I recently found out that a well-achieved, smart childhood friend of mine was physically abused by her partner for 20 years, until she finally filed for a divorce. We spoke regularly, even met up a few times over this period, and yet she hadn’t told me anything about it.
Like most people, I asked the question that was screaming from the top of my head, “Why did you put up with it for 20 years?!”
“Because I had no option. I had kids and I couldn’t support them on my salary alone. And I didn’t want alimony from this man.”
“Well, you did have a job?”
“Yes. But it was just a “nice to have”. I did what I could, but I didn’t earn enough to support a family.”
“So what changed now?”
“I built myself a serious career. I’m now economically independent and have the freedom to make my own choices!”
I find it inspiring to see how sections of the world come together every now and then to fight for their rights. People of color, religious minorities, differently-abled people, etc. asking for their basic human right to be treated fairly.
What do all of these groups have in common?
They’re all minorities. Minorities around the world have been treated poorly, some more than others, and it’s time that that stopped.
But it got me thinking. Women are treated poorly too. So we must be a minority too?
And that’s where all the connections in my brain get short-circuited.
Why are women treated so poorly?
Women are 50% of the population. 50%!! So we’re far from being a minority. Yet, we’re treated like ‘slaves of the world’. (I’m using Warren Buffett’s words – you can check out his documentary on HBO). And no one’s even batting an eyelid.
Yes, there are some efforts – an organization here, a leader there – doing their part to push for change. But the problem is so massive, that these efforts are barely making a dent. And we know that. Yet we go about our lives like everything is normal.
Is it because things are not as bad for women as they’re made out to be?
Research shows that no matter which part of the world you live in, this is not true. The numbers for physical assault alone are so staggeringly high that it’s enough to prove this point.
Violence against women in Scandinavian countries, which rank highest on gender equality, is at 30%. And that number jumps to 80% in some other parts of the world.
So in the best case scenario, 1 in 3 women experience physical violence. That means if you know two other women, one of you is a victim.
We don’t even need to talk about the zillion other ways in which things are skewed against women in this world.
So let’s stop using “it’s not so bad” an excuse to turn a blind eye to the problem.
So why do we still think of gender equality as a “social interest” and not an urgent crisis to fix?
Is it because women just deserve to be treated poorly?
(No one deserves to be, but just play along with me for now.) Is it because we hurt people, because we flout the law, because we make the world a bad place to live in?
Nope. Nada. The numbers actually confirm that we are more law-abiding, that we commit way fewer crimes than men, that we’re empathetic and considerate, and that we spend a lot more time caring for our families and others.
Hmm.. so we’re half the population, we behave ourselves, we take care of others and we make the world a better place. And yet we’re treated like second-class citizens.
Why do things continue to be this way? Why have they been this way for centuries?
There are two possible explanations I have concluded on.
- We’re conditioned to believe that it’s a man’s world and accept that this is how things work.
- We worry that if we stand up for ourselves, we could face worse consequences.
I can see how #1 plays out. We’re born into a society that’s like this. We grow up in a society that’s like this. And we think this is how it is and keep living on.
If we were aliens coming into this world, we’d immediately realize how unfairly women are treated. But because we live amidst all this injustice, it takes a lot of awareness to recognize it. Which is why Rekindle helps women take a step back and notice it (without turning them into aliens). And then it helps women gradually take steps to address it.
Now let’s jump to #2: We worry about the consequences of standing up for ourselves.
What could those consequences be?
Like my friend, a lot of women in relationships have their jobs treated as a “nice to have”. So we’re still economically dependent on someone else. Standing up for ourselves means losing that economic support.
And that may really be what it boils down to. We’re forced to put up with injustice because it’s the price we pay for our survival.
Unless women become economically independent, no matter how much we raise our voices, things won’t change much.
We need to invest in ourselves and make our financial independence a priority if we want to achieve true equality.
Being economically independent gives us the freedom to make our own choices. It gives us the courage to stand up for ourselves. And it gives us the strength to be our whole selves.
That’s the magic of being independent. And that’s why we at Rekindle are so passionate about helping women discover their full potential to build successful careers.
Make your career a priority. And give yourself the financial freedom to live life on your terms!
Wish you the very best!
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