Does the Equality of Women and Men Mean Only Equal Pay? Equal Hiring Practices? Equal Education? Or More?

For two years Kathy Gilman has been living in Kendal, in the United Kingdom, with her British husband. She became a Bahá’í in the 1970s after she loaned her car to some acquaintances for a weekend, and they left a Bahá’í prayer book on the dashboard when they returned it. She said she hoped that the course on The Equality of Women and Men (faculty, Vasu Mohan, Anne Pearson) would transform and guide her to implement the Bahá’í teachings on the equality of women and men in her personal life. Below she describes a fireside/deepening she gave, despite her misgivings about her abilities as a speaker, and some of the things she learned.—THE EDITORS 

“I feel the equality of women and men is more important
than I thought before I took the course.”
—Kathy Gilman

My Fireside. I gave a Bahá’í fireside on Thursday, January 26, on “The Equality of Women and Men.” It was hosted by a Bahá’í family in Kendal, England. There were seven people present, including three non-Bahá’ís, one of whom had never come to a Bahá’í event. I had printed out all of the Bahá’í writings from the course (all sixty-two of them) and used nineteen of the quotations as reference. I made copies of these quotations and handed them out. (I guess this was as much a deepening as a fireside.) I categorized the writings as follows and used the quotations to back up the statements and to provoke discussion about each one:

Causes of inequality
1. Lack of education and opportunities for girls and women
2. Lack of education for both genders regarding the true nature of humankind
3. Objectification of women and mass media
4. Lack of education of children regarding social transformation
5. Lack of cooperation and collaboration between women and men

Benefits of Equality of Women and Men
1. Both women and men will be able to reach their own potential
2. Enhanced relationships
3. The elimination of violence against women
4. Balance of feminine and masculine elements of civilization
5. World peace

I also showed all the videos from Unit 5 of the course, which those present enjoyed. These included:

·   “Cause and Effect: How the Media You Consume Can Change Your Life”
·   “Boys and Men: The Mask You Live In”
·   “The Representation Project: Rewrite the Story”
·   “The Nike ‘Girl Effect’”
·   “If She Can See It, She Can Be It”

The most discussion of the evening was about mass media. People really got going about that. I had too much material and only got through half of it. But my audience was so interested that I will be going back to do the other half.

Insights and Understandings. I love the idea that souls have no gender, so women and men are equal—also, that, even in advanced societies women and men are denied knowledge of their true selves (which, I believe, is the knowledge of the existence of our souls.) Without this knowledge, women and men can objectify each other as merely physical and fall into roles that are fed to us through various means. These ideas come from the article “Advancing Toward the Equality of Women and Men,” which I find an illuminating discourse (it is a document used in the Institute for Studies in Global Prosperity).

Working together, women and men, as cooperating and collaborating partners, rather than just separately in same gender groups, I can now see as important and inclusive. This might be more relevant in more industrialized countries, whereas perhaps in Africa, it is more useful at this time to focus on having girl’s schools. I can see from the video how this is useful there.

I enjoyed learning about the statistics about gender in TV and film from Geena Davis’s group. I did not know the industry had so many more men than women as directors, producers and writers.

Changes in My Values and Beliefs. I used to think that the equality of women and men was more on an economic level, such as equal pay for equal work, or on an opportunity level, such as fair hiring practices, or the same type of education for girls and boys. But equality is much more than that. It has to do with our identity—self-identity and perceived identity from others. Our thoughts lead us to what we do, and, if we don’t examine our beliefs, our actions will be unconscious blind imitations. Our true identity is our soul, which is an underlying oneness to us all, which allows us to be more empathic and understanding with each other.

How I Am Applying What I Learned. I am sharing what I have learned this way. When I notice that stereotyping is happening, I mention it tactfully. I think that the elementary/middle/high schools need to be approached about gender equity, but I don’t know how to do that. I have never worked in schools, and I am now living in England and am not familiar with the school system or their culture in terms of gender equity and have little confidence to know what to do to share information in a school setting here. Everything is new to me, living in a new country with a history different in all ways from that of the United States. So I will have to think about ways I can apply what I have learned.

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