first century we can find domineering rules for woman like: 1) Women’s voice in terms of her volume and tone must be lower in the presence of men, 2) Certain venues that are legitimate for men are prohibited to women, 3) Certain roles and positions are banned to women. 4) Certain educational fields are off-limits to women. 5) A woman must walk behind a man. 6) A woman shall not question a man. 7) A woman must sit in a certain way in the presence of a man. It is due to this gender stereotyping of women has led to limited advancement in many fields which is now known as the glass ceiling situation.
Many rules that are meant to dominate women come in the form of legal, religious and cultural demands. There are four common sense questions which can be applied to assess any unreasonable demands that discriminate women. 1) Is it applicable only to women? 2) Is the legislator(s) of the rule willing to subject himself/herself to the same rule? 3) Does it create double standards for men and women? 4) Is there natural justice for women in the content, application and outcome of the demands or rules? The answers to the above questions will expose how reasonable or unreasonable the rules and demands are to you as a woman. Any rules or demands that fail to stand to these common sense questions create doubts about their credibility and their suitability for the wellbeing and welfare of you as a woman.
Rules and norms exist for the benefit of men and women. Men and women don’t exist for the benefit of rules and norms. When as a woman you find yourself in a servitude status to a rule, norm or demand of a particular society, entity or individual – it is called oppression. And it is up to you as a woman who is equal with man to decide whether you would continue to submit or seek redress even under duress. You must understand that there are still persons (men and women) in our society and in the world who believe and cherish equality and natural justice. And therefore as a woman you are not alone. While gender stereotyping of women is a cognitive element, sexism is the behavioral aspect of androcentrism as applied to women.
Sexism against Women
Sexism against women is the belief that a woman (by the gender of being a female) is inferior to men. The belief of inferiority of women to men is shown in the term “misogyny”, which describes the contempt that men display for women. As quoted above check out the interesting site called the Skeptic’s Annotated Bible: http://www.skepticsannotatedbible.com/ women/ long.html. If you are a woman who considers yourself to be equal to man, will you accept the contempt that is highlighted in the Skeptic’s Annotated Bible? What about the entertainment industry?
Contempt for women is shown in the Hip-Hop culture. Ayanna in the article, the exploitation of women in the Hip-Hop culture (http://www.mysistahs.org/features/hiphop.htm), describes in vivid details the kind of contempt shown to women. What if we reverse the contempt that is shown for women in Hip-Hop by including in every hip-hop video in which there are many dancing men (surrounding one or two women) wearing not much more than a g-string, with the cameras focusing on their genitals. I wonder how many rappers like to be portrayed in that manner.
These are but two examples out of the numerous type of contempt that is shown to women. Equality with Man: The Principal Right of Woman as enshrined in the convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women has certain provisions for women that needs pointing out. The more pertinent ones are:
- Man is not the norm by which a woman is appraised. Both man and women are equals.
- A woman has the equal right of access to every human field of endeavor (legal, economic, social, cultural, religious, medical or academic) and to every resources without having to request or prove her right to have access to these fields or resources.
- A woman has the right to seek redress and can demand justice for any wrong that is done to her by men.
- A woman can expect and demand for equality in existing laws, regulations, customs and practices, which is their right by the convention of human and women’s right.
Equality is your principal right. According to McClelland (May 20 1917 – March 1998), men seek power to have control and be in charge either for personal or social reasons. If in the process you as a woman is discriminated, used, or abused, it is your principal right to seek redress and take charge of the same power to look after your interest. Equality is a woman’s principal right. It is your right.