At Thanksgiving we pause to consider all the good things in our lives that we often take for granted. As American women, it’s easy to take for granted that we are equal to our male compatriots under the law, and granted the same civil rights.
But as we look around a chaotic, conflict-ridden world this year, we should also appreciate how fortunate we are to live in a civil society that still values both the masculine and the feminine. Men and women should be thankful for one another, and for the balance their complementary strengths can provide.
A women's rights activist holds a sign during a rally at the Capitol on Tuesday, June 4, 2013, in Albany, N.Y. Activists are calling for equality for women in the work place and stronger laws against discrimination and human trafficking for child prostitution, along with strengthening abortion rights. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
The Independent Women’s Forum recently celebrated our annual Woman of Valor dinner, and this year’s recipient of the Woman in Business Award, President and CEO of Ariel Corporation Karen Wright, made this point in her acceptance speech:
"America is about equality before the law and equality of opportunity. Never did anybody foolishly imagine that that means we're all exactly the same, with the same exact expectations, talents, looks, and fortitude. And until very recently, in the long arc of human history, we were not intentionally blind to the significant differences in men and women – the hunter and the gatherer. Just as there is strength in numbers, there is strength in pairing the male with the female."
Indeed, America is at a crossroads, where we must consider what metric we will use to define “equality” between men and women. A World Economic Forum Gender Gap Report ranked the United States 28th in the world in gender equality, laughably behind such human rights beacons as Rwanda and Burundi.
This misleading report would have American women believe that because we do not have a quota system in place for our legislature or the president’s cabinet that we are somehow less free or less prosperous than women in 27 other countries.
Ironically, although gender parity is a misguided measure of success for women, there is something refreshing in hearing today’s feminists call for more female influence on corporate boards and statehouses. Their cause rests on the premise that men and women are inherently different and possess valuable but complementary strengths.
If we can agree on this starting point, then we should be able to agree that women and men may make different choices that lead to different outcomes. But as Karen Wright suggested, the true measure of equality should be equal opportunities, not outcomes. American women can celebrate that we have this kind of equality.
Wright also said at IWF’s dinner:
"Women are the civilizers of humanity, and to see the proof of this look no further than the places where women have no say. The Middle East is the perfect example. The imbalance, chaos, and brutal barbarism we're seeing is astonishing, even completely unbelievable to Americans. Used to as we are to egalitarianism fully embracing the rights of all citizens – both men and women – to pursue happiness as they see fit. This illustrates the differences between men and women and their inherent strengths and weaknesses. Unfortunately, men will run amok without women to balance them out."
And conversely, women would run amok without men. The two need each other.
According to the World Factbook, the countries with the highest male-to-female sex ratio are the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, and Saudi Arabia. Even in other Middle Eastern countries, like Iraq and Syria, where the sex ratio is more balanced, violent regimes systematically subjugate women, treating them as less than human and precluding their positive influence on society.
American women are fortunate to live in a culture that values women – not just as “the same” as men, but as unique and complementary to men, a vital part of society.
As Christina Hoff Sommers has pointed out in this Factual Feminist video, an academic study has shown that personality differences among men and women are the most robust in more prosperous, advanced societies. This may come as a surprise to those who believe that traditional gender roles are a hallmark of oppression, but the opposite is true: Nations with high social development see the greatest level of sex differences in feminine (nurturing, emotionally-expressive) and masculine (competitive, risk-taking) personalities.
The bottom line is that American women are free to live out our identities and personalities however we see fit, whether we are more traditional… or not. We can always feel thankful for both our gender equality and our gender differences.
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