22 October, 2013

Equality or not?

Talib  Murad Elam
South Wales- 20.10.2013

There was a Kurdish family of a husband, wife and three young children under the age of 5 years, on the last flight I took from Erbil to London. I witnessed the mother struggling to keep up with her husband who strode ahead while leaving her to cope with her children and the extra baggage she was left to carry through the airports in both Erbil and Vienna. Her husband did not help her at all but on landing in Heathrow he became a different man helping her with the cabin luggage and walking behind his family, lavishing kisses on the child he now carried. A UK passport was clutched in his hand as he played the role of loving father and husband and it revealed that he had a long connection with the UK. I could not help but imagine how he would revert to his other self once safely in his London home and that his wife would again receive no help from him.

My wife assures me that this type of behavior can be exhibited by native British men too and it is the result of women subjugating themselves to the will of the man. If women want the right to vote, take prominent positions in parliament, government, education and industry they must not only fight for their rights but stand up against those who from time immemorial saw this as the right of men only and that a women’s place was in the home looking after children. Naturally there are some disciplines where most women will not be physically capable of the work involved and in making a career for themselves women must accept that they are declaring themselves the equal of men, capable of withstanding all the pressures of the job while earning a living. At the same time their male colleagues must refrain from any form of sexual bias towards them and treat them as equals.

It takes a long time for members of both sexes to recognize this and to ignore the natural differences between men and women. The major problem that must be overcome is that individuals recognize their limitations, and those of others, and do not resort to manipulating sexual differences for his/her benefit. In endeavoring to do this it is necessary to ignore the socially accepted limitations for the sexes to a great extent. This is perhaps the most difficult for a woman to overcome but if she wants to take the place of a man, in work, government, public office etc., then she must dress suitably for the work entailed and not utilize modes of dress or behavior, that give out a feminine signal to male colleagues. Likewise men cannot endeavor to subjugate female employees or colleagues in any manner that is deemed to have a sexual origin and in developed countries there are employment laws that protect both sexes against this form of behavior. Cases do occur in the west where a man is discriminated against and harassed by women in the workplace.       

In any society there will be men who, like many before them, believe that they are superior to women yet in our part of the world this idea remains firmly entrenched in the majority as a result of poor education and misunderstandings that can sadly be reinforced by the preaching of some mullahs. The relations between men and women can feature in the Friday sermons in mosques and the already dominant role of the male members of the family is reinforced by the reiteration of beliefs passed down from one generation to another with no allowance for the passage of time and the changing world we live in. Are there are not enough problems in the world today without emphasizing the need for women, and even small children, to cover their hair and faces? Western people would reverse this teaching saying that it is a sad state when women must take such steps to protect themselves from the unbridled urges of men!

The worst continuation of the domination of women, I believe, is maintaining the right for a man to divorce the woman he took in partnership for life by simply saying “I divorce you” three times! Now, thanks to modern technology, this simple procedure of getting rid of your wife, and family, can be conducted by sending her three short sentences by e-mail! There are some aspects of the modern world that we have readily embraced.

I recollect a true story that I heard some forty years ago in Libya, it concerned a Libyan who travelled alone to Alexandria to enjoy himself in a night club there. One night following a few drinks he headed to the stage to dance with the club’s belly dancer who refused him. In front of the entire audience this man then swore that if the woman did not dance with him he would divorce his wife who, with her children, was asleep in their home a thousand miles away. In his inebriated state he revealed his low regard for the mother of his children.

There are many in our society who, when talking about women’s rights, say “What? They are our mothers, sisters, daughters and wives, of course we are equal.” It reminds me of reading the classic book Animal Farm by George Orwell wherein the pigs take over the farm and then put up a banner. On the banner was written “We are all equal” but a few weeks later the banner was changed to “We are all equal but some are equal more than others”.

This stubbornness of some of the males in our society was demonstrated in an old Arab proverb that says “they wanted to straighten the tail of a dog, so they put it in a bamboo for 40 days but when the bamboo was removed the tail curved again”.

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