Trap of Double Standard in Fight for Gender Equality




Despite what many may assume, gender equality is not solely about creating advantages for women. As a woman and an advocate for the equal distribution of rights, I have long held the belief that the way we handle inequality creates more damage than the original discrimination itself.

Labelling slogans, such as “empowering women”, reinforce stereotypes and overlook differences. Both women and men are naturally empowered. Research shows that women and men are more alike than different, possessing both masculine and feminine characteristics. The only problem is that women have historically been victims of a culture that assumed men where superior.

Unlike what most feminist organisations focus on, the emphasis should not be on magnifying one gender at the expense of the other. They should instead strive to find the fine line that can lead to the equality of the genders.

Having had many male friends and having completed my primary education at a coed school, inequality was never an issue that slipped into our day to day interactions. The traits that separated one student from another were dedication and hard work. Gender was never an arbiter but a merit.

Hence, instead of trying to start a revolution that may never materialise, it is more practical to try to steer attention and effort toward educating the society that there is no inequality between the genders. When communities are encouraged to acknowledge that both genders enjoy innate equal rights, the long-awaited evenness can be achieved.

Magnifying women is likely to keep us in an endless cycle of unfairness and failed initiatives. The barrage of bias women face from society could be disorienting, and the fact that there are organisations and movements that strive to bring them on an equal footing is laudable.

But focusing on one gender can lead to a backlash. When we only focus on one side of the story, we risk alienating potential supporters on the other side, which may create even more bias against women. Ethiopia is no different in this respect. Although it is true that women and girls are more likely to be vulnerable in a world where brawn prevails over brains, we should consider what sidestepping the case of the other gender can bring. It could have long-term consequences to the concept of egalitarianism between the sexes in Ethiopia.

Although advocacy for women’s rights is laudable, it should be noted that we cannot have it both ways. If only imbalance is removed entirely from our sociopolitical systems, can we have an equal distribution of rights. The best way of making up for the historical injustices one gender, race or religion has faced is by celebrating the equality of all of that diversity.

Advocating for the equal social, intellectual and physical competency of both genders will bring equality. When we celebrate and protect the rights of both genders, everyone will benefit.

One thing is for sure. What brought the inequality, to begin with, were wrong perceptions, where society tried to box people into categories based on their physical attributes. While men were strong and smart, women were pretty and motherly. Similarly, fixations on arguing the case of one gender over the other can prolong the inequalities we are trying to erase. It is much better to focus on creating equal opportunities and recognition.

Women have significantly been held back from holding stronger positions in the business world and the political world. But to fix this using special favours for one gender at the expense of the other will only play into the hands of inequality. If the intention is to bring a lasting solution, then the legal frameworks and the protections we put in place should be able to give everyone equal opportunities. Moreover, our systems should remain as meritocratic as possible.

The categorisation of the genders has brought about an erroneous generalisation by the society that women are loyal while men are competent. An assumption that has seemed harmless throughout the centuries, it has, in fact, had negative implications that have led to systematic bias. It has created an imbalance regarding what both genders should do, look like or behave.

It is critical, therefore, to turn the page and learn from past mistakes and failed initiatives. No one ever experienced true victory without first embracing failures. Instead of blaming and highlighting society’s past errors and misconceptions, it is better to show the simple road to balanced equality. It will be a breakthrough for anyone working in gender equality to think outside the box and look for lasting solutions that have been missing thus far.

It takes a renewed social awareness to live in a society that praises balanced equality and sticks to it. Dwelling on the mistakes of our forefathers will lead to accusations and recriminations, which will ultimately result in a backlash. The key to gender equality is the ability to convert errors into nuggets of solutions.

 



By Eden Sahle
Eden Sahle is founder and CEO of Yada Technology Plc. She has studied Law and International Economic Law. She can be reached at edensah2000@gmail.com.

Published on Mar 10,2018 [ Vol 18 ,No 932]


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