Women in society and culture

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Tuesday, March 11, 2014


SINCE the beginning of time, there have been innumerable depictions of women in our society.

For instance, the book of Genesis from the bible represented women through Eve, that women came from men (pun unintended) through Adam.

In a similar occasion, the earliest forms of religion -- paganism, for example -- have manifested women through the “Venuses,” which are actually sculptures of the goddess Venus and thus implies the power of women in terms of fertility.

These depictions of women can go on and on that transcends time and are parallel to culture and tradition.

If we come to think about it in history, a certain stereotype has been formed about women.

And these stereotypes have its roots in culture.

In turn, these formed stereotypes have defined the time-honed roles women portray in society that seems to have uniformity.

When I was studying “Gender & Development,” a taught course in sociology at the graduate level, it was maintained that men and women have distinct sexual and social roles.

While the former is constant and fixed as determined by biology and physiology, the latter is highly culture-bound.

For example, why women assume domiciliary roles at home is a matter of a social role.

As such, women are considered homemakers: they clean and fix the house, nurse the children and attend to the needs of their husbands.

Traditionally, she has to be at home and the husband has to be the breadwinner.

Overall, these depictions of women possess one thing in common: that women are subordinate to men.

In short, there exists a social inequality by treating women as a form of second-class citizens depriving them the privileges enjoyed by men like autonomy and freedom.

It is as if women are in a bondage that limits their options among many things that concern mankind from physiologic to self-actualization.

This type of social inequality has been a major point of concern and has been communicated in different ways from books to films.

For example, earlier literatures like books have used the word 'man' to stand for both sexes -- male and female.

If we read old books, for instance, including those which are frequented by “grammaticians,” the word 'woman' is almost always absent.

In fact the overused spiel “Man for others,” which was used by the Jesuits and the institutions they had put up originally meant for both male and female.

It is only recently, as far as I know, that the phrase “Men and Women for others” has been used in replacement for the old.

Film and media have also elucidated this matter of social inequality among women.

One film I know of was the 2003 “Mona Lisa Smile” with Julia Roberts as the main character.

In that story, American women who had lived post-World War II had begun receiving college degrees but were limited to housekeeping and home economics.

They had been taught arts and humanities but their curriculum rested heavily on raising children, attending to husband and maintaining the home.

Such a norm had been established that any adult woman must aspire to be married, raise children and serve a husband.

Failure to do so would have suffered social disapproval and shame.

What I truly found incredible in the story was the fact that even the richest among richest women in America then had to conform, of course with some exceptions.

But we need not examine other cultures to understand that this social inequality experienced by women is a reality even in our setting.

When the topic about Reproductive Health Bill was selling like pancakes, any one educated who would scrutinize its gist realizing that it is predominantly controlling the fertility of women when in fact it take two -- a man and woman -- to create life.

Like most contraceptives, with the exclusion of condoms, the target will always have to be the reproductive cycle of women.

In another situation that painted a picture of social inequality among women are natural disasters.

When ‘Sendong’ came in 2011, ravaged cities had received a good deal of aid from different sources.

While beggars cannot be choosers, unfortunately, most of the relief goods were not gender-sensitive: it was all too biased for men that women's needs like sanitary napkins and those needed by pregnant women were not considered.

These gender biases also take a heavy toll on women's employability and career options.

Sometimes women are less preferred for a job because they have more needs than men like maternity leaves and all those times they have to off from work to attend a child's parent-teacher conference or nurse a sick baby.

The issue on violence against women, at the sociological level, is also a manifestation of social inequality among women.

This form of abuse reinforces a faulty line of thinking that when a woman enters into a relationship, the man reserves the right to assert dominion even if it means abuse.

Summarizing my propositions, this kind of social inequality women suffer perpetuates an erroneous notion of the superiority of men and inferiority of women.

[E-mail address: polo.journalist@gmail.com]

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on March 11, 2014.

Lifestyle

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