Equality not always a gender issue

President Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga’s July speech on women’s issues before the Zonta International Convention seemed to blame the proportion of women students and business and leadership roles in modern society on the historical capacity of woman in childbearing and rearing roles. Perhaps the proportion of gender distribution among modern business and leadership roles is also a function of historical division of labor caused by practical necessity and individual voluntary choice which through time became tradition as well.

In earlier times the roles of men and women were more physically demanding than today, and the roles that developed were those that worked. Before technology made travel, communication, manufacturing, building, domestic chores, childrearing, education and even warfare more convenient, easy, faster, less physically and mentally exhausting ,it was necessary for defined roles for society to even function. Now, as technology levels the playing field it is more feasable for more role interchange to occur because natural bio-gender differences are less constraining. Modern gizmos often make child’s play out of work that used to wear folks out.

Trying to rush change in the name of progress by creating an adversarial climate between genders can be counterproductive. Blaming one side or the other for historical gender roles is useless because we have no way of knowing the true context in which others lived because we do not know the future they saw contemporaneously—which affected their choices. In all ages there were intelligent people who made choices to the best of their ability in the context of and practical necessities of their times. Those who follow may think they have 20-20 hindsight, but do they have it for the context of their own times?

In many societies tradition and history have established roles for the genders. It will take time for those to change in a positive way. Hostility and adversarialism can also slow change and retard progress.

Genesis 1:27 of the Bible states, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him, male and female created he them.”

There may be a good reason why we have two different genders instead of one. Diminishing the value of child bearing, rearing and nurturing in favor of hyperemphasis on career pursuits may have consequences in the lives of future children and adults that make careers seem secondary in retrospect. A domestic career may be the best choice for some individuals. It is a matter of balance. Of course, multiple available options can also make for better choices.

President Vīķe-Freiberga may want to see positive change for women, but she also knows that there are men—husbands, fathers, grandfathers, brothers, sons and friends—who want the same. Equality is not always necessarily a gender issue. It is an issue for fair-minded people of good will regardless of gender who can intelligently find practical ways to accomplish positive change in the best way for all concerned.

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