Today questions of the utmost importance are facing humanity … One of these questions concerns the rights of woman and her equality with man.
One hundred years later, these words of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá might feel archaic. But one only needs to listen to a radio station that specializes in pop music to realize that we are far from achieving the equality of men and women. How can we claim so, when women are subjected to such objectification in music? And let’s not get into video clips, movies and magazines!
On 20 May 1912, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá spoke at the Metropolitan Temple in New York City at a Woman’s Suffrage Meeting. He presented equality not just as a right, but as vital to peace and unity. For “children are educated by the women. The mother bears the troubles and anxieties of rearing the child… Therefore, it is most difficult for mothers to send to the battlefield those upon whom they have lavished such love and care. […] So it will come to pass that when women participate fully and equally in the affairs of the world, when they enter confidently and capably the great arena of laws and politics, war will cease. […] This is true and without doubt.”
‘Abdu’l-Bahá had a unique way of presenting the truth of concepts by underlying their rationale very simply, but directly and efficiently. In this case, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá asked us to “consider the animal kingdom, where no distinction is observed between male and female. They are equal in powers and privileges. Among birds of the air no distinction is evidenced. Their powers are equal; they dwell together in complete unity and mutual recognition of rights. Shall we not enjoy the same equality? Its absence is not befitting to mankind.” Simple, to the point, and oh, so true.
To be equal does not mean to be the same. Men and women have different roles and responsibilities to fulfill. The most obvious is pregnancy: try as he might, a man cannot carry a child (unless of course he is Arnold Schwarzenegger). But that does not make women either better or worse than men. The woman “is the coadjutor of man, his complement and helpmeet. Both are human; both are endowed with potentialities of intelligence and embody the virtues of humanity. In all human powers and functions they are partners and coequals.” The only way that women and men will achieve equality is if women “be fully educated and granted [their] rights,” so that “[they can] attain the capacity for wonderful accomplishments and prove [themselves] the equal of man.” For “the difference in capability between man and woman is due entirely to opportunity and education. Heretofore woman has been denied the right and privilege of equal development. If equal opportunity be granted her, there is no doubt she would be the peer of man.” It therefore seems logical that both men and women have to strive to receive the kind of education that will allow us to translate the concept of equality of men and women into reality.
Photo by Amy, www.nineteendays.wordpress.com