All through my life, I have had a very inquisitive mind, always questioning why certain things were this way and why other things were not the way I felt they should be. Way too often, I kept some of these questions to myself, but I never stopped seeking answers.
One question that used to weigh heavily on my mind in my mid-teens was why in the society I grew up in, it was also said that young single women who had their own cars will ‘chase men away’, because the men will be intimidated. As a result of this belief, not a few women I knew turned down the opportunity to own their own cars or at least delay it until they were ‘in their husbands’ houses.’ I wondered where this belief came from.
Looking back, I think that was when my eyes opened to the fact that there was a huge disparity in the expectations society has placed on men and women, and how each sex adjusts to it. It ranged from the seemingly mundane like the women were always expected to be the ones in the kitchen cooking to the life-defining ones like restricting women to certain career paths because they are, well, women.
Of course, the argument for those who support, entrench and even propagate these mindsets is that certain roles have been pre-assigned to each sex by nature. Inarguable that there are roles assigned to sexes by nature, but what roles exactly?
No matter how hard I try, I will be unable to conceive and give birth to babies – this is because my biology does not allow for that. But what does my biology as a male have to do with my ability to step into the kitchen and whip up a mean dish? What does it have to with a woman’s ability to be, say, an excellent soldier or engineer?
This is where most of us get it wrong – we conflate sex and gender. Simply put, sex is that which is assigned by nature, such as the ability to give birth or breast-feed. Gender, on the other hand, are roles assigned to sexes by society. This means the belief, for example that women are not as natural leaders or should not even lead at all is more a gender role than to sex; so also is the belief that as men, we are not emotional and as such, we shouldn’t show pain or hurt even if that is what we are feeling.
These beliefs have played a role in limiting us from reaching our full potentials as human beings – both men and women. When a society believes a woman’s priority in life is to get married and have kids at all costs, it does not encourage her in seeking fulfillment in life beyond this, and in exploring herself to discover her passions and applying herself to it. When a society believes a real man is one who is strong-minded, unemotional and bearing every kind of pressure, it creates a toxic masculinity mindset that harms men physically and emotionally.
In a world with gender equality, both men and women benefit.
However, to achieve this, it will require each of us to unlearn millennia of conditioning of gender roles, and to relearn what gender roles should be. To achieve this, I have been using a free online resource made up of six fun and interactive courses called The Purple Academy. This set of courses can be done even on your mobile device, and can be started and paused at any time.
We cannot continue to harp on the need for gender equality, especially one that empowers both men and women, without first understanding what gender is, and The Purple Academy will help us with understanding that will enable us to be more conscious of gender roles so that we can develop new mindsets. Without this new mindset, we cannot be advocates for a purple world – one where men and women are equal partners in every facet of life, a 50-50 world.
Looking forward to hearing you share stories of your experience at The Purple Academy.