The Bahá’í Writings state that to proclaim equality is not to deny the differences in function between women and men. Clearly differences exist and by talking about equality it is very definitely not meant for men and women to try to become the same as each other. The genders have different functions – but these functions are complementary in the home and in society at large and must be equal for a perfect result. So, equality of women does not mean that they must make better males than men, but that they must achieve true maturity of soul. The same obligation rests upon men. Bahá’u’lláh declared the equality of men and women, expressed through equal responsibilities and equal rights and privileges. And since that declaration, the bonds by which women have been bound for ages have been breaking, and women have rapidly been securing their rightful place as the equal and partner of man.
“Women must go on advancing; they must extend their knowledge of science, literature, history, for the perfection of humanity. Erelong they will receive their Rights. Men will see women in earnest, bearing themselves with dignity, improving the civil and political life, opposed to warfare, demanding suffrage and equal opportunities. I expect to see you advance in all phases of life; then will your brows be crowned with the diadem of eternal glory.” (Abdu’l Baha : Quoted in Baha’u’llah and the New Era)
In psychological terms we say there are two principles: Logos the male, and Eros the female. So far, Logos, the active, achieving principle has been dominant in world affairs. Eros, the principle which brings people into relatedness and maintains harmony, has been in the background or confined to the family. But its power and value is unconsciously recognized in the fact that the woman, the hostess, is the important person at a social gathering, the mother in the home. When this force is released into all human affairs, it will accomplish its work between nations, in the human family.
The excesses to which women have been led by their sudden and-swift emancipation, their attempts to achieve equality through sacrifice of femininity, or through outdoing men in masculine activities, offer no standard of judgment for a truly mature gender. What is clear is that the beginning of equality that we are currently witnessing is only a superficial equality – it consists of concessions extorted from a man’s world. A full understanding of true equality is still a long way off. At this point in our history, many men are unwilling to recognize true equality, and many women, owing to thousands of years of inferior education and position, are unable to accept it.
As we have already established in previous articles, despite the fear that exists among men and the reluctance that lingers in women, the long-standing and deeply rooted condition of inequality must be eliminated.
What qualities do we need to work on in order to move towards equality?
To overcome the inertia in the world that holds back equality requires the exercise of nothing short of “genuine love, extreme patience, true humility, consummate tact, sound initiative, mature wisdom, and deliberate, persistent, and prayerful effort.” (Shoghi Effendi : The Advent of Divine Peace). Ultimately, Bahá’u’lláh promises, a day will come when men will welcome women in all aspects of life. Now is the time to move decisively toward that promised future.
“The world in the past has been ruled by force, and man has dominated over woman by reason of his more forceful and aggressive qualities both of body and mind. But the balance is already shifting; force is losing its dominance, and mental alertness, intuition, and the spiritual qualities of love and service, in which woman is strong, are gaining ascendancy. Hence the new age will be an age less masculine and more permeated with the feminine ideals . . . an age in which the masculine and feminine elements of civilization will be more evenly balanced.” (Adbu’l Baha : Baha’u’llah and the New Era)
How noble a goal and how lofty a destiny is ahead of us! But there is much work to be done as we apply wisdom, tact, patience and love to this already unfolding new social order.