Last week a post on “respecting women” did a great many couple of rounds on my Facebook newsfeed. It was a picture of a beautiful woman – no surprises there, along with words of wisdom written in one of the most beautiful fonts I have ever seen. While I do not wish to delve into its details, let it suffice that it said a lot about how women deserve respect.
I should have felt good about the post – I am a woman and I do demand respect. And yet I did not feel a hundred percent about it. What was it that was not right about the post? Was it the womanly form that appeased the eyes a little more than usual or was the sentiment the post carried not entirely correct?
I did not quite get it…until after a few days. It was a Friday evening, which we as a family dedicate to Chinese delicacies at a nearby popular joint. As I was entering the place, the door was held open to me by a gentleman who was without a doubt another patron on his way out. As I exchanged smiles with the stranger, it hit me.
How many times had a door been held open for me? How many times had I held the door open for another man? Being in the United States for the last couple of months, I have come to understand that the custom is more an expression of polite behavior than chivalry. And therein lay my answer.
To all those who ask people to respect women, I would say, not quite right my dear one. Now don’t get me wrong here – of course you should respect her. But the question really is – how much respect are we really looking at here?
Treating a woman kindly is respect. Not subjugating her to ill-treatment within the confines of home is respect. Not molesting her when she steps out on the streets is respect. But does it end there? The answer to me is loud and clear. Respect is simply not enough. What is needed is equality – an equal status for women where she is offered equal opportunities everywhere. And I mean everywhere…
She should be able to look under the hood of the car and not be stared at. She should be able to buy beer from the liquor shop and not be questioned about her virtues. She should be able to wear the clothes she wants to and be judged only for her sense of fashion, if at all. She should have the freedom to make mistakes and not pay with her life for them.
If respect is a right of a woman, then equality is even more so. Because respect will not go as far as equality will. Hard truths do not sink in quickly. Just as no one really thought that the soldier who came home for the holidays could, in fact, be the mother.
It must have been the ultimate war. But she did win. She fought the battles to reach the frontline, for the equal right to fight for her country and the equal right to die for it.
While I will accept respect at its face value, it is equality that I am rooting for. More potent and much desired, “equality” is my birthright and it does not allow me to settle for anything less.