He Said – She Begs
Yesterday I mentioned the Axial Age. It is a most interesting concept and I hope you will study more about it if you haven’t already done so. Many believe we are still in such or have revisited it. One of the characteristics of this period was the encouraging of mankind to find the inner hero, that ideal archetypal self. Whether we acknowledge it or not, mankind seems to be in a constant search for such, collectively and individually.
Unfortunately, another characteristic of the Axial Age is what is termed “indifference to women”. I confess I have a small, okay large, issue with the term “indifference”. In truth, at that time in our history, all that mattered was might, the power of military strength and aggressiveness. One might argue that living conditions required such attention to brute strength but it became so important that a sense of balance was lost.
Regretfully, gender inequality remains a characteristic of the twenty-first century. In the United States of America, “poverty is a women’s issue”, the National Women’s Law Center reports. Over half of all poor adults are women and the statistics. For single mothers, women of color, and elderly women living alone, almost two-thirds are living below the poverty line. What type of support do these women receive from the fellow human beings and how is what we believe reflected in these statistics?
The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women reported good news and bad news in their recent report entitled “The Beijing Platform for Action Turns 20”. The good news is that major advancements have greatly reduced the number of people internationally that are poor. Extreme poverty can be eliminated in the coming generation if we continue our efforts to do so. The bad news is that gender discrimination creates greater burdens won men and gender discrimination is very much still in existence. This will result not only in the loss of females lives but in economic losses as well. The United Nations report illustrates this: “Women’s productivity is well known as one of the greatest generators of economic dynamism.”
Many assume women had minor roles in the mythology of India. The reality is that the role of women in Hinduism is dependent on the specific text and its content. Shaktism mythology worships the goddess Devi who is a feminine power of great strength. Gaudiya Vaishnavism emphasizes the Radharani, a female, over her male love Krishna.
Ancient India had no words for strength or power that were not feminine, illustrating the important role of the female in both the culture and the mythology. In the period known as the Vedic times, both genders were equal in education and religion and women participated in public ceremonies. Louis Jaccoliot, a noted French author, once wrote: “India of the Vedas entertained a respect for women amounting to worship.”
While other cultures had goddesses with power, Indian mythology might very well be the first to promote actual gender equality. Today, however, there is ambivalence towards such, not only in India but worldwide. “A woman is human. She is not better, wiser, stronger, more intelligent, more creative, or more responsible than a man. Likewise, she is never less. Equality is a given. A woman is human.” These words of Vera Nazarian, an Armenian immigrant to the USA, repeat in modern times what the ancient Sanskrit mythology proclaimed.
I invite you to join the worldwide effort to bring about gender equality. Join me at #WithStrongGirls.