Yesterday was Women’s Day here in South Africa. It is a national holiday. The whole weekend, in fact the whole month, has been dedicated to women and their uniqueness as a gender. Throughout history, there have been times where women have been treated as inferior to men in certain ways, and modern women do all they can to correct this balance. I have it easier than previous generations. I take it for granted that I can vote and that I can drive. I do not deny that somewhere, someone had to fight very hard for me to do this and I salute those people.
BUT and herein lies the rub – I get the feeling sometimes that women simply EXPECT to be treated with respect because of the mere fact that they are women.
Yesterday, on Women’s Day, I had a massive fall-out fight with a friend. Someone who has called herself and has been my “best friend” for the past 14 years. Now, the thing which triggered this argument (which is a topic for a different post entirely) was messed up. I accept that. But I apologised and thought we could move on since we are “best friends”. Her reaction has left me reeling. Dazed. Confused. And somewhat perplexed.
Somewhere along the line she made really hurtful remarks about my boyfriend who is currently not gainfully employed. This very same friend had no qualms about not working and following her own passion, while expecting her husband to carry them financially. She also worked part-time because she wanted to spend more time with their child. This in and of itself is not an issue. Lots of women do it.
But why, when the roles are reversed, does it suddenly create a huge social judgement? I had a colleague many years ago who was the sole breadwinner in their household. She had no qualms talking about her house-husband, but even I, much younger than her, and brought up in modern times, felt myself uncomfortable with the idea. Its just not how it’s “supposed to be”?
Why in these modern times, when we claim to want equality, do we still expect to be treated differently just because we are women? You so often hear parents telling their boy-children: ” We don’t hit girls”. While I totally agree with this sentiment, I feel somewhat disturbed by it. Shouldn’t we be teaching them not to hit others full stop? Regardless of gender.
There are still women who expect doors to be opened and to be let into rooms first. Then there are also the extreme feminists who are violently opposed and offended by that sort of behaviour, which to me is equally harmful. While I get very angry when I get told that when men and women who occupy the same role get paid differently, I get equally incensed when women simply expect to be treated differently by basis of their gender.
I had the arduous task of looking after some children one day and at some point I had to reprimand one of the girls for slapping a boy. I took her to one side and told her that if she started slapping people, she really shouldn’t be surprised to get a slap back, because it just didn’t sit well with me.
Brings me back to said friend. On account of being “best” friends and all, I spent a fair amount of time around her and her husband. At any given time when I got to their house, he would be busy cleaning the house. She would be arguing with him non-stop about everything he hadn’t done, tell him to hang out the washing, shout at him for doing the ironing wrong and then still tell him to make us drinks. Then turn around and tell me how useless he was…(My ex-husband always used to say that if I ever treated him like that he would walk out. He walked out anyway, hahaha, but that was on account of something entirely different). Her husband sticks around, but in the way an abused woman stays with a wife-beater…which brings me back to the point of equality.
We (I use the term “we” loosely to describe women) want equality, but it’s a bit like comparing apples and fridge magnets. Women and men are simply not the same and what we should be preaching is not equality, but respect. Respect for everyone. Equally.
Women and men are different. We will never be the same and we shouldn’t ever try to be. There are those who would claim we are from entirely different planets. We should celebrate those differences, but if we want to be treated as “special”, we need to act it too by showing respect to earn more respect. You cannot simply expect to be treated special because you are a woman. That is almost like admitting we are the so-called “weaker” sex…