In my recent support of the new #HeForShe gender equality campaign, I find myself re-fighting a battle I have been working for over a year to win – the discussion of whether or not chivalry and equality can co-exist.
People urge me to choose a side. They tell me that if I am going to be an advocate for gender equality then I need to drop the position that men should take the lead in the dating process, pay for dinners, and open doors. Because, after all, women are equal and can do it themselves.
I think these statements stem from a fundamental misunderstanding of exactly what equality means. These people are interchanging being equal with being the same, and it simply just doesn’t work that way.
But, this does raise an interesting point. Why is it, that people associate the term equality with being the same?
I find that people shy away from a very important reality when this discussion is brought up. People are so petrified of discussing differences between us because it implies that one is ‘better’ and one is ‘worse,’ which in itself rejects the very idea of equality. Perhaps the mirror is a better place to look when trying to see who, out there, is perpetuating sexism.
What we do not acknowledge enough is that not only are men and women different, but it’s been scientifically proven that our brains are different.
Does this make either gender better or worse? Smarter or dumber? More or less apt to succeed? NO! But, it does make us different.
Trying to tell me that a white suburban American male thinks the same way as a female from Nairobi is ridiculous. But why is it so taboo to say that out loud? Are we all so nervous about offending someone that we must group every single person into one area?
We should embrace our differences and be honest about them, otherwise we will create future generations of drones with no individuality.
We are equal in how we should be treated. Every race and gender is equal in this sense, but we are all different – and, that is a beautiful thing.
Each of us has unique nuances that make us who we are that will all go away if we try to shove a square peg in a round hole. No matter how much you try to make a woman the same as a man, she is not, and vice versa. Sorry if this sounds sexist to some of you, but I think it’s a positive, and not a negative.
We are naturally better and worse at some things than each other, does this mean we deserve more or less respect? Of course not. I am open to admitting my shortcomings because I am willing to face reality in order to improve in other areas and be honest with myself about who I am and what I am capable of. I am also aware of the fact that none of the skills, looks, privileges, height, weight, gender, or anything else I have should afford me more or less rights than anyone else.
Let’s say a woman wants to be a firefighter – should she not be given a fair and equal chance to do so, on equal footing as a man? If there are requirements and tests to pass in order to get the position, those same requirements should be in place for her, as well. If she can pass the same as a man does – she should then be given an equal position with equal pay for said position.
People will say, she is not as physically strong as a man and therefore cannot carry someone out of a burning house. This is to reject the possibility that she just might be as strong as a man, and if she passed the tests, she passed the tests.
Furthermore, it is once again confusing equality with sameness. If she can’t carry someone, does that also mean that she is not quicker or smaller than a man and could get into an important location quicker than he could? Or perhaps, when he could not even fit at all?
Her value to the team is equal to his, but in different ways.
The same concept goes for relationships. We do not have to be exactly the same in order to consider ourselves equal and contribute. If a man pays for dinner, that does not mean the woman has to therefore pay for dinner next time. If that’s what they agree on, great! But this is not the only road to equality. She can be thoughtful and romantic in her own ways.
In fact, being the same is exactly what I wouldn’t want in a relationship. If I wanted to date myself I would stay single. I, along with many men, crave the feminine energy that balances us out. It gives us new perspectives on life, keeps us grounded and motivated, and is a puzzle piece which fits in to our own. Our differences are valuable and should be celebrated.
Our differences allow us to learn from each other, collaborate with each other, and truly appreciate each other for being an individual unlike anyone else who has ever lived.
So, treat each other with the respect and kindness that you would your equal – because that’s exactly what they are.
But, don’t be mistaken, they are not the same as you, and that is what makes the world beautiful.