Our daily pursuit of happiness in the face of an increasingly violent world is hard enough for anyone. However the struggle for survival is harder for women because let’s face it, this is a man’s world. Workplace discrimination, lower pay, lower literacy rates (in most of the world at least), high maternal mortality rates, violence against women…….the list of gender inequity goes on and on. Women do not want to be just like men, we just want to have the same rights for self determination and access to opportunities afforded to men.
Female empowerment is certainly not a novel concept. From ancient times women have been struggling to gain equal opportunities that are available to men. In response to this need, scriptures have been revealed, laws passed, organizations formed, etc. Yet, I feel like once we get over one hurdle, another quake comes along that creates a bigger ditch in the female empowerment movement. Are we really better off than our grandmothers or is our modern freedom simply a superficial band-aid for age old wounds?
To be honest, I don’t think that men are the sole antagonists in the female empowerment movement and it is unfair to demonize them every time something bad happens to a woman. No, men are not dogs. In fact, most men I know are responsible, hardworking providers for their families, generous community members, and excellent spouses. I know that many men are actually champions for women’s rights. Yes, some men are guilty of oppressing women for the sake of feeding their egotistical selves but so are some women. From the world stage to everyday households, there are numerous reports of women supporting female violence: the role of women in the mass rape of women in the Rwandan genocide, news pieces of mothers killing their daughters to protect the family honor, mothers-in-law so awful to their sons’ wives that they inspire blockbuster Bollywood movies. So what is it that turns otherwise pleasant men and women into unrecognizable monsters of female oppression? What feeds the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde syndrome that runs so rampant in humanity? One word-power.
Nearly all men (women) can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s (woman’s) character, give him power…Abraham Lincoln.
When it comes to the struggle of ego-centrism vs. socio-centrism (service of others), Mr.Lincoln couldn’t have said it better. History has proven time and time again that power in the wrong hands is dangerous. Without oversight and accountability, power only serves to feed egotistical self interests. Remember the Zimbardo prison experiment at Stanford? Yes, the one that involved assigning test subjects to guard and prisoner roles (more details on this experiment in links below). Before too long, the ‘guards’ developed an inhumane sense of power and started to abuse the ‘prisoners’. In what he would later call the “The Lucifer effect” (symbolizing the fallen angel who crossed the ‘good’ to ‘evil’ line), Zimbardo successfully demonstrated that:
- Evil is largely circumstantial. Power without accountability can turn men (and women) into monsters.
- While other people do not actively engage in evil-doing, their inaction also makes them guilty of perpetuating evil.
- Every evil event comes with the opportunity for heroism. Heroes are social deviants; people who speak out and fight against evil are going against the social norm and often sacrifice their own comfort and security for the sake of the greater good. Heroes are not necessarily the historical greats; they are you and me.
Women need more heroes. We need the everyday supermen and superwomen to advocate for better lives for women.
This is a man’s world BUT it would be nothing without women. When you become a hero for women, you are in fact becoming a hero for your sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, and husbands as well. When you educate a woman, you are educating a village. When you nourish a woman, you are nourishing the future generation. When you protect a woman, you are protecting the community.
Women are half the sky.
The Zimbardo experiment: