Recently, our psychology lecturer -a rather staunch feminist by nature- had finished dealing with the topic "Gender and Cultural differences on emotions" with great enthusiasm and conviction. Although she was a woman, there was no deliberate attempt on her part to present or manipulate her views with prejudice or malice towards the men-folk. And in a mixed class of both boys and girls it would probably be difficult for her to give one-sided opinions.
Generally, my ears are more receptive when I come across some new interesting facts or figures. So was I now when I heard that we humans are not genetically predisposed to any kind of emotion. A female child is not born with all the weakness, anxiety and helplessness nor is the male child born with characteristics like courage, aggression, self-reliance. Small children are like computers that grow by just ‘saving’ the information; they do not ‘analyse’ and ‘delete’ the information. Right from the day of our birth we are continually programmed both positively and negatively. In fact the very disposition that we have today is all primarily coloured by our parents, friends and acquaintances, the experiences that we had in the past and also the social reality that is around us.
But unfortunately, we are unconsciously forced to accept some of the wrong gender differences like- women are physically weak while men are strong; women are emotional and often cry whereas not so men. It is sad to know that though women constitute nearly half of the population, they have always lagged behind men in gaining access to society’s resources. Why, researchers who study extensively on gender hierarchy have come to the conclusion that women who experience low status or power in society show emotions of fear, anxiety and helplessness, whereas men, who are thought powerful and given higher status, tend to express pride, anger, contempt etc. Now this fact must provoke us to reflect. It must make us more humane, more civilized.
Even in some of the religious bodies like the Catholic Church, women have miles to go to come on par with their male counterparts as regards power sharing in administration and to perform key religious services.
During his earthly life, Jesus called both male and female disciples. He wasn’t so rigid to say that women could not be his apostles. Even during his time gender biases and differences were prevalent; however Jesus never let these to influence his life. On the contrary, as the Gospels point out, Jesus had harmonious relationships with women like Martha, her sister Mary and Mary Magdalene besides his own mother.
Our people, our leaders not excluded, I am sure, are aware of all this and they also know that what they are doing now is wrong. Yet, they refuse to give in to change while making their own irrational and unjust interpretations and justifications. This is the bane of our society; this is the paradox. True, there is some progress in the Church in this regard; but it still has a long way to go.
We recite the Lord’s Prayer "Our Father" every day perhaps with fervour and devotion. But surprisingly, we fail to comprehend the inner meaning of the term "thy kingdom come." Would God be happy to see socially constructed differences of power relations between men and women in His kingdom? Would God be happy to see the systematic subordination, oppression and discrimination to which women have been subjected to?
A critical reflection on this issue will certainly raise many questions in our minds and will also definitely prick our conscience. Today our society is changing, we are becoming more modern, more sophisticated but it must also make us more human, more sensitive. As society gains new knowledge and as environmental conditions improve, socially constructed gender differences should change. There is a need for gender sensitization to understand, analyse and correct gender inequality and its manifestations found in all societies. This will lead to acceptance, respect and understanding between the sexes.
Yes, after all it is God who made them – male and female.
Clarence Fernandes is a student of Dept of Journalism; St Aloysius College, Mangalore.
– By Harsh Raj, Mangalore
– – By Harsh Raj, Mangalore
– By Sandhya D’Souza
Author: Clarence Fernandes- Mangalore