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Global issue 20

Global Insight Women vidual ideas, one’s identity becomes compartmentalised into set parts – feminist, capitalist, vegetarian – each of which have their own assumed beliefs and ideas. What this means is that it’s easy for a person to find themselves defending issues that they don’t personally agree with simply on a misguided principle. Everything else becomes the evil ‘other’ that should not even be considered. This submergence in group identity in which the loudest rule can easily lead to a distortion of ideas or a loss of personal perspective. It becomes harder and harder to identify the flaws in one’s ideology and the urge to defend such flaws increases. And this is a problem. But if we look past the ‘-isms’ it becomes evident that so many of our problems stem from an inability to approach people as individuals. Our problem is that people, all people, are still born into roles that are defined by factors such as gender. Tony Porter, founder of violence prevention organisation A Call to Men, said the following about his experience growing up in a set of expectations as a man: “I grew up in New York City, between Harlem and the Bronx. Growing up as a boy, we were taught that men had to be tough, had to be strong, had to be courageous, dominating – no pain, no emotions, with the exception of anger – and definitely no fear; that men are in charge, which means women are not; that men lead, and you should just follow and do what we say; that men are superior; women are inferior; that men are strong; women are weak; that women are of less value, property of men, and objects, particularly sexual objects. I’ve later come to know that to be the collective socialisation of men, better known as the ‘man box’. “See this man box has in it all the ingredients of how we define what it means to be a man. Now I also want to say, without a doubt, there are some wonderful, wonderful, absolutely wonderful things about being a man. But at the same time, there’s some stuff that’s just straight up twisted, and we really need to begin to challenge, look at it and really get in the process of deconstructing, redefining, what we come to know as manhood.” Of course, it isn’t only men who grow up into predetermined roles – we’re all familiar with the problems women face with societal expectations of beauty, demeanour, intelligence, submission and so on. But what is a major problem that is so often overlooked is that women are still so frequently seen as victims with no capacity for decision-making, people who are only capable of reacting to the actions of men. Even Emma Watson’s recent speech to the UN on behalf of the women’s rights organisation He For She illustrated such thinking: “We don’t often talk about men being imprisoned by gender stereotypes, but I can see that they are, and that when they are free, things will change for women as a natural consequence. If men don’t have to be aggressive in order to be accepted, women won’t feel compelled to be submissive. If men didn’t control, women wouldn’t need to be controlled.” Such thinking, proliferated even by well-intentioned gender rights groups, is harmful and takes power away from women by renouncing their autonomy and placing the blame on men. All this does is feed the feeling of confrontation and hostility that so many people already feel when they hear the word ‘feminism’. Ingrained gender roles need to be identified and we must work to iron them out, starting with our children. We can’t continue to teach children that to ‘man up’ is strong and to be ‘a girl’ is weak. “Join healthy resistance on the part of children, so it doesn’t go on for another generation,” says Carol Gilligan. “And doing that means becoming active in making the world one in which the capacities that are part of our human nature, that is, the relational capacities that are necessary for democracy and peace, can be educated, developed, flourish. “And the children will change us – and that’s the part of doing this for the children, that’s the beauty of it, it’s almost built into the life cycle. If you really are serious about raising a healthy child, psychologically, you have to become an activist now.” www.global global f i rst quar ter 2015 -br ief ing.org l 25 © iStock / Macie J. Noskowski There is still a disparity between women’s and men’s wages, despite most countries having legislation aimed at preventing this. Pictured: Commuters in London


Global issue 20
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