For hundreds, if not thousands of years, women have been crying out for equality. They have cried out to prevent injustice. They have cried out to be treated fairly. Though massive strides have been made over the centuries, there is still a few yards to go in order to achieve what women have longed for. But the question I want to ask is: What did women really ask for? Was it Equality or Quality?
Let’s explore that.
The Beginnings of Women’s Lib
Is it possible to pinpoint the exact moment women began to seek equality? One could argue that it began in the Garden of Eden with Eve stepping up to make her own decisions, which by the way didn’t end too well because some man did not do his job. (Just saying) Maybe we don’t want to go there as it didn’t end too well for that movement. Yet it seems women have always been championing for various versions of equality.
Women began just focusing on being mothers and wives. Despite what many may argue, it was the perfect role in the beginning as the jobs were providing and protecting for the men and maintaining for the women. This doesn’t mean that the women couldn’t or didn’t step over the traditional lines and do what needed to be done. It’s just they didn’t push to do that. In the early years it was more about survival instead of equality. Most women didn’t fight the lack of rights they had. It really wasn’t an issue in the early years of mankind as civilization advanced.
Then the world began to change. Everything wasn’t as simple any more.
As change developed, differences between the sexes grew. While the roles were naturally different, a perception of the lower status of women evolved. Their contributions to society were not as important as that of men. Their voice was not to be heard. Their use was nothing beyond babies and keeping house. Suddenly they were not vital in the functions of society.
Women were put into a certain mold and rarely were allowed out of it. That view only strengthened as time went on. Men felt the power and enjoyed it. Thus women began to fight back.
Reaction of Society
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that society’s reaction was not favorable. After all, most of society was run by men. They didn’t want their power removed. They liked things the way they were.
Now, let’s pause here a minute. We can’t get too hard on the men. They only knew what they had been taught by society before them. Yes, they might admire a few women, but they were taught that women had their place. Most women kept to that place, so it must be the right way it all should be. The few women who pushed the lines tended to be too brash anyway, and there were quite a few ditsy women out there who proved their point. (What they didn’t realize that there just as many dumb men as well.)
WIC.org states it the best:
“Women were long considered naturally weaker than men, squeamish, and unable to perform work requiring muscular or intellectual development. In most preindustrial societies, for example, domestic chores were relegated to women, leaving “heavier” labor such as hunting and plowing to men. This ignored the fact that caring for children and doing such tasks as milking cows and washing clothes also required heavy, sustained labor. But physiological tests now suggest that women have a greater tolerance for pain, and statistics reveal that women live longer and are more resistant to many diseases.” (http://www.wic.org/misc/history.htm)
Men and women got into a rut and got stuck. They saw themselves in specific roles and nothing else. A few on both sides began to see that times had changed and the status put on each was unfair. They wanted some changes which did not go well with others in society.
Society likes to keep things the way it is. Never has it welcomed change even if it was agreed that change was needed. So to really shift the power base would not be welcomed with open arms. Also, keep in mind that the women weren’t asking to take over the world. They just didn’t want to be treated as second class citizens or to be shunned. They wanted a voice in society since they were a major component and vital for its continuation.
Society fought against the movement of women. Even women stood against their own for fear of what would come. They were just as afraid of what the future held if they rocked the boat. After all, many of them had it made. They were taken care of. They were protected, but too often they were treated as no more than glamorized pets or small children. That was not satisfactory for many women. They began to get more vocal and more active in their protests.
Women walked in protests. They argued in the courts of law for their rights as equal citizens to the men. They fought their own husbands, fathers, and brothers on the topic. They would not be quieted, but they would be fought.
The women who fought for a voice won many victories. They didn’t get all they asked for immediately and still are fighting their way uphill, but steps were won.
One was more equity in marriage: “Equity law, which developed in England, emphasized the principle of equal rights rather than tradition. Equity law had a liberalizing effect upon the legal rights of women in the United States. For instance, a woman could sue her husband. Mississippi in 1839, followed by New York in 1848 and Massachusetts in 1854, passed laws allowing married women to own property separate from their husbands. In divorce law, however, generally the divorced husband kept legal control of both children and property.” (http://www.wic.org/misc/history.htm) Women began to stand more on their own two feet instead of just running the house and birthing babies.
The law continued to listen to the cries of women in the several government acts that forced companies to treat women fairly and opened many doors to them that had otherwise been closed to their gender. Issues persisted, but each decade began to see a little progress.
Doors began to open to women in politics, business, and more. They began to lead universities, corporations, and non-profits. Yet setbacks continue into this day.
Just when women began to think they had made a lot of progress, they discovered a bunch of debris on their rudder, slowing them down without even realizing it. They had ignored many problems while putting their all into more focused battles.
Women achieved the right to vote but still faced battles to get jobs when more qualified than the male contestant. Women achieved the right to obtain leadership roles in the corporate world as well in politics, but they still kept quiet when sexually harassed.
During the beginning of the twenty-first century, women began to notice where they had failed in bringing about equality. They had pushed for better pay though they still saw an inequality in it. They pushed to have doors opened to them that had previously been closed. They achieved it only to see limitations still existed in the boy’s club.
Lately, a movement has spread across the world where women have finally stood up to sexual harassment and faced their attackers. No more would they put up with “innocent” groping much less forced sex. Women did not want to be considered meat to men. They wanted to earn what they achieved.
But did they really get what they wanted?
Equality or Quality?
Did women want equality or quality? Are they the same? Maybe and maybe not.
Let’s look at what Webster’s Dictionary says about being equal. Webster defines equal as “the same measure…as another” and “capable of meeting the requirements of a situation or a task.” Here equal is seeing a man and woman as the same. They should be able to meet the same abilities as each other in the workforce and as a citizen. They should be seen the same when applying for that manager position. But do they really want to be looked at as the same as a man? Possibly not.
Women want to not be pushed down because they are female. They don’t want to be men in society. They want to be women who are given opportunities the same as men. Their gender should not be the reason they are denied those opportunities.
That is where the quality comes into play. Per Webster, quality can mean a “peculiar and essential character…inherent feature…capacity…degree of excellence…superiority in kind…social status…distinguishing attribute.” Let’s focus on the definition of capacity and degree of excellence.
Did women want to obtain positions because they are women or because they are quality material for those positions? When they began voicing their concerns on not having a voice and the opportunity that men had, did they want to be given it because they were women only? Or did they want it because they had the ability to do the job and the intelligence to give quality to the voice?
The big question becomes: “Do women want quality equality or just equality?”
A woman can get into the position of director of sales. She can make the same salary of a man in a similar position. That is equality, but it might not be quality equality. If she was promoted just because the law says a woman has to occupy that position, is that really the right kind of equality? She might not do a good job at all that has nothing to do with her gender. Another woman might do it better, but she was given the job so the company could say they are about equality…but not quality.
Let me stop and comment personally here. I ask this because too often I have seen people promoted into positions to show they can have the right percentage of women or minorities. Great, except too often they were not the right people for the role. In many cases they were complete idiots and hired only to say the company did it. Not quality equality at all. I recently watched a woman threaten a company if they did not promote her. She applied for two jobs within the company and didn’t get either one mainly because she was set to retire within two years. They did not want to promote her only to have her leave immediately. But the threat of a lawsuit brought about a new position to put her in just to quiet her. That doesn’t help the cause of women at all.
Women began asking just to not be treated as stupid and unable to do the jobs men were doing. Granted there are always jobs that either gender cannot do, but society had expanded it to include many things women were more than capable of. They wanted the chance to prove themselves. They wanted to not be given less pay or less opportunity because they were female. They wanted to show they had the abilities to do what men did.
What they got was mixed. Women over time gained many strides. They have few of the obstacles they had in the Middle Ages or during Roman times. The women of those long ago days would be thrilled to see where women had come. They would celebrate. What they would be disappointed in is that too often, women are given opportunities for the wrong reasons and too often fail because of it. They wanted equality but would prefer that it is quality equality that removes all barriers and makes them truly equal to others in those opportunities.