Written by: Hilla Shaviv
For the international women’s day, I wish us all that this day becomes redundant, that women will be completely equal to their male peers without having the need for a special day to promote gender equality, that there will be no need for any affirmative actions, and of course that we’ll all be free of taboos and prejudice.
Nonetheless, I admit that even I found myself “unconsciously” bound to prejudiced thinking. I’m still doing my way in baby steps, dissecting the reality surrounding us and trying to figure out where are the pitfalls that have become invisible in my consciousness.
When looking at the history of human’s social evolution, it is easy to understand why gender inequality came about. After all, in a society based on physical strength and stamina, most women, to be completely honest, are inferior to men, and clear gender roles transpired. One went hunting, the other took care of the children. Nonetheless, nowadays, when society and economy are governed by brain power and social skills, finally women can take an active part in leading the way. However, this is a slow process as we are now faced with a different problem, which has nothing to do with our unconscious boundaries.
Last week I read an article by Tessa Clarke that blew me a way, even I still have “unconscious” prejudices against women. I’m a person who chose to become a women’s advocate by dedicating my life to the development of women health devices and the improvement of quality of life. Yet, I still have my blind spots. Following are two examples of things that took me time to realize and understand:
1. Gender language: Hebrew, unlike English, is divided into masculine and feminine conjugations. The rule of thumb when talking to a crowd of people containing men and women is to speak in the plural form of males. More than a decade ago, MP Merav Michaeli started to talk using gender awareness expressions. i.e. not only talking in the plural masculine form but also in the plural form for women. For me, this was weird. Why do we need this? Merav Michaeli had a lot of jokes made at her expense because of this behavior, but she did not change her ways. For years she went on, talking in this unique way, and with little or no support from the community. It also took me a few years but finally I understood the effect it had on the awareness of our society. Our language holds a lot of “unconscious” prejudices, and exposing them is one of the easiest ways to gain public awareness to gender inequality.
2. Children’s books: from the moment children are born they are exposed to discriminating texts, Snow-White and Sleeping beauty are saved by the handsome princes, and Little red Riding Hood is saved by the huntsman. As a young girl my dream was to be saved by a prince, I never imagined myself fighting against the unconscious discriminating thought process these stories created in my brain.
So in my conclusion, women have to change their own unconscious taboos and prejudices against themselves first, and the men will follow. Finally, no doubt that the ship with the “unconscious” changes in the society had left the harbor. I wish us all that celebrating international women’s day will soon become a memorial for how our lives used to be.
Originally posted on Linkedin