Want Women's Equality? Raise Better Men
We're equal on paper, but not in statistics. The pay gap is real, and so are the double standards at work and inside our homes, the different expectations for parenting, and the social rules. And, above all, we're under so much pressure to prove that we deserve to be equal constantly.
We might have a seat at their table, but as long as men don't have the same seat at our table, we're one step behind. We've been making fantastic progress on female equality, and now we need to take action and invite men to join us at our table — one that doesn't have million-dollar budgets and strategic takeovers, but dirty dishes, tiny runny noses, and tons of guilt.
Another Century of ‘Equality’
We might have made progress in some cultures, but many women worldwide still don't have equal legal work rights as men. Even in Western cultures, equal rights sometimes remain only on paper. In the EU, the gender employment gap was 11.7% in 2019, despite more women attaining tertiary education than men.
Simply put, we go to university to earn a diploma, but we're less likely to procure the job we want after we graduate. And, when someone finally hires us, we have to navigate with the gender pay gap, discrimination, and impossible expectations if we decide to have children.
At the current rate, we'll need more than 100 years to close the gap. I think we can accelerate the process if we start at home. We can't let our sons grow up believing that the struggle and the exhaustion are normal. Women harm other women without even realizing it by making the next generation think we're happy "having it all."
It's Our Duty to Start Raising Better Men
I have two sons, and I'm doing my best to teach them that women don't deserve to be treated differently just because they happen to be biologically different. I started when they were little when I changed the "you can't hit girls" with "you can't hit other children."
I also discourage my sons from acting differently around girls just because "they're girls, and you should be a gentleman." As my older son grew, I had to change the narrative and help him acknowledge the differences without seeing them as the criteria for deciding a person's value.
Luckily, we now live in a country where women take equality pretty seriously. My kids have plenty of examples of strong women who live their best lives without regrets and men who aren't afraid of taking a day off from work to take their kids to the pediatrician.
We also divide house chores by age, skills, and hours worked in a day, not by gender. My husband knows that he must lead by example, so he'll do his part in cooking, laundry, and other "women" activities.
These might be small steps, but they matter because we show them our "normality." And, when other kids come to our home, they also get to see there's another way to do things — one that doesn't expect the woman to sit at two tables simultaneously.
It All Starts With Childhood
I'm one of the privileged girls who grew up knowing that men could cook, clean after themselves, and take care of the children when they had a cold. Grandpa believed both men and women should know how to take care of the house, and he was in charge of pots and pans in his home. He also kept telling me to finish my studies, get a job and not rely on allowance money when I grow up.
He was a rare bird in a society that put men on pedestals, and the way he shaped my mind made a significant difference as I became an adult. He raised me to feel equal and somehow sent me the message that I could have a place at any table I wanted and even make up my mind if the position wouldn't suit me anymore.
What Grandpa couldn't tell me was that we don't need all these tables. Growing up, I realized that this metaphor was only fueling the struggle and the need to prove myself worthy. Education is the only effective method that can close the gap. Whether we like it or not, our generation is biased. Maybe not as much as our predecessors, but still enough to make it hard for us to finish the long history of inequalities.
We can't change the norm, but we can become aware of how we talk to our kids and raise them better so that one day, our sons stop building two different tables.