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Monday, 29 February 2016

Because it is 2016

A few months back, Justin Trudeau when asked why his cabinet is gender balanced, responded with: "Because its 2015."

Mean while in Punjab, Pakistan, the assembly just passed a Women Protection Bill which "declares physical violence, abusive language, stalking, cyber crimes, etc, against women a crime in Punjab."

Part of me, celebrates these steps. Finally, we seem to be heading in the right direction, but part of me despairs. It is 2016 now. And we still find ourselves thinking about these issues. Trudeau's decision raised eye brows and questions. 

The Punjab assembly bill has the mullahs up in arms. They are concerned about male rights, after all men in Punjab will lose the right to abuse their women. Poor men. There are other provinces within Pakistan though, perhaps Punjabi men could take their women sight seeing, each time they feel the need to abuse them.

It is 2016 and still I see gender disparity all around me. I can not understand why. What is it that gives men that sense of entitlement? Too many times in social setting, men dominate the conversation and I feel like nudging the other women: Please speak up. I want to hear what you have to say. 

Even the body language is different. Us, women, make ourselves small, to occupy the least amount of space, and our male peers lounge, taking up all extra room. Do they even consider these things while sitting with legs wide open, arms extended, elbows cocked - as if ready to pounce? 

Everything male is somehow more worthy. Their opinions carry more weight. Fathers are treated with deference. Mothers are generally more approachable, but also easier to dismiss. Why? 

Traditional male roles have higher prestige value. The valuable "bread winner" versus the undervalued, almost invisible "care giver." Why?

Also, men are often allowed the privilege of speaking their minds, saying things us women would consider too rude, but no one seems to mind when men speak up and even over each other. The alpha male; revered and idolized. A man's man. Applause for the heart breaking honesty. But aha, don't you, woman dear, try such impertinence. No, unless you are happy being labelled the "bitch." No, legs closed, ankles crossed, hands folded in lap, and a smile on your face - now that's more like it, woman. Also, why pale faced? Wouldn't hurt you to put on some lipstick, add a little colour to your cheeks, and yes, could you also stick out your boobs a bit? After all, a man needs something worth looking at. Wink, wink.

After all, it is 2016.

On a personal note, My husband and I want to renovate our kitchen, and so every weekend is spent either with a contractor or a designer. These men when talking only address my husband. I have to insert myself into the conversation repeatedly and am left feeling like an interloper in my own home. Day before yesterday though, we had a designer visit us: a young man, well-travelled, who seemed to see more than just the floor plan of our home - when talking, he addressed us both. What joy! He saw me. 

Just the evening before, my husband wanted to know why did I look so worried while a contractor, standing in our kitchen, that place where I spend a large portion of my day, every day, talked all around me. Yes, I too, wonder about myself.

And then yesterday evening, while reading Kim Thuy's Man, I came upon this:
"I had read in a book a client left behind that that regarder, to look, means esgarder, to be considered, to have egards for someone.  During the Middle Ages, to describe a state of war or conflict, it was said of the enemies: 'Neither one has regard for the other.'

This is not just true of male contractors, it happens each time we visit the bank to renew our mortgage. Female bankers address both of us; male bankers, just talk to my spouse. 

Am I invisible? Do you not see me? Regardez moi!  I am here. I exist. I breathe. I think. I feel. I live. Look at me. See me. Listen to me. Hear my thoughts. I am more than just a pretty thing, easy to replace with other prettier things. I am.

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