The reality is that we live in a male dominated world, and even though the landscape of the inequality of the sexes is currently changing to varying degrees and rates in many countries and societies, we’ve still got a long way to go as we’re products of our environment and there’s still a lot we can do as individuals to help change things.
Listed below are seven things men can do to help undo the oppression of women. It’s important to understand that we live in a materialistic society, and one definition of materialism is that it’s “a doctrine that the only or the highest values or objectives lie in material well-being and in the furtherance of material progress”. Given this definition, we clearly live in a materialistic society as success in our society is most often defined as an attainment of material advantage, whether it’s money, possessions, rank, competitiveness, or power. When people talk about what the greatest country in the world is, the greatest corporation, or the greatest sports team, these are invariably the criteria they use.
The first big step is to recognise that this is oppression. Confining women to their physical nature inhibits them from making their appropriate contribution to the world, and this is holding humanity back.
Oppression can be defined as the inability to attain knowledge because of the well-meaning but wrongly directed actions of a few. In light of this example, can we accept that being constantly treated as mere bodies is also oppression?
That which distinguishes us from animals, plants, and inanimate objects is not physical, so if we judge women by their appearance, focus exclusively on their bodies, pressure them to stay thin, and encourage them to dress so they appeal sexually, we continually reinforce their physical/animal reality and erode their spiritual reality.
Many men engage in “girl-watching” as entertainment, not considering the effect it has on those who are watched. But women come to understand that in order to appeal to men and to be valued, they have to make themselves as sexy as possible. They have to be thin, use makeup, wear sexualised clothing, and not be in any way masculine-like or threatening to men.
To provide some balance, it is essential that every comment, positive or negative, that you make about a woman’s appearance is offset by many comments about other things, such as virtues or abilities.
If you think that the character is a million times as important as the body, how can you justify it if even one out of a hundred of your compliments is on appearance? And the ratio is often much higher.
Think of all the images that every woman and girl will see every day that tell them that exposing more and more skin will help them achieve their goals in life. The constant bombardment by media and advertising has been likened to a soundtrack for life that plays continually in one’s head.
The words society uses for women reflect the way we diminish their humanity. We describe them as “sexy” or “hot”, we call them “broads” and “bimbos”. We use animal terms for them, calling women “foxes”, “birds”, “chicks”, and even the b-word, as if they are not human.
Every word you speak has its effect. Knowing the cumulative effect of all the words spoken about women on every television show, in every movie, in every ad, in every newspaper or magazine article, and on each Facebook post, make sure each of your words is chosen carefully.
If they are not supermodels themselves, they are often mocked as trying to deflect criticism of their own nonconformity to traditional standards of physical beauty. If they are supermodels, they are criticised for playing both sides. In both cases, there is often relentless commentary on their choices related to dress, hairstyle, hygiene, makeup, etc. that distracts people from what they are saying.
Please add your own ideas to the list in the ‘comments’ section below, so instead of just seven actions, we’ll have thousands, to hasten the day when together we will achieve the greatness we envision for humanity.