There’s a form of apartheid that’s been taking place worldwide in every society, culture and religion known to mankind. This apartheid isn’t well recognized, and is therefore a silent and extremely subtle variation to the apartheid that took place in South Africa. Ask around and you will find that not many people even know about this apartheid. What is this apartheid I am talking about?
According to Phyllis Chesler, feminist psychologist and author of ‘An American bride in Kabul’, “Gender apartheid consists of all those practices which condemn girls and women to a separate and subordinate sub-existence and which turn boys and men into the permanent guardians of their female relatives’ chastity. Boys and men are condemned to lead lives in which men are extremely uncomfortable with women, whom they have been taught to view as only sex objects and breeders. Any other emotion might fill a man with shame.” While Chesler’s views are focused specifically on women in Afghanistan, her definition can’t be rejected by other societies either, even Western societies where women have better rights than anywhere else in the world. Her definition rings true in every single society known to mankind because society as a whole tends to prioritize male well-being over female and whatever anyone may say to the contrary, we are yet to see a society which is completely free of the practices of gender apartheid.
Why is this so? Historically, if one were to travel back in time to the caveman era, the era which was the beginning of the long journey of mankind to the present stage in evolution, one would see the stark differences of the way in which cavemen lived. Men started off by hunting and gathering, which later evolved into the cultivation of crops and rearing of animals. That era was fraught with peril and survival required a lot of physical effort and determination. This meant that women, who were physically weaker, were relied upon to stay at home and perform tasks which could be performed without them being exposed to the dangers that the men were able to face because of their physical strength. The most important role of women of that era was looking after their children. This social structure has been passed down, mostly unquestioned, to the present day.
"In a world where society has evolved to become more intricate when compared to our cavemen beginnings, it’s unfair on women to expect them to stick to a social structure laid down millions of years ago because times were quite different then"
In a world where society has evolved to become more intricate when compared to our cavemen beginnings, it’s unfair on women to expect them to stick to a social structure laid down millions of years ago because times were quite different then. Women cannot be expected to take a backseat anymore because the evolution of society means that women are able to enjoy the most important feature of evolution itself - improvement. Women don’t need to stay ‘safely’ away and bring up children. They are able to walk side by side with men and enjoy the same status as men and occupy the same jobs. The only thing standing in the way of women’s integration into society is gender apartheid.
The reasons for gender apartheid are wide and varied, with power, dogma and societal norms being the most significant. Men have physical power over women, and physical power is everything in a world where ‘might is right’ and this means that they are able to dominate women and ‘have their way’ with them. This is supported by the dogmas of the many faiths followed by man (because men are priests and holy men who make the rules) and further supplemented by the norms society dictates. this is something so ingrained in society that it’s hard to go against the grain, especially when women agree to different degrees about what rights women should and shouldn’t have.
Google the words ‘women should not’. Before you hit search, you will see many suggestions such as women should not drive, vote, work etc.That’s gender apartheid. Ask around and see what people think about a woman who either goes to work and has the child in daycare or decided not to have a child at all. Regardless of economic requirements, most people will say that a mother belongs at home (and somehow the role of a father doesn’t even come into discussion). That’s gender apartheid. Start talking about rape and people will say that the girl was innocent only in selective circumstances, i.e. if she was dressed decently, not ‘provoking’ the attack or ‘asking for it’!!! That, my friends, is gender discrimination.
If anyone still feels that women aren’t treated as subordinates, just take a look at the English language. The race of humans is defined as mankind. MANkind, as if women are a subspecies. We always speak of caveMEN but what of the women? Most jobs are expected to be held by men and therefore when women hold these jobs, additions are made to signify that this is abnormal. We call a man a doctor and a woman a ‘lady doctor’. All of this shows that women aren’t taken seriously or treated equally.
In the animal world, the females of the species are void of rights. Male dolphins rape, female lionesses hunt and allow the males to eat first while female birds of some species must raise their young alone. However, even certain species of animals such as wolves, beavers, gibbons, and a small African antelope known as a dik-dik all live in stable, monogamous pairs, while male penguins keep the eggs the females lay on their feet until they hatch and certain species of fish too respect the rights of females by helping build nests and protect the eggs. Therefore, it’s upto ‘MAN’ to decide if they can truly earn the title of most evolved species or if they will be beaten by the animals whom ‘HE’ calls ‘primitive’ by deciding to continue to discriminate against women. It’s sad that there’s an apartheid going on right under our noses, and we aren’t even aware of it. Gender apartheid needs to be taken more seriously in order to create a stable future where women too can feel like they too deserve to live on equal terms on this planet we all love.