Our perceived differences cannot be contained within a binary system.
Men and women cannot be contained within a binary system. One isn’t a zero, and the other a one.
When we specifically examine gender identity and gender expression/role, how we present ourselves to the world has further complicated how we describe ourselves. Our physical differences can no longer be applied as the go-to explanation of these differences.
Unfortunately, gender inequality and harassment persists today as is evident in the many news stories reporting sexual harassment in the workplace. My own experiences working as a woman physician in a hospital setting required me to, on occasion, wear a “brass balls” necklace so I could remind my male colleagues that I also had “balls” and they needed to respect me as they respected their male colleagues!
Unfortunately, it didn’t work, because equity is still mostly just a concept, not a reality.
We continue to lack the tools necessary to work and live together in a society based on gender equality. In the United States, women are paid 13% less for the same jobs men occupy. We are poorly represented in boardrooms and even less so at the C-Suite level. If we look further in the under-developed countries, the inequities women face can be life-threatening: in the form of FGM (female genital mutilation), child-brides, and false accusations of adultery to explain their rape, all of which can result in death.
The same holds true for how our religion, our color, and our culture defines each and every one of us.
We are artificially fit into boxes that, when breached, cause others to question the validity of their preconceived beliefs, oftentimes to the physical detriment of the targeted group. We see this daily in the recent Black Lives Matter movement. To confine any group within those preconceived ideas imprisons them and negates their human right to express their full potentials as human beings.
So how do we change our society for the better?
Plasticity may be the means toward finding our way from all types of inequality to equality for all.
Plasticity is the ability to change and evolve based on the environment. Plasticity allows for growth; and growth allows for change; and change is what we are seeking in how we think about and act toward all people.
We know that the brain of an infant has plasticity, so that if one area is damaged, other areas can learn or reprogram themselves and enable those functions to be restored through the healthy brain.
I am challenging us to allow plasticity of our left brain to change our concrete thoughts, and the right brain to change our emotions toward the differences we artificially create. We can then accept the reality that all are created equal, with the ability to live fulfilling lives for themselves and their communities, regardless of their gender, race, or religion. This is as important as the plasticity to change our bodies if we so choose.
Plasticity would allow us to be able to expand our acceptance of every human being for how they are at any given moment. By allowing these roles to be fluid and honored by all, we begin to peel away the layers of warped perceptions and see each other for the strengths we bring to the table. Our right brain could be reprogrammed to understand each other’s strengths, not differences, and the left brain would follow with acknowledgement, respect, and appreciation for those strengths we display in our daily lives.
How do we reprogram a brain that is trained to see differences and carry prejudices rather than recognizing the strengths, thereby allowing respect for these differences to flourish?
I believe that education, starting at an early age, teaching children to celebrate and respect our differences, is critical for this plasticity to be successful.
In our current world, until that education takes hold, the constant reminder that these prejudices are unfounded, by way of social media, re-training programs at work, and in areas of higher education, may be the best we can do to help change take hold.
Imagine what our world would look like if the “expected” roles or abilities would no longer be the norm.
Parental and societal roles would be defined by what is best, not what is expected. Compensation would not be tied to how a person looks, but instead the value they brings to the table. Judging others based on race, sex, or culture at work would be considered archaic and unacceptable since it would foster negativity in a work environment.
The changes illustrated above would be the first of many that could change our society for the better. It is certainly worth a try.
We can and need to do better for our children and for our world.
We must evolve as humans for humanity to reach its full potential.