Posted by: sailingspirit | June 14, 2012

Does Needing Defense Negate Equality?

I just spent a whole day reading and participating in the Gender Equality dialogue, most of which I found on or through the Mutuality 2012 Syncroblog, and while many great points stuck with me what I wanted to quick-post tonight was this one.

One commenter asserted that to be truly equal, women shouldn’t depend upon men for anything.  To request protection by men would be to admit to being weaker, that is less than men, and so they should be totally independent.  While I can understand how a pro-women person might come to this conclusion, I think it dangerous to let it hang in the air without further discussion and, ultimately, balance.

  • There is a difference between Equality and Independence; they are related but not synonymous.  They are not mutually exclusive, neither mutually inclusive.
  • Furthermore, to make that claim, did the claimant fully consider the difference between Independence and Interdependence?  Co-Dependence?  I’m inclined to think not.

movie cover for EnoughI would like to submit the movie Enough, starring Jennifer Lopez, Juliette Lewis, Billy Campbell, Noah Wyle, et. al. as an item of evidence to consider and discuss prior to judgment.  In this movie, Jennifer’s character experiences an interaction with two men, the first who acts dishonorably toward her and the second who jumps up to her defense.  She ends up marrying the defender, only to discover later that he is the worst threat she could ever imagine.  After escaping with their young daughter, she lives on the run in total fear for their lives for a considerable time.  Attempts to get justice fail because the justice system is equally set to protect him as her.  Spousal rights allow the bad man to eliminate all her access to her own banking accounts and cell phone, so she has no resources.  Trying to get a place to stay or a new job are also problematic, as they reveal her whereabouts, so she has no access to new resources, either.  So, what is a woman in this situation to do?  Is independence really as self-sufficient as we think it is?  As this movie shows, it definitely is not, because our society and infrastructures don’t allow us to be totally independent (unless you become a mountain man in Alaska).  When the things we lean on go bad, we find out shockingly quickly just how interdependent we truly are.

Equality from a legal standpoint still isn’t enough; it must be present socially, also, and the desired manifestations of gender equality are not as obvious as some might think.  I challenge you to watch Enough and identify:

  • how many people she went to and what percentage were actually helpful to her
  • where equality helped her and where it made things worse
  • what percentage of the men who had opportunity actually protected her from harm
  • the fundamental beliefs/ideas that people held that contributed to hurting her in some way
  • at what point, and in what way, could all of this have been “headed off at the pass”?
  • whether society is capable of achieving true gender equality if it does not include a fundamental belief that each is valuable and that we have a duty to protect one another, personally, not just indirectly/institutionally?

If we believe all citizens are equally worthy of being protected from threats outside our country, why are not all citizens equally worthy of protection from threats within?  What is the true definition of threat?  And where does duty begin?  I find it odd that some people strut and prance about how national defense is so masculine, and necessary; others think nothing of a man needing a defense lawyer in the courtroom and would never consider it knocking him down the social totem pole; but then the question of women needing defense could even be remotely connected to gender subservience.  I don’t believe any people group, gender included, can be humane and worthy of honor if it leaves another to struggle.  The people we admire and are most grateful to in life are those who inspired or selflessly helped us in some way to grow into better versions of ourselves.

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