What do we talk about when we talk about women's issues? We talk about women's employment and women's education and women's health. We talk about literacy rates and maternal mortality. We talk about equal rights under the law and equal opportunity in school and at the work-place.
But what we almost never talk about are our society's unspoken attitudes and assumptions towards women, the countless everyday limitations that are placed on women by our culture or our society or our traditions.
We do not talk much about differential treatment of boys and girls within the family unit, we do not talk about mistreatment of daughters-in-law in extended families, we do not talk about sexual harassment in the work-place, we do not talk about eve-teasing or dress codes or the right to live one one's own or to play sports or to act in ways that are deemed by society at large to be unbecoming for women.
We do not talk about the double standards and the casual sexism that permeates our society. And with good reason. These conversations make us uncomfortable. They implicate us all, and they implicate our collective culture, something that we are very defensive about and resist criticising or questioning.
Part of the problem is embedded within our culture. Our disinclination to question accepted wisdom, our reverence for tradition, for convention, for our age-old ways of doing things, our unquestioning obedience to authority and our elders and the way things have always been.
We are brought up to obey, to accept, to not question, and, if female, to suffer in silence. To not cause a scene. To not make others, especially our elders, uncomfortable. To not give offence. To not upset sensibilities.
Well the time has come to have that conversation. The time has come to speak uncomfortable truths. The time has come to look into the mirror and acknowledge that all is not well and that we need to change if we are ever to afford women true liberation in this country, so that they are truly equal citizens as our constitution and simple justice dictates.
For too long, our reverence for tradition and custom has blinded us to the everyday oppression of women, and how we are all complicit in it. What this issue of Forum aims to do is to bring these issues front and centre -- to force us to confront the cancer of sexism and inequality that exists within our society.
Readers may well be angered, upset, offended. That's what we want. We cannot hide behind the facade of politeness and inoffensiveness any more. It is going to be a difficult conversation, but no societal change ever comes without upsetting the old order, and that is what needs to be done.