On gender equality

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  • A politically incorrect column

Are women equal to men? This is an old question, and there have been all sorts of responses to it. There are men who have laughed at the very suggestion. There are women who have believed it’s a foolish question, because they have been convinced that they are superior to men. There are men who have been too scared of their wives or their peers to reply in the negative. When one compares one’s own incomparable merits with members of the opposite gender, often there’s only one answer.

There’s little controversy as far as the purely physical powers are concerned. That there’s no Olympic competition between men and women, or in any other sports forum for that matter, is a bit of a giveaway. Even in mixed competition – mixed doubles in tennis, say – they nicely balance a woman with a woman on the other side. I don’t think there’s any doubt in anybody’s mind regarding the reason.

And yet, the percentage of women opting for careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) is lower in the Scandinavian nations as compared to countries that are less ‘gender equal’

Of course, there has always been the sensible position that women are obviously better than men in certain spheres, while in others, men are ahead. That the two genders complement each other. For example, it’s common knowledge that men tend to be rather bad mothers and breast-feeders. On the other hand, we know that they can be excellent fathers. There’s no debate on who tends to the flat tire or who troubleshoots the water-heater better. Similarly, there are certain professions that men have proved more suitable for, while others at which women have been more likely to excel. Traditionally, neither men nor women had a problem with this position; but many emancipated souls in this enlightened epoch find the very suggestion offensive in the extreme. ‘There’s no domain in which women are not equals of men!’ they declare.

When data showing the disproportionate representation of men and women in different trades is presented in response, some of them conveniently hide behind the ‘centuries old social conditioning’ as the reason behind the inequality of men and women in those occupations. Here, many men too find it in their best interest to nod in agreement. A few words on social conditioning: there are essentially two reasons why men and women could differ from one another in their personalities and therefore career choices: biological and sociological. Now an interesting thing happens as a result of social engineering. Any attempt at flattening the sociological landscape increases the biological personality differences between the genders. For example, the sociological landscape is flatter in Scandinavia than anywhere else in the world. And yet, the percentage of women opting for careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) is lower in the Scandinavian nations as compared to countries that are less ‘gender equal’.

While objecting recently in the National Assembly to Maryam Nawaz’s arrest, Bilawal Bhutto has opened another pandora’s box by challenging the government to be courageous enough to arrest opposition parties’ men, and not women. Usually very politically correct, Bhutto may have had a bad day at office and so may have let that slip inadvertently; but the way women members seated behind him (notably the emancipated Shazia Marri) thumped their desks in approval meant that they belonged to a group that wants to have its cake and eat it too. Well you can’t have it both ways, can you?

This author has been accused of disrespecting women or of being an outright misogynist for posting on the social media something critical of a woman politician that would not have caused anybody to as much as bat an eyelid if the same had been posted about a man. Of course, the author is all for women’s respect and honour, but there’s no reasons why a woman politician (or anything else for that matter) – by virtue of merely being a woman – should get to be more respectable than a male one. This is one domain in which men and women are absolutely at par – at least they should be.

Here, there’s a legitimate issue of privacy that often gets mixed up unnecessarily with the matter of the ‘inviolable honour of women’. All women who are not public figures deserve, and usually get, all the privacy that they desire. Unless, of course, they post every little detail of their lives on snapchat. As do men who are not in the public domain. As for men and women with public careers, there’s nothing that’s too personal to be attacked by their critics. Of course, one can invoke this or that article of humanity or decency here, but it would be naïve to expect others to always see eye to eye with one. Most public figures fully recognize and accept this fact – when it’s somebody else staring down the wrong end of the barrel. Not so much when the criticism turns in their own direction.