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One evening during my college days I visited a friend who sorely needed help with completing daily household chores – a skill often lacking in most college dorms and apartments. When I entered my friend’s kitchen, I was both pleasantly surprised and shocked to find a handsome youth washing dishes and cooking dinner. No, it was not my friend, and no, this was not a dream (although it did result in me meeting the man of my dreams).
His actions spoke louder than any words could have. That young man standing at the counter cooking and cleaning was not only completing a selfless act of service for my friend–he was also acting on and exemplifying his belief in the equality of women and men. Unlike times in the not-so-distant past, he believed that tasks such as household chores didn’t just belong exclusively to womenfolk (or get handed off to the cleaning lady, as my friend believed). That young man’s actions portrayed his deeper understanding of a universal truth: men and women are equal in the sight of God. Both are created by God, both are endowed with souls and innate capacities.
This story of how I met my husband-to-be highlights one of the basic tenets of my faith: the equality of men and women. Abdu’l-Baha said:
The world of humanity has two wings – one is women and the other men. Not until both wings are equally developed can the bird fly. Should one wing remain weak, flight is impossible. Not until the world of women becomes equal to the world of men in the acquisition of virtues and perfections, can success and prosperity be attained as they ought to be. – Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 302.
Evidences of a changing world, where the two wings of humanity develop in a more equal manner, grow more and more apparent each and every day. We see a rapidly-increasing number of women taking on leadership positions in governments, businesses, schools, and non-profit organizations. Twenty-two countries now have female heads of state, the largest number in human history. Women throughout the world attend elementary and secondary schools in much greater numbers, earn more advanced degrees, and take their rightful place in society as a result. Nations increasingly fight for the right of young women to be educated, realizing how much modern, well-developed economies depend on full female participation in the workforce and the culture. The Baha’i teachings have advocated this major change in humanity’s direction for almost two centuries now:
Women have equal rights with men upon earth; in religion and society they are a very important element. As long as women are prevented from attaining their highest possibilities, so long will men be unable to achieve the greatness which might be theirs. – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 40.
In other words, as the male and female wings of humanity both strengthen, the more successful the flight of humanity will become. Isn’t it exciting to see how far we could soar? What can each of us do to promote an ascending and successful human flight, to achieve the greatness which might be ours?
Perhaps we can start in our families and communities, by encouraging mothers, sisters, daughters, and wives to become educated, to serve others, and to work toward making the world a better place. Perhaps we could follow the example of that young man who not only defied stereotypes by cooking and cleaning for his friend, but encouraged his wife-to-be—me– to pursue an advanced degree, to strive for my dreams, and to be confident in my abilities and virtues.
Let’s focus our world-wide efforts on the flight of humanity by putting our beliefs in the equality of women and men into action. Together, we can wing our way toward a remarkable future.