Throughout several countries, including the United States, many still hold the sentiment that a woman ought to play the primary role in raising children and caring for the family and, therefore, ought to forgo certain opportunities that were historically available solely for men. This is a sentiment that plagues us to this very day. It is probable that the true cause of this sentiment is concealed behind the controversial topics of abortion, birth control, access to health care, equal pay and domestic violence. This is not to say that the aforementioned issues should not be addressed, but that they should be refocused so as to highlight the most significant problem that women face today: a lack of respect. Both the Republican Party and the Democratic Party believe that they are committed to the policies and agendas that improve the lives of women, but in their efforts to reform legislation and address issues pertaining to women’s rights, they are missing the key issue at hand.
We have lost respect for our women, and it’s time for us to change that.
My mother grew up in a society where women were considered unequal solely on the basis of culture. Strolling beyond the confines of one’s own home, driving a car and working were regarded as privileges that women would never become accustomed to. My mother knew that this erroneous perception of respect and modesty, used to justify the inequality that women faced in the Middle East, was nothing but a disgrace to her faith and lifestyle. When my mother came to United States, she took English courses at a local community college and became fluent in the language in a matter of months. At the same time, she took up a job as a representative for Mary Kay, cared for my visiting grandparents and underwent a pregnancy. When my father struggled to pay the bills, she became an assistant interpreter for World Relief and the Guilford County Department of Public Health. She helped my father through some of the toughest moments in his life, focused on raising me and my brothers, and nevertheless pursued her passions of community involvement and civic engagement. Despite juggling two jobs, her family and her obligations to the community, my mother found the time to advance her interest in childhood education by working for Guilford Child Development as a substitute teacher. In the midst of all this, my mother successfully raised her children, supported my father, and strengthened her faith. My mother appreciated the opportunities offered to her by this country and fought against the inequality that affected the lives of women in the Middle East.
This reflection does not serve to criticize stay-at-home moms, but rather, to raise concern over the argument that women are unable to financially support their families and raise their children simultaneously. Gender does not and should not negatively affect how a woman lives her life and is perceived by society.
My mother, like most women, works diligently, devotes mind, body and soul to her family, compellingly practices her faith and doesn’t let the stigma against women in the workplace affect her. Whether they are single, in a relationship or married, women have proven time and time again that they are equally efficient, if not more efficient, than men in almost every area of expertise. Women should not be treated differently due to theoretical economic or political benefits, nor should any person, regardless of gender, dictate what is best for his or her counterpart. If we respect women as equals in all areas of life, we will, as a commonality, reap the benefits of improvements in education, health and other elements that help society progress. If women were respected as equals in consideration of liberty, virtue and opportunity, we would also reap the benefits of political and economic advancement. But rather than raising the question of equality as one of economics or politics, we should reframe it in consideration of how much women positively impact our society. In a world where women are becoming more influential in the workplace as well as the home, it doesn’t make sense to regard one gender as lesser or greater than another. It does, however, make sense to respect men and women as equals, since both contribute to society and to the family in different, yet similarly valuable, ways. Both men and women offer different perspectives on issues they confront. Whether it’s in the workplace, at home or in school, women offer an invaluable approach that is highly unlikely to be offered by men alone.
Though this may seem obvious to us all, gender inequality is less an issue of legislation and acknowledgement than it is an issue of respect. We must learn to respect women as equals regardless of whether we are male or female. We must learn to respect women as equals regardless of political and economic considerations. We must realize that a woman’s contribution to society is as valuable, if not more valuable, than that of a man.
My mother has shown me this. I sincerely hope that others come to the same realization.
Mousa Alshanteer is a Trinity freshman. His column runs every other Thursday. You can follow Mousa on Twitter @mousaalshanteer.