It's the International Women's Day today!
We made grands strides in less than a century. Women can now vote, get an education (though many places still frown on educating the females), get a job, smash through the glass ceiling and CHOOSE to stay at home and raise their babies (it used to be terpaksa-rela or it-really-ain't-a-choice-sugar). It's good to be a woman in this age because we live longer and are less likely to die in childbirth (unless you live in Afghanistan, Chad or something). And we have more opportunities than our grandmothers and great grandmothers, and all this changes over a mere two generations (barely three weeks if you are a fruit fly), at least for the women in Malaysia.
But we are still crippled by body image issues; trading corsets (yes, in Asia, we wore bengkung) for anorexia, the white ones burn themselves in the sun or in salons, the darker ones peel their skin with harmful chemicals to become fairer. We still earn less than men while working twice as hard, still get stuck with more household chores than our partner (maybe not an issue for lesbian couples, *LOL*), and we are expected to remain a virgin on our wedding nights when the men get approving thumps on their back for being a lothario. Our days off are not necessarily days off like a man would describe it and in fair weather or foul, the expectations on us don't change.
We are still not in control of the decisions to be made on our body. In the US, the Congressional hearing on contraception was a panel of men; so yeah, they know so well about a woman's reality about birth control and abortion *rolls eyes*. Did they not think that supporting the former means reducing the need for the latter? What with global warming and the stress of accommodating the needs of a burgeoning world population, having children in a more judicious manner is only logical.
wears too much or too little. Frankly, I believe that a woman has a right to choose whether she wants to wear a bikini or a burqa. Women's clothing has been an issue of contention at political and social level, as though the what we wear is the fabric of the society. Face it: the real major causes of social ills are poverty, lack of access to education and opportunity, lack of respect and empathy to fellow humans (and non-humans) as well as greed.
NOTHING TO DO WITH WHAT WE WEAR OR DON'T WEAR.
A few historians and sociologists remarked that civilisations begin to decline when the society begin to segregate women from the rest of society (reference here and Fatima Mernissi's wonderful books Women and Islam: an Historical and Theological Inquiry as well as Islam and Democracy: Fear of the Modern World). In an attempt to attain purity, maintain "honour" and satisfy false masculine pride, women are isolated from the rest of society, denied rights of basic citizenship (e.g. their children not given citizenship status if their partner are foreigners) and denigrated as a human being (i.e. when violence against women is condoned by the society).
Women still don't get much respect: we get blamed when we get raped, we are the first to be economically marginalised when the country's financial system experience a meltdown, women's worthiness are still judged by their youth and looks and in any social crisis, women are among the first and most consistent victims.
Hence, inasmuch as we made leaps and progress towards improving the lot of women in this world, there are still plenty that needs to be fixed. For some society, the progression is remarkable and heartening, for some, social conditioning and culture made change a lot harder. We must never lose faith, ladies, but rather continue to work towards evolving our world to a more just and harmonious place. Not just for women, but for everyone.