Today’s personal account of trying to engender equality comes from Nava.
The other day I watched an interview of a famous female pop star talking about the release of her latest album. She mentioned how proud she was of the newest installment of the artistic expression of [INSERT NAME] and described her music as “empowering”. Three tracks into the album, the only distinguishing feature between one song and the next was the timing of heavy-drum-beat-set-to-slightly- dissimilar-but-always-salacious lyrics being crooned out by the electronically altered, over-the-top girlish yet obnoxiously-sexualized voice of the 30-year-old star.
“Look who’s binging on the girls-are-sex-objects Kool Aid—once again,” I thought. But then I felt a twinge of guilt at my judgmental, thinly veiled, holier-than-thou attitude towards this woman (because 30 is no longer a girl, let’s be honest). I mean, is it possible, I asked myself, that she actually thinks her music is empowering?
I guess if you grow up in a social matrix that tells you to be equal to a man is to be a man, and that to be a [cool, manly] man is to be sexually active with as many partners as find you appealing, to be callous with your heart, to use people for your personal gain, then sure, her music was super empowering!
This made me think about the importance of premises. The fact that most people, I earnestly believe, are good. In their hearts, most people want to do what is right and what is honorable and what will lead to happiness. But our ideas of what is right, and what is conducive to joy are so distorted that you end up in this mess of a world where women think their worth can mostly be measured in the inches of their waist, and their value lies in the way they can successfully fulfill a man’s lewdest daydreams, and their esteem is firmly ensconced in the fold of their brassiere.
The modern twist, of course, the thing that makes being the object of a man’s desire empowerment, is that at the end of the night you can walk away and choose your next bed buddy. Just like a man, you don’t have to get emotionally attached. The tables are turned. Now women can prey on men. Use them and leave them.
How enlightened, right?
This attitude is based on faulty conceptions of what it means to be good, what it means to be empowered, and ultimately, what it means to be human.
So when my good friend May asked me what I do in my daily life to promote gender equality I realized that one of the only ways I know how to counteract the forces in society that tell us women are this and men are that is through an educational process that helps us to understand our true identity as human beings.
Men and women are different? Maybe. Men and women are the same? Perhaps. I’m not overly concerned with which one is right because I think these are the wrong questions.
What does it mean to be human? What is the purpose of our life on this planet? How do we make the most of the handful of days we’ve been given on this earthly plane to make something of ourselves and of our society?
In answering these questions, issues of femininity and masculinity, superiority and inferiority, are somewhat resolved. At least to my mind, this is the case.
I don’t mean to oversimplify and I apologize if I have done so. I realize that women everywhere are subject to oppression of various forms: be it the traditional deprivation of basic rights like the freedom to receive an education, to vote, to show your face in public, to have a voice; or to the more subtle forms of oppression like the ones described above that basically tell you your worth is intimately tied with your physical appearance and ability to make a man “want you”.
But I also think that the oppression of women is the oppression of men. Men who are raised by mothers who had no access to education; who are forced to play mind games with girls that have been conditioned to think it is only through mischief and manipulation that they can nab a partner; who deprive themselves of the opportunity to acquire the virtues of justice and honor because they’re too busy being sleazy with women; and, ultimately, to have the bar for excellence set at such a pathetically low level that the days of their lives are mostly misspent.
I have been raised to believe that true loss consists in ignorance of our own selves, and that wasting the precious and limited time we have in the pursuit of idle fancies is perhaps one of the greatest tragedies we can impose upon ourselves.
So when I think of promoting the equality of women and men, my mind immediately turns back to these questions of, who are we and why are we here? More importantly, what do we do while we’re here?
I hope to be able to dedicate my life to the development and promotion of curriculum that emphasizes the latent nobility of each human being; the idea that we all have a twofold moral purpose in life—to transform ourselves individually by acquiring virtues whilst simultaneously contributing to the betterment of society and our fellow human beings; by shedding the forces of lethargy that urge us to remain quiet and complacent, instead of nurturing our natural thirst for knowledge and desire to be agents of change; and to develop the perception that would allow us to recognize the positive and negative forces in society so that we can align ourselves with the former and battle the latter.
I’ve had the chance to participate in seminars based around educational content that helps young people question the purpose of their lives and answer important questions about who they are and what they do. During these seminars, I’ve been able to witness the way these young men and women interact, never overstepping the bounds of respect and modesty, yet infinitely tender and loving in their regard of and approach towards one another.
They have offered me a glimpse of what this world can be like when we really learn how to behave in ways that are befitting of our noble stations as human beings.
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