#HeForShe: Strong Women: Why Society Teaches Us to Hate Them

#HeForShe

Misogyny. The dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women. To thoroughly scrutinize this term throughout history from an objective perspective would mean to find gender inequity embedded in almost every aspect of previous generations. Philosopher Aristotle once said that the courage of a man lies in commanding whereas that of a woman lies in obeying. When Zeus decided humankind was in need of punishment, the damnation he sent was Pandora, a woman who foolishly opened a jar, unleashing evil upon the world. Early church leaders and scholars were keen to diminish the importance of Mary Magdalene in Christianity; some claimed her to have been a prostitute while others the wife of Jesus rather than the first to learn of his resurrection or one of those who traveled faithfully at his side. These figures and their stories are a key part of our societal development, but while they remain prominent, the fire of misogyny rages on.

There is little wonder as to why society has molded to suit the preferences of men from generations past; after all, they were the ones to shape it. The programming industry is one that is primarily dominated by men, so there is no recognition for Ada Lovelace, the first programmer, and a woman. It is men who serve as powerful leaders and warriors therefore it is unnecessary to remember Queen Boudica who led an army of 100,000 to drive the Romans out of the former capital of Roman Britain. Notorious for her seduction of Julius Caesar and extraordinary beauty, why bother mentioning that Cleopatra was the only one out of a Greek dynasty of Pharaohs to learn the Egyptian language along with 6 others?

This is not to suggest that history books ought to be rewritten in order to satisfy women, or that their contribution to culture and heritage was more significant than their male counterparts, but it is simply to ensure consciousness that international curricula lack the sufficient content needed to understand the unaltered accuracy.

The Threat of a Teenage Girl

Could you name 10 people who inspired an international youth climate change movement? Perhaps only 5? So few have truly been a symbol of change for young people around the world because so few have endeavored to acknowledge them. In 2019, the then 16-year-old Greta Thunberg defied expectations in order to construct a platform of her own to relay her message to a listening crowd and became a leader for the many in need of direction. Famed for her accusatory 'How dare you?' speech at the United Nations Climate Change Conference, Thunberg shamed figureheads across the world for their lack of initiative in response to the climate crisis. Her character swayed millions of teenagers to skip school to join her in a strike to promote governments to take immediate action to avoid the impending destruction and preserve their home.

"How dare you? You have stolen my dreams and my childhood."

But there were many unwilling to listen to this young girl's words. Because to be a teenage girl who negotiates with political figures and has her face plastered on the covers of renowned magazines is not where a teenage girl should be. Facing unprecedented success, the passionate Swede was forced to accept the inevitable criticism that came with being a strong female in the spotlight. Summer of 2019, the activist made her way across the Atlantic; her mode of transportation: a zero-carbon yacht. This was viewed as a sign of commitment to her beliefs, along with her decision to drop out of school early in order to focus on what felt more crucial and important to her. However, some Twitter users found it hilarious when British businessman Arron Banks mocked the idea of "Freak yachting accidents" being common during her time of travel.

Leonardo Dicaprio- beloved actor, middle-aged man, passionated environmentalist; where was the mockery over his hypocrisy for the use of private jets in 2017 or for the praise he received when flying commercial in 2019? While he faced criticism from his younger fans, it is the older generations who chose to turn a blind eye to the matter. It is an effortless task to undermine the work of a teenage girl but the millions across the world who have been touched by her words are not willing to see her be overlooked.

"We are striking because we have done our homework, and they have not." Greta Thunberg

I Am Malala

In Northwest Pakistan, where the Taliban held sway, an 11-year-old girl transcribed her dreams into a diary, hoping for a future where all girls would have the right to an education in which the fundamentalist movement was not so keen on. From the contented response to the diary's publication, it was evident that Malala Yousafzai had stirred daring and curious women to stand with her, making her a key figure in the fight for educational equality.

Her rise to fame was not particularly esteemed by the fundamentalist group and in October of 2012, Malala was shot by Taliban militants in an attempt to cease her national influence. The situational irony of this event was that Malala's name did not fade away, and while she was hospitalized, her name had imploded in the face of the extremist power gaining international coverage and awareness.

Now everyone had heard her name. Upon leaving the hospital she took no time in launching the 'Malala Fund" which would assist millions of girls around the globe in receiving an education. However, Pakistan pushed back. While many Pakistanis admired the symbol of hope she became for young girls, the majority of the country came to oppose the person she had become. Rather than continuing her previous work, Malala used this new-found international fame to push her influence further out into the world, dismissing the negativity in order to put all her efforts elsewhere.

"There was a time when women activists asked men to stand up for their rights, but this time we will do it by ourselves."

October 2014: just one month after becoming, at 17, the youngest person to have ever won a Nobel Peace Prize, the All Pakistan Private Schools Federation (APPSF) launched the "I Am Not Malala" campaign to counter the message of her book "I Am Malala". The APPSF called for the book to be banned in all private schools across the country as many Pakistani scholars were united in the impression that the book would leave readers in "a confused state of mind". Too powerful and too popular, the girl who once wanted to change her own life had become a distant memory, replaced by what they saw as a tool controlled by the powers of the West. Through her speeches, Malala motivated both men and women to free themselves from the hold of tyrannical governments; through her book she shattered the victimized stereotype of Pakistani women, naming many she considered to be stimulating and memorable.

The Woes of a Feminist

When a man proclaims himself a feminist the world is in awe. He is open-minded; a philogynist; an egalitarian. Yet when a woman stands up for her own rights she is aggressive and loud, or a misandrist. Not long after Emma Watson 'came out' as a feminist did she become the target of animosity and hatred from both men and women. Seemingly, while feminists fight to reclaim their rights from the tight grasp of toxic masculinity, women themselves have conformed to societal restrictions. Being rich and an award-winning actress led many to believe that Watson could not be a true feminist, not if she lived a life of privilege.

What is a feminist? It is evident that there are certain traits or characteristics you must acquire in order to join this 'league'. A feminist is not a woman who has endured gender-related hardships. A feminist is not a woman who despises men or views females as superior. A feminist is not a woman. A feminist is simply a person who believes that both men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.

Some believe that to be a supporter of women's rights, one must exhibit modesty, for a lack of modesty signifies that one does not wish to earn other's respect. Watson was forced to address the nearly topless photos released in 2017 as a shoot for Vanity Fair. Many publications and social media responded in disapproval of the shoot, calling the actress a hypocrite for her provocative photos since she claims to be a devout feminist. The Hollywood Reporter published an article titled "Is Actress and Feminist Emma Watson a Hypocrite for Going Topless in Vanity Fair?". This question insinuates that feminism is linked to nudity or revealing skin. Where is the association between the two? Specifically, how is the fight for equal pay won by covering up?

"Feminism is about giving women a choice... Feminism is not a stick with which to beat other women" Emma Watson

When Tomorrow Comes

Ultimately, one can only look to what the future holds rather than dwelling on complications of the past. Perhaps cliche, but there must be some sort of metaphorical light at the end of the tunnel where equality is not fought for but ensured. Learning from some of the greatest stories in history, along the path to success every bump shall be brutal and every challenge callous.

Even today with the continuous progression forward, society has yet to conform to the presence of women. They cannot bow to the changes presented by women because women have not traditionally been leaders or change-makers. Yet it is clear that the longer women feel overlooked or ignored, the more frustrated and insistent they will become. Someone has to listen, it is just a matter of when.

After all,

Hell hath no fury as a woman scorned.

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Reem Hassan

In Little Women, Louisa May Alcott wrote 'I want to be great, or nothing'. This quote truly resonates with her; if one is to be anything, then why not be great? If not that, then at least achieve something that embodies a distinct amount of greatness.


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