We see people being honored and decorated every day with medals, certificates and ceremonies for achievements that are truly merited at times or just bestowed at other times because the act bodes well with a certain vision society has for things. Then we have those referred to as “heroes” by disenfranchised communities in honor of the ones who dare to speak up against what they perceive as injustice or inequality.
For me, the real heroes are those struggling without being noticed or recognized. They fight on simply because that is what they believe in and what they do. They refuse to be herded around. They refuse to obey the rules if they don’t believe in them. They simply say, “No.” I’ve seen many of them being attacked or marginalized or harassed because they deviated from the line that a flawed, man-made, male-dominated patriarchal oppressive society has imposed on them and others.
Did you ever wonder why males appear superior in some societies and look like they were made to run the show while women remain silent observers and when they open their mouth it is only to be cheerleaders of the men and loyal team members at best? I grew up in such a society and I wondered many times how did this come to pass. It’s only because men wrote the “book of rules” for these societies, and they never upgraded them to reflect the reality on the ground. Instead, the rules became more hardened and extreme over time, chipping away at rights and freedoms, especially those of women.
In the past months I had the opportunity to interview five leading Arab women who have dedicated their lives to public service or fighting the good fight for freedom, human rights and women’s rights each through her line of expertise. I found many common threads among them, especially the environment they grew up in which shaped their revolutionary personalities. Some of these threads are alarming; they demand our attention and correction immediately. For example, when a woman’s intelligence or hard-earned success comes out to light, she is first criticized then attacked physically or verbally. Subsequently, she is marginalized and her opinion is thumbed down by the keepers of the “book of rules.” How dare she deviate from what is written in their book? How dare she say, “No?”
A significant common thread among these women is that their fathers (especially) and mothers were their biggest supporters to be the free outspoken women they turned out to be. They were all raised by learned, successful, strong and loving fathers who believed in them, wanted the best for them and never treated them differently because they were girls. Their fathers inspired them and empowered them so they grew up into adult women ready to make a difference. Although society’s challenges and flat out rejection at times were shocking to them, they made them all more determined to fight ignorance and injustice instead of succumbing to the man-made pressure.
Revolutions don’t only take place in the streets and they do not mean only resisting a tyrant or demanding his fall. A much larger and much needed revolution needs to take place in people’s heads and inside their homes. The slogan for that would be, “The people want the fall of ignorance,” or “The people want the fall of society’s shackles around our minds.” A new mentality is needed to deal with today’s problems and challenges.
Everybody is needed for this world to be the place we all desire to live in. Each of us has a contribution and should be given the chance to participate. Muting those who disagree with us is not the solution. Nor is the solution for everybody to belong to the same team. We need a revolution inside each home where mothers raise smart boys and girls who question the status quo and come up with their own interpretations and ways of solving problems. In this revolution, fathers will raise balanced girls and boys who respect one another and allow each other the chance to express themselves freely and without any threat of repercussion. It’s time to re-write the “book of rules” with modern (men and women) players and fresh ideas.
It takes courage to stand against the current and say, “No!” Some people do this during every waking moment. They deserve our respect and support; they are obviously not after “medals” of honor or formal recognition. We can bring the necessary change, one person at a time, one home at a time, one step at a time. Respect to those who have already started and crossed long miles and to those who have lost their life or livelihood while on this truly honorable journey. Your revolution carries on!