Ten years ago, as a student, when my good friend Zaim asked me if I was a feminist, my answer was a playful “no”. I remember the conversation until today. I justified it by saying that men and women are different, period (pun intended). But after getting married and especially after becoming a mom–a working mom–I am now a STAUNCH feminist. I even feel like God trusts me with three daughters because I am the right person to make them strong and independent feminists.
My initial foray into feminism started when I first got interested in equal pay. Like most lay person, I did not believe that there is a pay gap between males and females. It doesn’t make sense to a young professional because when we first started, of course, we were all paid the same. But what happened after a certain period? So, I did little research on the subject and found that there is a real pay gap between males and females across the world, across professions, and across positions. Women are paid less in general because most women work in low-paying jobs, and women are also paid less compared to men with the same job title. Why? Apparently because males are more valuable to a company. Why? Because someone has to be home for the children. Even if a couple doesn’t have children, someone has to clean and cook, and guess who has to carry that burden?
Don’t read this as a scathing write-up against my husband or men in general. I have massive love and respect for my husband, father and brother. But society…man, society… When are we going to move away from patriarchal thinking. Society rewards men who stay at work until midnight, but society expects women to go home at 5 for the kids. While her male colleagues are brushing up on their work, the females are at home brushing the kids’ teeth. Some may say that is how it has always been. Men bring in the dough, women are the caregivers. But my God how many times have I heard male speakers try to drill in our heads that we need two incomes to live comfortably. Women have to help their husbands financially as a sign of love. Don’t husbands have to show love to their wives? Don’t children deserve two parents to grow up well?
So, what’s the solution? I don’t believe anything will change until society decides to change. Stop punishing men (financially) who choose to go home early to be with his family. Stop expecting women to drop everything to be home when the kids are unwell. I have seen it around me. Female colleagues taking days off because the kids are unwell, the kids have to go to science camp, the kids have to… Almost every time I wanted to scream “Where’s the dad?!” Working mothers have ambitions too, but she still has clothes to dry, dishes to wash, etc. Many times I’ve heard bosses/managers told their female subordinates that they can’t do a job because they have to be home early. In my head I am sarcastically asking “And the men don’t have to be home, why? Aren’t the kids his as well? Isn’t the home his too?”
I love it when I read stories of people like Mark Zuckerberg who took months-long paternity leave. This would allow for a more level playing field. I am not blaming ‘men’; I am blaming society. How are men expected to take long paternity leave if his employer only allows 3-7 days leave? Some women take as long as 6 months to 1 year off to care for her baby because it is difficult to find trusted help. And when she starts working again, she would be behind her other colleagues. And that’s only the beginning of how gender pay gap happens.
I am not just expressing my dissatisfaction here. I am currently involved in a research that is studying inequality at the workplace. It happens. But most of us are too used to it that we don’t even see it happening in front of us. We women have been too kind for so long, accepting whatever is offered as if our service is worthless because it worths less. May I remind these women that they make up a majority of students in universities; they make up the majority of honor graduates. Demand your right. Believe me, the world suffers without strong women, not just to be behind strong men, but to be the leaders that we are. Remember the famous quote: “You educate a man; you educate a man. You educate a woman; you educate a generation.”
Don’t let a man call us a bitch because we like to adhere to a dateline. Don’t let a man call us a bitch because we are organized. Don’t let a man call us a bitch because we demand a pay rise. They have done all these the entire history of humanity. When women do the same, they are called names to a point that men fail to recognize the bitch they’re calling are mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters. I believe most men have one of the above.