illustration (attribution, if any possible, is at the end of the article)
— Real, specific acts for real, specific women are a lot more constructive than hypothetical acts for hypothetical women.
The social sphere is having a little debate about the latest #HeForShe launch: Emma Watson at the HeForShe Campaign 2014 - Official UN Video (13'15'')
To promote the involvement of men in favour of gender equality (but also to fund e.g. research on breast cancer), there are calls to men to join a cause "for their mothers, spouses, daughters, friends…"
I've recently read a rejection of such calls, based on the idea that they value women only in relation to men (hence still aren't about women, or about what women have to face).
The rejection argued that the situation is horrible enough that it 'should' move people to act, even in the absence of relation (and a comparison was drawn with anti-racism).
While I understand the sentiment behind this rejection, I think this is not good enough to reject the calls.
First, this is an example of false dichotomy. If one fights for all women, "all women" includes "the women one knows personally."
There's no separation between the two sets, one is fully included in the other, hence "the women one knows personally" is a perfectly acceptable entry point, a lot better than doing nothing for women!
Is an "entry point" enough? Of course not, but there's no point in pretending that anyone can solve sexism globally at once, so why not value all additional "small steps" and "entry points" one can get?
Second, we all co-dependently arise with our context. No one fought against racism prior to hearing of (the existence, and experiences, of) people of different colour; racism and anti-racism don't make much sense in isolated tribes… The issue, and the commitment to resolve the issue, only arise because relationships (directly or indirectly) arise!
Relationships means discernment (phenomenon A + phenomenon B + relation); ignorant discernment leads to issues and suffering, wise discernment leads to the cessation of suffering… It's very rare to immediately grasp things "as they are", so wise discernment commonly arises only long after ignorance arose.
Without aliens in sight, you'll be hard pressed to find many humans fighting for "equal rights" for aliens (irrespective of the differences and commonalities between humans and aliens). But should aliens ever turn up and a relationship be established, whatever it is, then such a cause for equal rights might arise —probably after testing quite a few other ignorant ways of relating first (including fear and lack of trust in the intentions of the Other, even of the well-meaning Other, or especially of the well-meaning Other —"who's probably a liar and trying to mislead you, right?").
In any case, if one calls men to act for women, one should admit that men are unlikely to step up unless they relate to women one way or another.
Men who favour equal rights for women do so because they know of some women and they value some contributions of these women (even if it's the contribution of a saint the other side of the world and who they never met in person).
Such a reason for support reduces neither these specific women, nor women in general, to be "valued only in relation to men".
Instead, it simply acknowledges that women are valued (for who they are) by some men, and it calls these men who value women to act in accordance with their appreciation.
To want women to have "equal rights" but then to reject arguments if they involve some relation to men is logically flawed: the notion of "equal rights for women" requires the comparison to men (for (in)equality to even be measured)… and it also requires to consider how men relate to women!
But the sentiment from the refutation I was mentioning is, I guess, based on the universality of human rights.
More specifically, it is based on the common notion that human rights are defined independently of the context, independently of any relationship, that these rights should be given to just any human. This is a common view, but it is erroneous.
In fact, human rights 'should' be granted to humans irrespective of our preferences (I like this human, I don't like that human…), so ideally we wish their universality could be defined without mention of another human (or of any 'I' having preferences).
But there's nothing wrong with granting rights to all humans due to considering that a few humans are worthy and that the others have the 'potential' to be worthy.
This might shock you but, actually, this is the basis of all human rights today: "human rights" should not be taken away except as a result of legal, due process based on specific circumstances.
The "right to life" (maybe the most basic "human right"), for example, can be taken away in legal systems authorising the death penalty; this clearly points out that the "right to life" is not given to 'all', but only to those who are worthy or have the potential to be worthy.
Those 'legally' deemed "without the potential" (neither now nor later) are excluded from the right [One may note that this also mirrors some arguments of 'potential' of the foetus, in the debates on abortion].
There's little wrong with people acting out of appreciation.
And there's little wrong with men helping all women due to appreciating some contributions from some women and recognising that the others have the potential to similarly shine in the world.
Even if limited and 'conditioned', any real, specific act for (or inspired by) real, specific women is a lot more constructive than hypothetical acts for hypothetical women.
In Buddhism, we're invited to be mindful of our intentions.
Buddhism would call for the moderation of any attachment (to specific women) that could lead to the exclusion of (other) women… It would however support any true gesture of appreciation-without-exclusion, in particular if generalised and manifested unconditionally towards all!
Take the pledge on www.heforshe.org
then act on the pledge.
Related post: gplus.wallez.name/ZuATKQqvoaz