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Thursday, March 08, 2007

Ave Femina!

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Image hosting by PhotobucketToday, March 8, is International Women's Day. It's a day not so much of rememberance, but of awareness. Awareness of the many issues and challenges facing women worldwide. Even at home here in Malaysia.

Granted, women in Malaysia, by and large, are a lot better off than those in many places around the world. But there are still challenges - some of which are difficult to overcome because of culture-instilled mindsets and "norms".

To a degree, many of Malaysia's rules and regulations are very much gender biased. Simple example - Malaysians marrying foreigners - different rules apply for men and women, with the prevailing mindset that the woman is expected to follow the nationality of the husband. Kinda archaic, if you ask Walski.

The general attitude, for example, that women are implicitly to blame for social ills, is another big challenge. If a woman gets raped, for instance, the first thought that comes to the minds of many, across both genders, is "How was she dressed?". Sadly, even women have bought into this social conditioning that it must have been the woman's fault, if she was dressed less than "decent". What usually gets lost in the equation is that someone's personal space had been violated, to the extreme.

Somehow, as this quasi-misogynistic mindset goes, keeping women covered up, or better yet, unseen to the public eye, is suddenly going to make the world a better place.

The workplace - another challenge. Persons of equal capability, intelligence and aptitude are often judged by their gender. Even in the company that Walski works for, certain gender-biased attitudes exist - Walski will not get into the details of this, for obvious reasons, but they do exist.

And what about company rules and regulations that forces a woman to choose between her job and motherhood? Walski is, of course, referring to the case of Audra Atkinson-Yew, who had to choose between keeping her third child, or continuing a career in MAS. Apparently, the company's law states that a female flight attendant can only have up to 2 children, after which she has to choose between terminating her subsequent pregnancy (and keep her job) or her child.

Sure, parenthood is important, and given such a choice, Audra, of course, chose to do the right thing.

But if parenthood is important, is it not important enough that our legislation emulate progressive laws (such of certain Western European nations) allowing for extended paid parental leave to raise a child, while guaranteeing a person's job (in the same position, without penalty) upon return? In some of these countries (like Sweden), the government even shares the cost with the employer.

Now that's something Walski will willingly support with his tax ringgit any 'ol day. And if providing equal paternal leave opportunities is still too mindbogglingly avant garde an idea, we could start with maternity leave first.
(more pro-feminine thoughts, in the full post)

Which brings us back to the point that promoting gender equality has to be something the state needs to actively play an active part in.

Without going into details, there is definitely a lot of room for improvement in our own country when it comes to gender equality. And at the end of the day, that's what it's all about - equality. Across the imagined barriers of race, belief and gender.

Walski knows that this one post alone is not going to make a dent in the way things are. But hopefully, it will make you think. If you are male, think about treating the women in your lives equitably, with love, and most importantly, with respect.

And if you are female, take heart. Not all men are slime, and there are many among us (Walski included) who no longer subscribe to archaic models of gender roles in their lives. The world has changed a lot in the last few millenia, and it's about damn time our attitudes did, as well.

As a tribute to all women today, Walski will end this post with something that he felt echoes all that this day means. It's a song (of course, what else would it be) written by one person for his wife, primarily, and also for all women everywhere. Perhaps, it is the most poignant and memorable song written by a male, in tribute to the other important half of humanity.

Peace. Love. Rock 'n Roll... Happy IWD 2007, from Walski and the rest of the elves at myAsylum.

Walski's broken Latin footnote: The post title, Ave Femina means "Hail Woman", in case you were wondering. It's probably not correct grammatically, but then again, Walski doesn't speak dead languages.