“When a woman thinks she is nothing, the little sparrows cry. Who can defend them on the terrace, if no one has the vision of a world without slingshots?” ― Fatima Mernissi
Women through the historical narratives of patriarchy are considered as the weaker sex.
More than 90% of world leaders belong to the male sex. Men tower above women in finance, technology, films, sports, and many other fields. Especially we see that traditional institutions of power – are exclusively controlled by men.
Do not think that this is only in the case of the third world: across the world, including the ‘west’ this is the same scenario.
Gender norms play a crucial role in our socio-political life. We attribute certain traits and qualities to each gender naturally, to differentiate men from women. This highlighting of ‘difference’ between genders creates binary ways of judgment.
“We artificially, and inappropriately, divide people into two camps…we build a series of other characteristics on top of gender, i.e. women are unhealthy, men are healthy; women are irrational, men are rational and so on…real-life experience is not like this; attributes and experiences like acting rationally or being healthy cross-cut gender and are not the province of men or women as a group”,
as Annandale and Clark (1996) put forward in their book ‘What Is Gender? Feminist Theory and the Sociology of Human Reproduction’.
According to biological science, men actually are the weaker sex. It is a known secret that women have a higher life expectancy than men in general.
Time and again, during the hard times of famine, floods, natural disasters and epidemics over the past decades, women have consistently outlived men, many researchers say. But let us put all those arguments away for a while.
Sometimes women are considered weak because of the attributes they possess – And Empathy is one of them.
Empathy is all about being able to understand the needs of others and being able to read their emotional state and how it affects their world view. It doesn’t mean that you have to agree with everything they see or feel.
We have always perceived empathy as something weak, especially when it comes to leadership. But empathy is power.
” If we were to lose the ability to be emotional, if we were to lose the ability to be angry, to be outraged, we would be robots. And I refuse that.” – Arundathi Roy
In the wake of the Christchurch shooting, which left 50 people killed while offering Friday prayers, New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern set a powerful example of empathy centric-leadership. It was powerful, and it shook the world. It is a widespread misconception that an empathetic female leader is just someone enchanting and sweet.
Being empathetic doesn’t mean being charming all the time. It needs nerve and valour to stand up for others in a world where people are constantly ‘othered’ because of their religion, race, language and colour.
Empathy is more accurately defined as understanding everyone’s feelings. We’re all human. We have fears and weaknesses, as well as opinions that deserve to be shared. And of course people have problems and worries, and those should be addressed and acknowledged, and treated with tenderness. However, a successful woman shows her leadership qualities by understanding, without allowing sentimentality to disrupt production.
The more we can understand the feelings of others, it is more likely that we will value and respect their perspectives and their way of life. Empathy is the new strength, and perhaps it is the need of the hour, in this highly polarised world. Compassion would lead to less hatred and violence, resulting in inconsiderate acts by both individuals and governments.
I sincerely believe empathy is strength; and empathy-centric leadership practices within the family unit, the organisation in which you work, and the state in which you live, would make the world into an entirely different place.
A few days prior to the launch of this issue of FemAsia, Sri Lanka-my homeland was shaken by multiple series of explosions. It happened on the Easter Sunday-one of the holiest days in the Christian calendar. The eruptions ripped through churches and hotels, leaving more the 300 people dead, scores more injured and the rest of us devastated. I went speechless and numb as thousands of others and still struggling to come to terms with the tragedy unfolded.
The pain and the range of emotions we feel are indescribable. My heart goes out to all the families and friends of the victims. Though we are far away from our native land, our thoughts and prayers are with them.
As I was glued to the news channels trying to comprehend what is really happening, I could witness our political leaders’ responses and reactions to the victims’ families and the rest of the Sri Lankans.
They did not hold the relatives of the victims in their arms as they sobbed, nor whispered words of condolence. There weren’t any vibes of compassion; instead, our politicians talked irresponsibly mutually blaming each other.
As a nation, we all felt let down.
This made me ponder once again. Regardless of what our political views or religious stances are, we all need more empathy-centric approaches as we move forward.
I could not agree more that the need of the hour is love and empathy.
My Editor’s Note www.femasiamagazine.com
25 April 2019