What if men and women switched roles for just one day? Honestly, think about that question for a moment. We live in a society where stereotypes flourish, where they still weigh heavily on us; where men and women need to conform to society’s rigid rules in order to be accepted. Perhaps, one might call it “culture”, that “it is their norm”, that “it’s how it’s supposed to be”. However, it does not mean it is right — both men and women are equal human beings — our appearance is just a shell; thus, we cannot justify inequality.
In 2016, UN Women published a YouTube video to commemorate International Women’s Day. Twenty men and women from different Arab countries were chosen to be part of this interesting social experiment — their job was to switch gender roles and answer questions in their respective gender role.
Among the many questions that the interviewer asked, there was that of rape: “what if your wife was raped?”. The women who were acting as men said that she should marry her rapist, that she was now flawed; however, the men who were in the shoes of the women, said that they wouldn’t know what to do, whether or not they would tell their husband; that they would probably remain silent, as that is what society would expect from them.
Of course, the women acting as men did not internally agree with the answers they were giving; however, they were aware of how the men in their society thought. Some women in this culture feel that a man would deem it enough to just to beat his wife; that it is socially acceptable for the woman to do all the housework; as if taking a conjugal role in his marriage would degrade his manhood. Then, why should women pursue a career, they asked? Her duty is at home; she just cannot take up a leadership role; she shouldn’t be given more than she can handle.
Why do we think women are so fragile? Our bodies are as strong as any other human being’s; we are capable of so much with our bodies — we birth whole babies, we bleed for days on end – does that show our weakness? Men trick themselves into thinking that they are protecting their wife, when in reality they are just bubble-wrapping them.
When the male participants were asked to drop their facade, they said that it would have felt better answering these questions as a man because they felt the struggle of being a woman. They were indeed angry and upset at this revelation- the revelation of how strong and concrete injustice can be like to women in society.
However, on the other hand, the women who had been acting as men felt exhausted and couldn’t take the frustration of answering questions so unjustly. One woman said something quite resonant to me:
Being a girl is amazing, but only when she is free.
Therefore, let women take the same deserved pedestal men have and be allowed to play the game too.