It’s not easy writing about women equality in the contemporary world we live in. We have been raised to believe that women were wronged for centuries and now is our time and place to prove we are equal to men. We vote, we run our own companies, we freely express opinions not given to us by our own husbands and we drive (although with the occasional ridicule). We have been told – this is your century and your time to prove women are not and should not have been inferior to men for so many years. So we have been given all of the opportunities to show all our emotions and inherent gentleness cannot stand in the way of us becoming as successful as men can be.
I realize what I am about to say is far from a popular opinion these days, but I feel the world today is not favouring women equality – it is simply saying women should behave more like men to succeed and be valued and appreciated. It is above and beyond gender equality – it is more about the fact that there is an accepted behaviour that leads to success – and it is associated mostly with male characteristics. I am not one to argue for difference but I do believe there are differences between men and women that shouldn’t be blurred. I have been living in a man’s world for quite a while now. The field I have decided to pursue my career in is mostly dominated by men – as every statistics and personal experience out there shows. And more often than not I feel my own father attempts to turn me into the son he never had. I know I can be successful, I just don’t want and I am not ready to compromise on me being a woman. I don’t admire these so-called succesful women who feel that eliminating any femininity and adopting an attitude of complete and utter badness is the way to win out there. I am not ashamed to admit – I want men to take care of me, I want them to take me out to dinner and actually pay and I don’t plan on working my ass off just to prove that I can be self-sufficient. I can be, I just don’t want to. I don’t mind being called shallow or cynical – for gender equality has gone far beyond and has put women in the unfair position of having to prove anything. I say we don’t have to prove anything – I (and we) can be as successful as we like and want to be without compromising. It’s not a men’s world or a women’s world – it’s a world where men and women are and will always be different. It’s true we have been long deprived from the opportunity to be equal members of society – but I say the fight for us to become equal has missed the point and turned every self-respecting woman into a person who tries to justify every life choice and who struggles day in and day out to show a man is not only not needed in the picture, but is also pretty useless.
Reading The Good Women of China has been particularly painful – and I doubt as painful for men as it is actually for women. After the Cultural Revolution and Deng Xiaoping’s policies to open up China to the West many journalists began enjoying freedom of speech – or at least much more freedom of speech than during the Communist rule. In the 1980s Xinran, a Chinese journalist, started hosting her own radio show, Words on the Night Breeze, which gave women the unprecedented opportunity to raise their voice. Within months after the initiation of her radio program, Xinran is overwhelmed with letters – female stories during and immediately after the Cultural Revolution. In The Good Women of China: Hidden Voices Xinran tells 14 of these stories, including her own. There is nothing particularly new, at least from our point of view. Women being raped. Women being forced into arranged marriages. Women being treated inferior. Women living as beggars because their own children disowned them. A girl dying after an earthquake, trapped in a building. And her mother comforting us. Another girl losing her mind because a group of soldiers raped her. Way too many times. From my point-of-view now, more than 30 years later, it feels way too familiar. Yet it always hurts the same for a woman to hear or read about another one being treated that way.
Xinran emigrates. And years later she publishes these stories – the stories of Chinese women waiting to be heard. It may seem way too banal to some – and it is. Not all of the women in China at that time lived that way. And yet these stories are about those that actually did. Xinran narrates way too plainly for there is nothing more to be said really. These are just the ordinary lives of ordinary women. Told in an ordinary fashion.
It has taken me nearly two weeks to write this and honestly I don’t like it. I don’t like what I have written and I certainly don’t like that I do not know what to think. It’s about time women shouldn’t be regarded as inferior but should be regarded as different. Whatever has happened must be stopped but whatever is about to be initiated should be suspended as well. Women are not there to be raped but they are not there to be exploited either. I don’t know where the middle ground lies but I hope we do discover it some day.