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As a young kid exploring the world, I learned quite early that this veil existed between both major genders in our country. It’s been there for centuries, trickled into culture and transformed itself into a norm.

This veil came in many forms: in the form of seating girls and boys separately in classrooms. Sometimes, it was a physical veil or clothing some women had wear in the presence of men. I have vague recollections of weddings and religious ceremonies tying a veil between the separated columns for men and women. “Do not make eye contact when you talk to a man.”, the elders used to tell us. So lastly, this invisible veil between lowering your gaze and meeting one's eyes sweeped silently between men and women.

One may argue that these segregations are traditions that uphold our morale, what it really did was force a discrimination where it wasn’t necessary or sensible. We were divided into two sects of people that found it almost impossible to understand each other. As we know, every case of discrimination through history led to oppression and assumption of dominance. It became popularized that women were ‘the weaker sex’. Pop-culture fuelled our minds with notions of the Madonna-Whore Complex - a psychological complex when one divides women into either saintly Madonnas or debased prostitutes.

It is safe to say that this gender bias wasn’t a global phenomenon. Different parts of the world experienced various levels of gender disparity and progressed through time. Half the world witnessed revolution in the form of demands for equal rights. We had women who had travelled into space, headed armies, written bestsellers, and made scientific discoveries. This showcased our equal capabilities to men and broke stereotypes. The other half of the world, however, confined women into the household. They were considered delicate, easily-corruptible beings that must be protected from their own ideas. Here, men and women weren’t just thought to be different, they were made polar opposites, In our present world, traces of both these worlds remain. We are still discovering and rejecting a patricharcial structure that has been doing us no good. With the power of technology, communication and education, we are now able to create a change. Fast!. The #MeToo movement is a great example of this.

Here are some ways you and I can step out of male dominance.

1. Take the gender bias out of your mind

Women are often made to feel apologetic for their body, desires, wants and dreams. A female who speaks and acts her mind is oftentimes called aloof, she is considered immoral for not being submissive. Buying sanitary napkins was done in hushed voices as menstruation is still considered impure in some cultures. We still adhere to baseless codes of morality from the fear of being judged. If we can liberate our own minds from this fear, we can find the courage to make our own choices and bear their results. If you are capable, offer to carry the bags, get the bill or take the seat next to a man in a bus. We erase differences by viewing both sexes as individuals. Individuals who can sit in the same room, hold eye contact and share ideas.

2. Be independent. Get out of your comfort zone.

There is a false sense of security attached with the expectation that men must “look after” women. This could be in a financial, decision making or protective manner. In the past, letters to a female mentioned below her name “care of (followed by her husband or father’s name)” In spite of physical differences, men and women mentally have equal mental capabilities to be independent. Actively seek education to learn skills, find employment, become financially independent and chase your ambitions, By doing so, you don’t just bridge the economic gap between genders but also work towards a world with equal pay, representation and opportunities.

3. Vocalize your thoughts, Create a ripple of change

If we can learn to defend ourselves, not necessarily always physically but also verbally, by simply saying “That is not okay” to a sexist remark, we are rebuilding a world safer for women. Cases of violence against women are on an all-time high. It’s time we compared less and uplifted more. We must make a safe place for women in the form of a global sisterhood of speaking up against abuse. We change the future by treating our sons and daughters with equality. Remember, change lies in the little things.. With mutual respect and understanding, we rebuild empathy. We will soon see that men and women are more alike than different. Together we can break age-old shackles.

-Fathima Shayek

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