When it comes to culture and traditions of the past, there are always allusions and insinuations that our current generation is not preserving the cultures or we are deviating from traditions. Because of this thinking, we’ve been conditioned to believe that gradually modifying our traditions is an abomination. This belief sounds frightening to me because our culture is not dying we are just changing with time as we grow in modernity. I’ve often wondered, when “preserving culture” is mentioned, are we just thinking about holding on to the connections between our homeland, and language of our ancestors? If that’s the case, then I agree with the necessity of holding on to our culture. However, what becomes of the traditions and cultures that have to do with the unfair treatment of women? Are those to be preserved too? I believe it’s pertinent that we understand this simple fact: we cannot preserve the culture because we are very much present in it; the only thing that has changed over the years is its form. We should keep it at the back of our mind that our traditions have not been destroyed, they have merely been transformed to fit in the new ways we live, which means that our traditions are still here, and among us.
Allow me to delve into this and make my case. Rewinding to some years back, there were actual laws birthed from cultural norms that disallowed women from having equal rights and opportunities as men. Additionally, due to the so-called traditions of the then generation(s), most women were limited to performing menial jobs and were mostly subjected to casual sexism –like “as a girl/woman you are not allowed to wear a short dress.” Basically, by wearing a short dress or some comfortable clothes, it would be taken up to men as an invitation (I mean it’s just a dress, not a yes). Now, times are changing, and we cannot keep living up with such traditions or cultures that do not regard women equally as men.
Moreover, it sounds weird when it is often said that we should preserve our cultures when the highlights of those cultural practices are things such as female genital mutilation, a procedure that intentionally alters and causes injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.
How can one preserve a traditional practice like this when it has no health benefits for women and girls?
What justifications are there for an act that causes severe bleeding, infections, problems with urination, and sometimes even death for its victims? These traditional practices are all violations of the human rights of girls and women who go through such practices because of so-called traditional reasons. Another instance of harmful and weird cultural practices is where women and girls, especially females of Muslim descents, go through forced or coerced marriage(s) that often cause them to go through a lifetime of abuse.
Well, a good thing is, over the years. we have and are gradually changing the narrative of single-mindedly preserving these traditions or cultures without any consideration for the negative side(s). Due to modern changes in our traditions, most women are now allowed to take up responsibilities and pursue positions equally as men in various areas of the working world. According to The Economist, today’s women make up most professional workers in many countries (51% in the United States) – they even holdout such an amount in Mediterranean countries. Although this number significantly drops as you higher up on the corporate ladder, the fact that women make up that much of the entry-level workforce is a start. And even though, in our day and age, most women are still faced with “casual sexism,” it is safe to say that quite a few of them can now wear what they are comfortable within.
Conclusively, the rapid changes in our traditions do not mean that our cultures are destroyed, on the contrary, the changes we are experiencing are just the clashes of our cultures with the current realities of the time we are faced with now. We should accept that culture is a flowing dynamic and not a static thing that we all are obligated to live with, in the exact form, forever. Thus, cultural practices and traditions are bound to change over time.
Authored by Valdemar Reeves
Featured Picture by WikiHow