Today’s personal account of trying to engender equality comes from Geoffrey.
When my mom was little, she invented a game that she would play with her fellow classmates during recess. Skipping around the playground, they would all assume different positions as they played out a vibrant and elaborate character plot – the adventures of a female astronaut. Later, when the women’s liberation movement swept the country, my mom looked on and said, “Well, none of this is new to me!” She’s come from a long line of strong women, but strong in very different ways — there was the resilience of her grandmother, and then inspiring sense of individuality of her mother. My mother brought with her an unflagging, intrinsic belief in gender equality. As a young girl, she appreciated the roles that people play within families, but also understood the foundational respect and power latent within each. My father describes his upcoming as more stereotypical; men did man things, and women knew what they were allowed to do as well. It wasn’t until his mid-twenties that this perspective began to shift — he was knocked sideways by both the illuminating principles of the Baha’i Faith and the undaunted spirit of my mother. Coincidentally, both were introduced to him almost at the same time.
For me, gender equality and a discussion of the critical role of the family unit are inextricably linked. Regardless if it manifests itself in various ways throughout society, in the family this sense of equality it is truly tested. For me, growing up in a family where women outnumber men, I was offered the opportunity to tacitly absorb quite a lot as I watched each sister take charge of her identity, thrusting themselves out into the world. My mother did her best to pass on, in one form or another, those qualities that most define her character — thinking independently, creativity, purposefulness and a strong attitude towards gender equality. We are a large family — a conscious creation of my parents — and with so many children needing to be fed, to be provided for, to be watched over, my mother from an early age assumed the most exquisite of all roles: motherhood. We were fortunate that my father was also a dedicated, loving presence to contribute to our growth and development. However, as we’ve grown, one issue in particular has come to the forefront of our mindsthat of the evolving nature of our family.
Now that none of their children are, well, children, how do we begin to define ourselves? How do we establish new modes of cooperation and communication? How do we continue to expand our family network in ways that are inclusive? And most interestingly, now that the parents are no longer the physical and emotional fulcrums of our lives, how do the children arise to take dedicated ownership of the continued maturation of the family unit. With time and age, we become more aware of our own selves, but we are also able to see our parents for the individuals that they are, with their own spiritual tests and triumphs. The idea of “aspiration’ has arisen at various times in this blog–offering us a chance not to accept a reality that we’ve simply grown accustom to. Of late, our conversations have laid bare each of us; we have come to appreciate frank and open consultation in a new light. Our aspiration for maintaining a strong family identity, regardless of distance and time, has allowed us to express ourselves often in the most vulnerable of ways. Ultimately, sincere expressions of love and care contribute to relationships and give them a sense of movement. We forget that often with our family. It’s easy to neglect and not appreciate the power of sacrifice that my mother has given to ensure that her children are conscious of a sense of purpose. It’s easy to shirk my father’s passing presence, denying him the only thing he’s ever wanted — to know that his children love him. A stereotypical man built on a foundation of dominance has no time for care such as this.
On a more personal level, my sisters have always loved and supported me; literally singing my praises at every chance they get. For the longest time, I simply soaked this in; I didn’t question it, or ask from where they accessed this reservoir of encouragement and compassion. It wasn’t until I was a young adult that I realized that I was not reciprocating. “Típica” I thought one day to myself — I often think in Spanish. But I realized that I had not been practicing this same level of support for the female members of my family. This is inexcusable, especially for male siblings. My sisters have never needed “protection”, the usual role relegated to brothers, but they do deserve something else entirely.
Certainly, power is capacity; and as a family grows older, the test is to see to what extent each member can, despite social constructs of gender roles, accompany each other — this implies an application of qualities that are of the spirit.
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