The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.
What’s the thinnest book in the world? What Men Know About Women
How is being at a singles bar different from going to the circus? At the circus the clowns don’t talk.
Love is blind but marriage is an eye-opener.
Why do relationships between men and women make such excellent fodder for comedians? Why do we find these jokes funny? Perhaps because they remind us of ourselves or people we know. It’s kind of like the title of the book, Men are from Mars; Women are from Venus. As genders, we really are different.
But—if we really are different, how can we be equal? One of the most important challenges the world faces is the establishment of gender equality—a fair balance in rights and opportunities between the sexes.
When we address the issue of equality of men and women, we usually focus only on the fact that women have been held back, and need to be freed to take their rightful place in society. What we frequently neglect to say or realize, is that the inequality between the sexes means that men aren’t really free, either. The stereotypical roles forced on men are unfair, unrealistic, and a great source of the trouble and the tyranny that hold women back.
In the Baha’i writings we learn that:
What the world requires, the Baha’i teachings suggest, is a better sense of balance—as in the Asian concept of “yin/yang” which means “whole being:”
What made the universe operate the way it did was understood to be a balance between these two forces [yin, negative; yang, positive]. No philosopher said that yang was good and yin was evil… nature, humankind, and even events were a combination of both forces. When these two forces were at work in harmony, life was what it should be. – Lewis M. Hopfe, Religions of the World
…even though its principles are in tension, they are not flatly opposed. They complement and counterbalance each other. – Huston Smith, The Religions of Man
Sadly, our yin and yang is woefully out of balance today. One step towards achieving complementarity will be effected through the liberation of women—and—as long as women do not enjoy perfect freedom—neither will men. Abdu’l-Baha noted:
The world in the past has been ruled by force, and man has dominated over woman by reason of his more forceful and aggressive qualities both of body and mind. But the scales are already shifting—force is losing its weight and mental alertness, intuition, and the spiritual qualities of love and service, in which woman is strong, are gaining ascendancy. Hence the new age will be an age less masculine, and more permeated with the feminine ideals—or, to speak more exactly, will be an age in which the masculine and feminine elements of civilization will be more properly balanced.” quoted in J.E. Esselmont’s Baha’u’llah and the New Era, p. 156.
A realistic look at this issue comes from Nancy R. Smith in her thoughtful book For Every Woman:
- For every woman who is tired of acting weak when she knows she is strong, there is a man who is tired of appearing strong when he feels vulnerable.
- For every woman who is tired of acting dumb, there is a man who is burdened with the constant expectation of “knowing everything.”
- For every woman who is tired of being called “an emotional female,” there is a man who is denied the right to weep and be gentle.
- For every woman who is called unfeminine when she competes, there is a man for whom competition is the only way to prove his masculinity.
- For every woman who feels tired of being a sex object, there is a man who must worry about his potency.
- For every woman who feels “tied down” by her children, there is a man who is denied the full pleasure of shared parenthood.
- For every woman who is denied meaningful employment or equal pay, there is a man who must bear full financial responsibility for another human being
- For every woman who was not taught the intricacies of an automobile, there is a man who was not taught the satisfactions of cooking.
- For every woman who takes a step toward her own liberation, there is a man who finds the way to freedom has been made a little easier.
The Baha’i writings emphasize this point:
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. 133.
Next in this series we’ll take a look at some current realities and examine where the old is holding on and the new is making breakthroughs.