In his most recent speech, Tayyip Erdogan, stated that women and men are not equal and thus further incensed secular Turkish people by stating that women should be left to embrace motherhood and their “delicate nature” by avoiding working heavy machinery.
Whilst most feminists (and women, generally) will be incensed at his insensitive and archaic comments, I found myself quietly agreeing with him — well, at least partially agreeing with him.
I mean, there can be no doubt that men and women are unequal... not in terms of capability or career progression, but in physical differences.
For starters, men cannot have children and no scientific advancement has come close to changing this fact. A woman’s whole body is geared to the creation and preservation of offspring. The fact that all of a woman’s eggs are already created when she is born is one way to evidence that.
There are other numerous differences between the sexes, some explicit and others not so, that do not need to be detailed here. The thing to consider, however, is that a woman’s body may be designed to have children but that does not mean this is her sole purpose in life.
What about those women who are not able to conceive? Has Mr Erdogan ever considered such a cold prospect? A woman’s role, biologically speaking, may be geared towards having children, but in reality, there is much more that she can offer to society and so much more to her life than that.
That is precisely why I am a vehement supporter of gender equality and women’s rights.
Currently, I work for a top law firm in London, in which there are 64 male partners and 36 female ones, and out of those female partners, less than half have children. The female lawyers work long hours to secure a stronger career, but are often overlooked in favour of their male counterparts. That's when they decide to marry or leave the firm to have children.
Those female lawyers who decide not to marry or to have kids, face an uphill struggle in convincing their male superiors that they can do the same job as their male colleagues. Even in such a highly democratised and “free” country as England, blatant discrimination is no thing of the past. Women barely receive the same pay as their male colleagues in most professions, and face far more career hiccups than men.
The point is, that regardless of rules, freedom movements and feminism, until and unless we can uproot the arcane views that men like Erdogan hold, women will always be subjugated to men.
Also read: Men and explanations
In Pakistan, women are highly discouraged from pursuing professional careers and are usually encouraged to stick to those career paths which resonate well with gender-typical roles, like teaching and nursing.
Often a time, once the woman reaches a marriageable age, she leaves her profession and settles down for the age-old routines of housewives and motherly duties. If she expresses the desire to pursue a career, she is often sidelined or discouraged, firstly, by her husband and then by her in-laws.
Oftentimes, they will resort to the ever popular phrase “hamari ghar ki auratein kaam nahin karti” (the ladies of our house are not supposed to work).
I personally know of qualified doctors who left the profession after dedicating a good half of their adult life to doctoral studies, just to focus on their marriage and domestic chores. It defeats the whole purpose of all their studies and the incredible hard work they put into it.
However, with time, perceptions are beginning to change.
We now have female fighter jet pilots, women who are scaling treacherous mountains and women directors getting international acclaim at the Oscars. We should be immensely proud of the barriers these women are breaking and the way they are shattering the misconception that our roles are limited to motherhood.
Take a look: We need feminist marriages, not feminist weddings
Don’t get me wrong, I am a mother myself and I embrace, appreciate and love every aspect of it, but I am not limited to this role. I refuse to let this be the only thing that defines me.
We cannot discount the fact that women in Pakistan are now outperforming men academically in nearly every educational sphere. Our society could make an exponential difference to itself if we rid ourselves from negative mindsets, like that of Mr Erdogan, otherwise we will only be stepping further back in time.