Equality of the sexes. It is supposed to promote equality through lifestyle, behavior, and respect. But the actual sociocultural definition is murky because culture is non-uniform around the globe. For some woman choosing to work is a feminist act, a gain in equality; for others equality is marked by the opportunity to stay home and take care of the children. In fact, equality comes from the opportunity to choose freely, and not be manipulated, repressed and obliged into something as ‘naturally feminine’.
Surprisingly enough, the problem is banal and everything seems to come down to how much each culture enforces repression and stereotypes. Gender equality does not necessarily mean gender-sameness; and expect that a woman to win equality needs to behave like men, is a meticulous reinforcement of the status quo: a woman either conforms to the existent set of rules, in the logic of a male oriented society, or has not place in it.
However, being cultures different from each others, to acquire equality can mean lots of different kind of battles. For lots of women in the Western world, feminism gets to the point of equal pay for equal work. Often, it comes down to the right to have women legislate on new laws directly related to a woman’s body, as in the case of abortion. Today these women don’t burn their bra or clip the apron strings; such a public display of struggle wouldn’t help them. They simply enforce the belief that women can do whatever they want as men do, whether that means baking cookies and staying home with their babies, or becoming an astronaut, or doing it all.
Other women step towards equality gaining the right to vote, even better if accompanied with the right to an education; since the latter will allow them to better understand the society they live in, and influence change as they see fit. Others fight to simply be; to retrieve their citizenship papers, in the hands of abusive fathers, brothers or spouses. To gain the chance to work legally, be independent, or move around freely. In other cases, the road is longer; women being simply shocked and surprised when told that they can be a person, speaking their own minds; not a body useful only to nurture, give pleasure or procreate.
Ideally, to be female should not be directly linked to producing children as its primary quality, being it only a biological function. This suggestion, however, makes sense only if society grows to see male and female as individuals, whose genetic qualities are transmitted by parenting. A mutual effort to be shared and faced by both, male and female, within a social supportive structure; not as an obvious female role, which is linked to a self-sacrificing mission expected women to take on from a certain age – since this kind of role is perfectly appropriate to a male individual as well.
People belonging to different cultures, and wishing to promote changes towards equality, often face the automatic repression the established status quo puts in action as a defense mechanism; the eternal attempt to retain power within the authoritative voice of what by tradition is considered ‘natural’, and obvious. Therefore, change is slow and civil rights need centuries to be fully absorbed, to become in their own respect ‘natural’; habits of our sociocultural interactions.
As for us here today, in spite of cultural differences, I believe it is safe to say that woman’s day is not about revolutionary articles; those that come out today in women magazines, which during the whole year promote nothing but a stereotyped image of women perennially in hight heels and looking for a husband. Or about special discounts in restaurants and spas; as if today women are allowed to recall what they are, that they can in fact take care of themselves once a year, provided they go back to their established role the day after.
No matter what, this day is when some women need to be remembered. Those who struggled, and struggle, to be first of all a respected individual, who has a mind on her own, no matter the decision she takes, because nobody is allowed to force her into a life of unwanted obligations. And most of all, it is a day in which women should recall their integrity and their power to say ‘no, thanks’ to several sly and diminishing choices men put them in front of, as if those were the only one allowed. Well, they are not. We can walk away from them, trace our own paths; or at least try to, because this is what the future generations of women need, examples to follow.
Romana Turina is a writer and cinematographer