A society that oppresses women digs its own hole, since women are the ones who raise its children. An unhappy woman with no self-esteem can't teach her children to be happy and loving. All the other "cultural" differences are just details.
We can observe all around the world how societies in which women are truly respected are also the happiest and most advanced ones. Scandinavian societies seem to be in the lead in both aspects. When using the word 'advanced' I don't necessarily mean technological and economical opportunities (even if there are some connections that can be made), but emotional and social quality of life in the first place. Some societies humiliate women in subtle, not so obvious ways, and it too has consequences.
Western societies regularly turn a blind eye to the abuse of women in some other countries, calling it "cultural differences". This is cowardly. Culture should not include violating human rights - human rights are above culture.
However, women are also responsible for the change. According to my experience, women seem to generally like to criticise men quite more and more openly than men criticise women. Actually, quite a few men I know praise women more than men. On the other hand, considering the nature of my work this is probably not the 'average' male attitude, and if I had more contact with men of average emotional maturity perhaps I would have a different impression.
Anyway, criticising men is a victim attitude, not a constructive one. Many men can't be expected to be motivated to respect women, but this comes from their childish feelings to which criticism doesn't help at all. Boys raised in women-oppressive societies usually find deep relief as soon as they become aware of their own gender, and try to act as manly as possible in order to 'deserve' the freedom and respect they see other men getting. Even if they wouldn't do so, society would force them to, through humiliation and rejection if they showed any 'feminine' behaviour. Sometimes their mothers and sisters support this as much as fathers and brothers.
Some mothers still encourage their own daughters (and sisters, daughters in law...) less then sons, expect less from them and appreciate them less. Unconsciously, this comes from the same attitude such a woman has for herself.
The mother has much more influence than the father over the child's basic impression of herself and the world around her. The younger the child is, the deeper and stronger these impressions are, and in the first few months and sometimes years of life, mother is definitely the closest person. Not to mention the pre-natal period, which is probably just as important. I'm not diminishing the father's role, but it rarely has such deep fundamental influence as the mother's.
When working with people, I usually notice that people whose mother was less emotionally mature than father, usually find it more difficult to change and need more time and effort to do it, than people whose father was the less mature one. The father definitely influences the child's personality, beliefs and emotional patterns which might cause him problems later in life, but still has less influence than mother to the deepest, most basic self-perception.
Taking responsibility means making our own lives happy first, providing a respectful atmosphere for our daughters, and refusing anything that supports prejudices (like for example sending little girls to beauty contests).
The change can't be imposed aggressively to others. A woman has to be gentle, but persistent. The change must be based on our own behaviour as the example. Children learn mostly from observing others and their example, and many adults still learn fastest in that way too.
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