Humans are unique animals, primarily because they ask questions. However, the questions asked aren’t always the right ones. One of the many questions asked today remains a controversial and erroneous one- Are men truly superior to women in terms of performances in most fields? Sadly, the evidence says yes.
Presently, men seem to be excelling in most fields despite diminishing inequality of opportunities; most of the top chefs in the USA, the richest of entrepreneurs and the most distinguished scientists and academics in the world are males. The crème de la crème in thriving technological industries, top bureaucratic posts and significant political positions belong primarily to the male gender. In fact, this excellence isn’t necessarily achieved through unethical means. Instances, where unfair means do prevail, are out of the ambit of the question at hand, for they in no way prove men’s superiority over women and simply point to an unfair society. What, though, can be said about their overwhelming success, achieved in all fairness?
When studied in isolation, the very acknowledgement of the idea that men perform better than women in most spheres seems sexist. However, ignoring actuality poses an even greater threat to feminism, for one can hope to cure an ailment only after identifying its cause. In fact, the question at hand, although seeming like a step towards identification, is ill-suited for this purpose- the right way to approach this predicament is to ask why men have a larger propensity of performing better in most fields than women. Acknowledging the historical context of gender bias becomes necessary here.
Before civilization, the biological and collective roles of each gender were set solely according to physical requirements of the population to ensure survival. Thus, women were gatherers (a job less strenuous and more domesticated than a hunter’s) and the source of bearing future population. With time, despite the establishment of structures relying less on brawn and more on brain, the ancient roles were carried on and converted into societal expectations from all people, cultures and states. These roles then started serving social obligations rather than practical functions, leading to irrational expectations. This prejudice later took the form of discrimination, as women were incessantly restricted to domestication and reproduction, two factors lying outside the societal definition of power and worth. Successively, patriarchy grew stronger, establishing the superior gender and providing justification to the social, political and economic backwardness of women.
Societal expectations imply psychological consequences too by accordingly determining one’s self-expectations; a marginalized community can potentially grow accustomed to an inferior life as a result of incessant subjugation and thus give significance to things that the society deems fit. So, on seeing her mother attain satisfaction by solely taking care of all kin and thus meeting the family’s expectations, a young girl psychologically alters the preferred means to attain success and appreciation through an identical approach. Thus, societal expectations and the domino effect create prejudice and bias in the minds of newer generations, robbing them of the opportunity to prioritize independently, coupled with a lack of encouragement and moral support to do so.
Opportunity is defined as a set of circumstances that makes it possible to do something -prejudice and discrimination confine one from receiving equitable opportunities. Women were denied opportunity through societal restrictions. On availing sparse acknowledgement and the consequent opportunity, women were inflicted with even greater forms of assault and exploitation on the “weaker” gender, blaming it all on the initial change. This retaliation reinforced the belief in the “rightful” division of societal roles based on gender, shackling change through fear and a vicious cycle of suppression; the world out there is too cruel, so you better stay inside. This fear stems out of a sense of being dominated, which in turn is born out of a belief in the ability to dominate. The origin of the latter is the subconscious observation of impact of men on the society for generations. The privileges, great expectations and real opportunities that come with being a male nourish one’s confidence. This confidence is further boosted cyclically and ironically by the faith women hold in their counterpart’s capability; one generation of females observe their predecessors place trust in the physical, social and economic capabilities of men, which have long been erroneously accepted as the norm. Subconscious observations thus undermine the confidence of and in women, diminishing their capability to deliver.
Lastly, more men work professionally than women in the world, given the spaces “assigned” by the society to each gender role. This implies that the probability of the most talented person in an industry to be a male rather than a female is quantifiably more; if you have four apples and ten oranges, the probability to find a fresh orange is relatively more. The product of a combination of normative expectations, counterfeit opportunities and subconscious observations of prejudices is the existing propensity of men to perform better in fields deemed “successful”. However, this result is far from permanency. A change in the aforementioned phenomena is a proof of ameliorating conditions.
Diversification of self-expectations of women combined with new societal incentives to facilitate female ambition (like maternity leaves) will yield results and consequently lead to a slow death of the vicious cycle of subconscious observations. Witnessing budding, independent females is altering the mindsets of newer generations as well, boosting the self-confidence of women. Once these observations become even more equitable and unbiased, increasing opportunities will consequently come their way. Therefore, linkages among expectations, opportunities and observations are both the strengths and weaknesses of the patriarchal structure; if one link is eliminated, this structure can fall like a pack of cards.
It is to be emphasized that given the chronological circumstances, the propensity to perform better in a field is not at all an indicator of the incapability of a gender, but a direct criticism of and objection towards these very circumstances. Men presently perform better and seem “superior” not due to any intrinsic goodness but due to all the wrong reasons. What women suffer from can thus be called a ‘man-made disadvantage’ which can only be reversed by challenging the very questions we ask, especially the wrong ones.
Picture Credits : telegraph.co.uk