Society has an interesting way of working. A macro-organism with a very simple but effective way of working its way through an individual’s mind. As part of this organism, even if we try to stand out of the crowd and try to change it from its core or deprogram ourselves from what we are taught, sometimes we can act as part of its mechanisms. It happened to me a few days ago.
I was in one of my Thai boxing classes and our instructor told us to find a partner because we were going to work on our punch and kick combinations. So I partnered up with a woman who was around my age. I started doing my punches and kicks while she was holding the protective pads for me. I wasn’t holding back with my moves since she had protective gear. Then the instructor came up to us to see whether we were doing the moves correctly or not. She looked at me and said, “While you are training with a woman, your hits should be less powerful. They might not take it.” At that point I was shocked. I felt so bad thinking that I might have hurt her. I thought to myself, “We are all equals but maybe I should be a bit more careful.” There is this paradox in feminism: would it be sexist to act differently towards a woman because of the physical differences men and women have, or would it be sexist to treat every human as equal, while ignoring that there might be potential differences? I think about it from time to time as to which would be the better way to end the inequality between women and men. However, I have never been in a situation where I had to actually decide and choose one of these two ways.
After having an instantaneous spike of many thoughts that clashed with each other, I said to the instructor that I would be more careful. When she left, my partner came close to me and said “If I get out of this place and someone attacks me outside, they won’t be gentle with me. So, please don’t be either!” I felt the second shock within a few minutes. My brain was trying to understand what to think, what to say, and what to do.
There are unfortunate norms in our society like “Women are fragile creatures and they should be treated like a flower,” that are dangerously widespread. Sometimes, we cannot see past these, even though we think we are generally doing the right thing in terms of equality. I was back to what I was thinking in the first place. If we are to become equals, we should start treating each other as equals. I had very fast changes of emotions in those few minutes. I didn’t know what to think other than stopping to see my partner as a woman who might not protect herself and starting to only see a person who is doing the same sport as me. I was very much inspired by what my partner told me.
What we are doing is to classify people around us in terms of gender, race, religion and many more categories like these. We know in our hearts that it is wrong but we still sometimes stick to what we have been taught by society because it is not an easy thing to get rid of all the things you have seen or heard your whole life. These things take time. The important thing to do about equality between women and men, especially as a man, is to think what you would do if the person in question was a man. I am not saying that we shouldn't educate ourselves about and consider the individual needs of women. What I am saying is that we should try to treat women with the same freedom men have. If we start thinking this way, we might get rid of all the wrong things about genders we were taught by society.