When Is It Men’s Day?
As the country celebrated Women’s Day this past weekend, my daughters innocently asked me: “Mom, when is it Men’s Day?” I chuckled to myself. These lovely beings – aged 9 and 4 years old – were asking what must have occurred to them as a perfectly logical question.
As a parent I am hesitant to shatter their innocence by telling them about the injustices in the world. I would like them to believe – for as long as possible – that life is fair, that we all have equal opportunity, and that all distinctions between people are purely superficial and ultimately meaningless.
The truth is, of course, that all our differences are entirely meaningless. However, we live in a world where we have created meaning based on race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, geography, etc. We have constructed systems which entrench these apparent differences and result in certain groups being more privileged than others. It is for this reason that days like Women’s Day exist – to highlight gender inequality which is still a very real part of our society. I’m not convinced how well Women’s Day achieves this goal, but at least it creates a platform to call out how far we still have to go.
And there is a very long way to go still. Last week I co-facilitated a training course on Poverty and Inequality and I was reminded once again of the degree to which resources are allocated along structural channels within our society. “The rich get richer, and the poor get poorer” isn’t merely a saying but rather a reflection of the structural nature of poverty and inequality. And if you’re a Black woman, you are doubly impacted.
Yet there is also a part of me that knows that more is possible. Yes, the statistics point to predictable trajectories for rich and poor people, for men and women, and along the various groupings in our society. However many of us have broken through. We managed to buck many trends and rise above our station in life. How have we done this? What is the x factor that allows one to beat such an entrenched system?
I believe this x factor is agency – the inner sense of “I Can”. In many ways I wish that agency wasn’t it. It would be so much easier if we could change the world by tinkering with external factors – the economy, social systems, governments etc. And while it’s important that we all become active citizens and advocate for change, without agency people will ultimately squander whatever opportunities they are given.
Yet I believe it can be done. We can be agents of change, even if we do so one person at a time. We do it by example. Those of us who have succeeded in our respective fields owe it to society to be an example – to lead, to share our stories, to shine a light for others. Success leaves clues and it is our responsibility to share those clues so that others can break out of the structural chains. We must also speak out against continued injustice and lend our increasing clout to worthy initiatives towards dismantling all forms of injustice.
I’m glad my daughters asked me such a tricky question. It reminded me of the importance of sensitizing them to the fact that our world is constructed to favour certain groups over others. However they must also know that they have the power within them to succeed; they are not victims of their biology.