The question of gender equality is a fascinating one, to say the least. I recently had a great chat on Facebook with one of my friends on the implications of the advice given in this post about men encouraging women’s quest to be modest in their dress to help decrease the level of objectification of her gender. This discussion cemented a belief that balancing the rights of men and women does not lie solely in empowering women; rather, an equal amount of work has to be done on empowering men. This work should result in both genders having the same level of freedom and empowerment to contribute to the fortunes of society.
The challenge remains in defining what “the fortunes of society” means. We know that being rich does not equate being happy. One only needs to turn to tabloid magazines following the exploits of celebrities in North America and count the number of breakdowns and even deaths in recent years to start questioning the often blind assumption that rich equates happiness.
Contentment and fulfilment often comes to individuals contributing decisively to elevating their community from addressing only physical and material needs, to also addressing those of the mental, emotional, and spiritual kind. And in such a mindset, material wealth and physical well-being become not an end, but means to achieve real happiness.
North America to me seems set up in a way in which not many people, be they man or woman, have freedom to contribute to the fulfilment of the five abovementioned needs. We seem to be prisoners of materialism. That is to say, the common discourse in society relates money to power and/or stuff, and that in turn naturally leads to happiness. And so, a large portion of us have adopted a lifestyle focused on achieving this purpose. Unfortunately, the means have become the ends, and our freedom to pursue true happiness is greatly reduced, to the point of leaving many of us feeling helpless.
This does not mean we should all stop working, live without material or physical comfort, and dedicate ourselves to the mental, emotional, and spiritual needs of our communities. Rather, it means that our perspective has to change. We should work, and strive to be excellent at whatever job we have and use both the salary we earn and the skills we learn to contribute to the physical, material, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being of our communities.
Image credit: Chad Mauger
First published on Sahar’s Blog on 27 July 2013.