All the claims of gender equality and women’s emancipation are nothing more than hollow slogans and a myth. The women are still the victim of patriarchal system perpetuated by the capitalism, even the developed nations have yet to ensure gender equality not to speak of third world countries, which are marred by poverty and illiteracy. The plight of women in the western world is also not satisfactory as the issues of low wages, work place harassment and cases of rape are increasing. Moreover, these civilized nations are not yet ready or willing to see women in some powerful positions where they could try to bring change in the lives of the people. Although some European nations have made some progress in this regard and have entrusted women with very important responsibilities, but it is a small step towards a great journey.
Anthropological perspective can help us in understanding the status of women in different types of societies. It enables us to discover the factors responsible for determining women’s position in the society. Carl Marx applied this perspective to uncover the causes of class conflict in the society and concluded that mode of production and relationship between different factors of production determine the status of different classes in the society. Similarly, the status of women is the product of role they play in the economy. In agricultural society, the women used to play a subordinate role, as it is labor intensive job and male’s physical strength gave them a vantage point over women and the former successfully subordinated the latter and confined them within the four walls of home. When Simone de Beauvoir said, “one is not born woman, rather becomes” she summarized the whole history of the subordination of women by the men in a single sentence. It implies the anthropological evolution of women’s status in different societies at different times.
With the advent of industrial revolution, the mode of production shifted from fields to industries where modern technological methods are used to maximize production. With this revolution came the chance for women to work in industries because they were cheap labor for the capitalists who desperately reduced their cost. Hence, capitalism had its own economic motives to encourage women emancipation.
Two great world wars were a dramatic factor in bringing women out of their four walls, as these wars killed millions of men and there was a shortage of labor. Consequently, the women came out of their homes and began to work in factories. This radical change resulted into some rights to the women such as enfranchisement for women and right to work and own property, but men were still in dominating position. Nevertheless, these radical changes united women for their rights and they launched feminist movements for their rights. They fought for the control over their bodies and choices affecting their sexual and reproductive lives.
We can say that although the women made some progress towards their emancipation, gender equality is still a dream. Even in the present world women constitute small part of professional class; the women are not welcomed or discouraged to join some professions, especially in the third world countries. There are hardly a few women in the position of power and do not constitute substantial part of political parties. In most of the Muslim countries, they are at the mercy of their male members of the family and the former are virtually deprived by the latter of their rights to make choices affecting their lives.
The problem with gender equality is the mode of production and the role of women in it. Social and religious super structure imposed by the elite is another major hurdle in the way of gender equality. Fixing quotas and legislation to protect women are superficial and temporary solutions to the problem. The real change will come when women will have opportunity to play an important role in the mode of production. Moreover, the women have to challenge the prevalent religious and social discourse, which perpetuates patriarchy and subjugates women. Language is also an instrument of gender discrimination as it constructs reality and inculcates social and religious values. Hence, gender equality will remain a myth unless and until women challenge the core structure, which causes their subordination.
Sialkot, August 1.