What is it that makes men feel superior to women? Why is it that the social structures of societies in most parts of the world patriarchal? Why is it that over the ages in almost every royal dynasty, kings have been in search of male heirs? What is it in a male that makes him feel superior to the fairer sex and makes him feel that he has the right to lord over them? Why is it that in third world countries female foeticide is rampant? Why do parents take so much pride if the new born child is a male and frown if it happens to be a female?
Let us first look at the fundamental aspect of the problem. The difference between the male and the female human being is that of a single pair of chromosomes. Males have the XY pair of chromosomes while females have the XX pair of chromosomes. Other than that there is absolutely no evidence that mother nature gives some preferential treatment to males in terms of genetic structuring that endows them with superior qualities and makes them superior human beings.
I recently had an argument with a colleague of mine who suggested that women are generally not good at Mathematics and being good at Mathematics is a sign of intelligence and hence women are not as intelligent as men. He cited the fact that if you look at the history of Mathematics we do not come across many women mathematicians. Same with women scientists; he argued. Hence his general conclusion that men are superior to women in intellect. He further argued that women are generally good at dancing and other such activities that do not require very great intellect.
Having a mathematician for a wife, this made me see red. I took up the point with him. My first argument was that his conclusion that one’s mathematical ability was the sole indicator of intelligence was totally erroneous. Intelligence assumes a variety of different forms. A human being may be talented in several different ways. Someone might be a good painter, yet others good musicians, some might be good at creative writing. There is no end to the different forms in which intelligence takes shape. To simply generalize and conclude that people can be called intelligent only if they have good mathematical abilities is immature to say the least.
The second argument that women are generally not good at mathematics is far off the mark. If we have not heard of famous women mathematicians or scientists over the centuries, it is not because women lack intellect but because till recently women were not even allowed to attend university. That being the case, what opportunity will women have to chase a scientific or mathematical career with single minded devotion? In fact we ought to appreciate the fact that there are quiet a few women mathematicians and scientists who have shined in spite of these hindrances.
Even during c.370 – 415 Hypatia was a well known woman mathematician. There are a number of other women mathematicians to look up to. Some names that come to the mind are Mary Somerville, Ada Lovelace and Maryam Mirzakhani who won the Fields medal. Even Florence Nightingale who is best known for pioneering work in nursing was a renowned statistician. There have been a number of women scientists too. Marie Curie was a two time Nobel laureate. Other well known women scientists include Rosalind Franklin, Lise Meitner and Barbara McClintock. There are numerous other women who have been great scientists.
If there has been a dearth of women mathematicians and scientists over the centuries, it definitely cannot be attributed to a lack of intellect. Another reason why women have not been able to shine in as many fields as men is because men insist they stay at home and take care of children. This, to a very great extent prevents women from pursuing careers with single minded devotion. So there is absolutely no foundation to the argument that women have not been able to shine in intellectual pursuits because they are not as smart as men. The main reason is that there have not been many opportunities for women to shine in these fields.
Leaving aside intellectual pursuits, we have also seen several renowned women rulers over the centuries. Some of the names that come to the mind are Hatshepsut: queen of Egypt, Nefertiti: queen of Egypt, the Assyrian queen Sammuramat, Cleopatra: queen of Egypt, Eleanor of Aquitaine queen of England and France and a host of others. All these women have risen to positions of immense power in male dominated societies.
Now let us come back to our original question. If not a superior intellect then why is it that males have the upper hand? The simple answer to this question is that men are physically stronger than women and this leads to a superiority complex. Brute force: however much we may pretend to the contrary, has its say in the affairs of human beings. Because of this one difference kings over the centuries have wanted a male heir, patriarchal societies abound, there is rampant female foeticide in third world countries and a host of other such problems.
It is a pity that in third world countries families do not spend a little time to instill some respect for women in their male children. When I travel in buses which are a common mode of public transport in India, men plonk themselves in seats reserved for women and refuse to vacate when a lady requests them to do so. These men generally argue that if women want to be treated as equals then why do they need reserved seats? To such men, I have only one question. You are entitled to give this defense only if you really treat women as equals which is far from the truth.
Most of the women travelling by buses are working women. Give a thought to what they have to endure day in and day out. They are the first to wake up in the morning at home, most often as early as 4.00 AM. They have to prepare breakfast and lunch for the whole family. Then they have to wake the children and the husband up. After this they have to get the children ready for school, pack lunch for everyone and see them off to school and office.
Finally, they have to get ready themselves and rush to catch the heavily crowded bus to reach office on time. After a whole day of hard work, they have to come back home by bus again and cook food for the entire family. Taking this scenario into consideration, is it too much to ask men to allow women to sit in seats reserved for them?
So there is only one thing I can say in conclusion. Being physically stronger is the only reason men feel superior to women. All the other arguments like intellectual superiority and the host of other cooked up reasons society gives for males considering themselves superior is just so much hogwash. It is time we learned to respect women.