The Creator in His infinite wisdom created a man and a woman and from those two came millions upon millions of human beings over the thousands of years of our existence. That is what our belief systems teach us.
It is noteworthy that in our world today there are almost 7.7 billion people and statistics show that it is almost divided equally between men and women. Half the world is men and the other half is women.
Last Friday, the world community celebrated International Women’s Day. March 8th is dedicated to women. This day has its origins in the early 20th century as a symbol of women attaining increased rights and privileges which men enjoyed long before. The United Nations formerly recognised International Women’s Day in 1975. It is to be noted that in some places, this day is a day of protest while in others, it is a day of celebration.
This year, I raised the question on my social media platforms as to ‘International Men’s Day’, not realizing it does exist. Apparently, it is observed on November 19th. However, further research has shown me that while it is observed in 80 countries and backed by UNESCO, it is not listed by the United Nations as one of their adopted Days similar to International Women’s Day which appears on their list of ‘International Days’.
Interestingly, and to my dismay (as a man), November 19th is designated on the United Nations list of International Days as ‘World Toilet Day’. I kid you not, go check for yourself. One will automatically wonder if a conspiracy was afoot when such a designation was proposed and agreed on for that day. World Toilet Day was adopted by the UN in 2013.
Wikipedia, in its information pertaining to International Men’s Day, gives the idea’s birth in 1991 with its re-initialisation in 1999 in our neighboring island of Trinidad and Tobago. The site further points out: “International Men’s Day is celebrated in over 80 countries, on November 19, and global support for the celebration is broad. International Men’s Day is followed by Universal Children’s Day on November 20, forming a 48-hour celebration of men and children, respectively. Additionally, the month of November is also occasionally recognised as International Men’s Month. International Men’s Day is supported by a variety of organisations including UNESCO.”
One wonders why, having knowledge of November 19 being observed as ‘International Men’s Day’, the UN decided to choose the same date to be “World Toilet Day”?
Anyways, my column today was not intended to be about that observation. My intent is to join the chorus of people who extol the virtues and sacrifices of women in our lives.
Women have truly been subjected to a long, arduous struggle for equal rights and recognition. It is a struggle that is far from over for many women in our world. Women, undoubtedly, are at the receiving end of many injustices, abuses and double standards when compared with the male counterpart the Creator wisely chose for her.
From our faith-based perspectives and having recognised that the Almighty created both male and female to complement each other, what really should all of us, females and males be struggling for?
Timea Aya Csányi who pursues her BSc. degree in Psychology and Islamic Studies gives, in my opinion, an excellent overview of the men/women struggle.
She writes: “God created men and women with certain differences so that they complete each other. The biological differences assigned women primarily to bear and raise children and men to be the protector and maintainer of the family due to his physical strength.
“Since Ancient times, however, these differences have made men feel superior over women who suffered from ill-treatment and injustice, being deprived of many social and economic rights throughout history. In the West, the chain has gradually [been] broken only when historical events forced societies to grant women their rights – only to take advantage of them in other ways in return, causing great harm to the society which we can clearly see today.
“In ancient Europe, men had a fairly low opinion of women and often considered them property rather than humans. The noble Greek philosopher, for example, Aristotle, said the following in his book The Politics: ‘As regards the sexes, the male is by nature superior and the female inferior, the male ruler and the female subject.’
“The ancient world basically excluded women [and determined] that they had no rights to participate in the decision making. They fully depended on men for their entire lives. Anything a woman possessed belonged to her father or her husband, and she couldn’t make a contract or enter a financial transaction without the permission of her guardian. Inheritance was downright illegal to her.
“The Roman Empire valued women the same way, except for a short period in which Emperor Augustus introduced a series of laws that gave much freedom for women. He restricted adultery, which was a morally accepted and common practice in the entire ancient world, and women were allowed to hold public office or work in the government. However, the protests of men were of great impact that the circumvention of the laws began.
“In the 18th century, the industrial revolution brought changes in the economic structure that forced women (usually from lower class) to enter the labour market. In the meantime, aristocracy allowed women to be educated although politics and business remained reserved for men.
“Silence was still a woman’s best characteristics. But this gradually changed; by the early 20th century, women could obtain degrees and enter the work field typically as teachers or nurses. During the French Revolution (1787-1799), women began to form feminist movements and expressed a collective voice, demanding economic, political, and educational rights.
“By the middle of the 20th century, Western women successfully gained equality before the law; but gender feminists (unlike equality feminists) have continued their mission and ‘challenged that women should not be identified as wife and mother’.
“In post-modern times, gender feminists claim that ‘gender roles are boxes that people are asked to fit themselves into’ and that there isn’t anything biological about men or women that should form social roles despite scientific facts which show the opposite.
“Today’s feminists seem to take revenge against the centuries-long deprivation of their rights and go further by seeking gender privilege instead of equal justice. In reality, individualism and the value-free approach of the West is just another way to harm women where the picture of the ideal woman is shaped according to the interest of the market while ridiculing those who refuse [to be] part of the system. Hence, modesty and norms are looked down, and the role of motherhood and the importance of family are devalued which have had extreme social and financial cost in the Western society.”
We must seek to create an equitable world where every person can benefit equally and not be disadvantaged in any way due to gender or some other criteria of discrimination.
As the saying goes “too far east is west” and so we don’t wish to make a world where, in trying to correct a wrong and an injustice, we end up creating a new wrong. Already men are crying out for being unfairly and unjustly wronged in an attempt to make it right for women. There must be a balance. Both sexes in the infinite Wisdom of the Creator were created together, to be together, helping and complementing each other. Is this an ideal that is unreachable?
(Suleiman Bulbulia is a Justice of the Peace. Secretary of the Barbados Muslim Association and Muslim Chaplain at the Cave Hill Campus, UWI. Email: email@example.com)