On the status of women in society, by Hannah.
Note: Spacious Soul does not necessarily endorse the United Nations, Emma Watson, or the organization He for She. The video is included for informative purposes, and to facilitate discussion.
“That’s your teacher?” In my peripheral vision, I could see a male student looking me up and down. “Woooo, you’re lucky, maaaaan”. It was not the first time a particular student had offered such flattery, and probably wouldn’t be the last. I couldn’t believe he said it within earshot, but I didn’t give him the satisfaction of acknowledging that I had heard him.
I was about to teach a workshop to a room full of students, for which I had spent a significant amount of time preparing. To put it candidly, I wasn’t in the mood to deal with this. The more respectful student who had been receiving these comments hushed his friend, and followed me into the classroom. Once again I instructed myself to ignore the defects of my own culture, and breathed a sigh of relief when I was surrounded by only familiar students, prepared to study English. Here a few of them addressed me as Dai-sensei, or Great Teacher- perhaps another form of flattery, but at least one that is more palpable.
Throughout childhood, and further into adulthood, I have questioned the status of women. However, having chosen the route of college and the workplace, I have learned that gender politics is a more valid issue than I previously thought. How exactly ought I to define my role? What does it mean to be a woman? Real-life experiences have caused me to engage on a deeper search, and part of this search has extended into my writing. In addition, ideas about what it means to be a woman shaped the purpose statement of Her Spacious Soul.
“So what? What is the big deal?!” I have been accused of being too uptight when sexist dialogue and comments caused me to wince or for anger to flare up inside. I have even wondered whether I am too sensitive, or whether I really need to “just relax”. Many people might roll their eyes at the storyline I included earlier, and wonder if I am just a bit too ridiculous for the student’s comment to have bothered me. On the contrary, I wonder why it shouldn’t be bothersome. Continually, my intuition tells me otherwise, and I wonder if this is a kind of righteous anger, one that makes me heartbroken for the women who are treated unjustly, or objectified. I do not mean to say, either, that this thought extends only to women. Rather, it is the desire of my soul that every person be viewed of equal value, like in the eyes of God.
The driving force of my search has been that in addition to the world, many cultures of Christianity (not Biblical womanhood, but constructs that others have created) have shaped what it means to be a woman in ways that may be far from accurate. This has led to cycles of relational abuse, to one of the most lucrative pornography industries in the whole of history, and to appalling statistics regarding the wage-earning of women. Furthermore, participating in college studies and various work has proven to me that women still do not have the status which they should in order to be considered as equally valuable and purposeful as men. It was shocking to find that gender discrimination extends much deeper, and much more pervasively, than I ever imagined could be the case.
Male teachers are still often afforded more respect than female ones, and beauty is frequently mistaken for a defect in intellect, rather than an additive to a woman’s assets. Powerful women are looked upon as aggressive, while submissive women are seen as push-overs or something to be controlled. The workplace is much more cruel toward women than I had believed could still be true. How can this be the case, in the 21st century and America, no less? My heart aches at the idea that for perhaps 80% of the world, conditions are much more harsh than those I encounter on campuses and at work. Women are still treated as disposable, as objects, and as eye-candy or intellectual inferiors, rather than as strong counterparts and a beautiful balance to the identities of companies, schools and homes.
I desire to raise the status of women: to show that women are worth the same respect, love and value as men. We may not be the same in every aspect, and we are certainly gifted in different ways- however, no one is less in the eyes of God. We are created as counterparts, not enemies. We ought to be loving, supportive, helpful and kind. Some of us are given strength by different measures – soft and gentle, or perhaps bolder and more abrasive. Yet our greatest personal assets should not be withheld, but rather wielded for higher purposes. Let us help one another to raise the status of women.
What will you do to help improve others’ views of womanhood?
To find out more about Hannah K., visit our writer’s page.