Questionable Motives

October 11, 2012

Should we just dream of civil rights… for gender equality?

Filed under: civil rights,Equality,misogyny,sexism — tildeb @ 11:36 am

The video of Australia’s Prime Minister Julia Gillard  tearing a new one for the Leader of the Opposition Tony Abbott’s blatant sexism and hypocrisy has gone viral. In Pakistan, we have the shooting of a 14 year old girl who dared criticize the Taliban’s condemnation of education for people with vaginas. In atheist circles, we have the ongoing debate about SkepChick telling guys not to accost women in elevators late at night. We have Jessica Ahlquist threatened with rape and murder for advocating the removal of the Lord’s Prayer from her school. And the list of those daring to point out sexism grows daily in the face of anger and resentment, threats and hatred. Courage, as we can see, is a quality of character. We need more of it.

Martin Luther King gave a speech about civil rights where he eloquently explained to those of us who assumed race to be an important and defining aspect of our identity to dare to dream… dream that his four children would one day live in a nation where they would not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. Powerful words…. words just as true for race as they are for gender.

What this means in action is that we are responsible for keeping racism alive when we empower it. That means we are the ones responsible for practicing racism when we allow ourselves to use it as a meaningful part of an individual’s identity rather than allow that identity to be based on the content of the individual’s character. Likewise, we are individually responsible for empowering sexism when we assume gender defines the content of an individual’s character. We become sexist when we do this. When a child advocates for education, and gets a bullet in the head for doing so, no other excuse than ignorant sexism of the shooter can account for delivering this blow to a girl rather than a boy. But the shooter doesn’t target boys and in comparison boys are not assassinated for seeking education. Girls are. Globally. And that kind of misogyny practiced by so many is just as obscene to King’s central point as is assuming leadership in matters theological is dependent on possessing a penis. Sexism – like racism – reduces both the character of the practitioner as well as the rights of the target to be treated fairly.

We know we have arrived in the promised land of civil rights when we don’t see skin colour as meaningful, when we don’t treat people differently based on knowing their sexual orientation, when we do not even consider gender to play a part in defining abilities and character. When we treat people fairly – as we ourselves wish to be treated by others – then we do our individual part to eliminate these artificial impediments others must face… at least in our personal dealings.  And what a world this would be if more of us would set out to do our small part in elevating the content of our own characters by having even a modicum of courage exhibited by so many women of removing these stupid and damaging -isms we impose on others and thus directly improve in some small way the lives of those with whom we interact.

Each of us can do this. And the time to start is now.

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