When I was eight or nine (cannot really remember as it all happened in the last century), I was at school one day and noticed that all the boys in my class decided to entertain themselves by jumping through the classroom window. Before anyone starts gasping in horror, I just want to note that the school was a one-story building and the window was not anywhere near as high as some of the trees we climbed and jumped from at that time. Anyway, upon witnessing the boys having so much fun, I decided to join in on the excitement. I did jump but only to find out that the teachers were not so appreciative of my wish to have fun as they have been in regards to the boys. As a result, I was “disciplined” for exhibiting unbecoming of a girl behavior. None of the boys received even a warning. The explanation? It is acceptable for a young boy to play around and jump from windows, but it is most certainly not so for a young girl.
The reasons I am once again transported back to the past are the experience with this week readings for Torture class and with seeing MissRepresentation, all in the matter of a couple of days. That women and men are treated, viewed, and acknowledged differently is a secret to no one. The fact that everyone, not just a few men, are complicit into the continued disparity, however, does not often enter the discussion. One of the main points of MissRepresentation is that the ability to view and treat women and men differently is so ingrained in all of us, thanks to the impact of popular media, that without stopping to think twice we automatically judge women in politics, for example, on their appearance which incidentally has nothing to do with their ability to do their job. Or at least it shouldn’t. Therefore, instead of lamenting the reprehensible behavior of many men toward women, we need to target the system which allows such behavior to occur, and specifically the popular media that fuels it, and fight for a complete and transformative cultural change. Unfortunately, people have been proven to be quite resistant to change so persistence and consistency will be the main tools in this fight.
Demanding equal treatment and the inclusion of women in all spheres of life should not overshadow the fact that women are not necessarily better than men if by achieving equality, they begin to behave the same way men do. In the “Feminism’s Assumptions Upended,” Barbara Ehrenreich analyzes the degrading acts of women in the military and emphasizes the dangers of believing that women are in some way “morally superior” and that they just cannot be as dangerous as their male counterparts. Further, Ehrenreich highlights that feminism should not be happy that women are indeed equal to men when it comes to cruelty because this is certainly not the equality we seek. I do feel, however, that one of the reasons women in the military participate in acts that humiliate other human beings is to somehow prove that they deserve to be there along with the men. How come the only way to prove that a woman is just as strong and brave as a man is to show cruelty toward fellow human beings? It again comes down to a cultural shift and a redefinition of the concepts of bravery and cowardice.
As far as I am concerned, it is much easier to pull the trigger, to kick, to punch, to punish, to laugh at, and to humiliate than it is to not do all of the above. I guess I would rather be a coward than a brave “hero” exerting my power over defenseless fellow humans.