For the longest time, I’ve always been so neutral when it comes to favorites. I never favored a female writer over a male writer, never favored a female politician over a male politician, a female musician over a male musician. The reason was simple: I never believed that one’s gender determines what’s in their brain, or what comes out of your mouth.

I had never identified as a feminist but more of an ‘equalist’.

But this changed ever since I attended the World Economic Forum a couple of months ago. It hit me strong and hard– I live in a society that is very much male-dominated. Not just a society, but a world. The ratio of men to women at the Forum was despicable. I scanned the sessions that I attended, and never did the percentage of female attending exceed 17%.

It’s not a religious issue, a cultural issue, social, political, or economical issue; it’s a human issue. One that affects us all every day. Whether we like it or not, women are the reason we were brought into this world in the first place (after God).

The sad truth of the matter is that there are more men in parliament, government, power, on boards of Fortune 500 companies than there are women. There’s no arguing that women are very much ostracised in society, deprived of their basic rights. Even in a G20 country like Saudi Arabia, one in three women over the age of 15 cannot read or write, compared to the 17% of men. I don’t really care if women can’t drive in Saudi Arabia, there’s a bigger issue: they cannot read or write, and so they can’t ask for their rights. The overall rate of illiteracy in the Middle East of girls over the age of 15 is a staggering 42%, compared to 22% of men.

This inequality can be traced back to when we were younger and watched cartoons; Belle in Beauty and the Beast was saved by the Beast, Snow White by the 7 dwarfs, and Cinderella was saved from her evil step-mother by her prince charming bringing her the lost glass slipper. Although these stories are ancient, the plot 30 years later is still the same with Twilight – Bella’s continuously being saved by either Edward or Jacob.

In both stories, the women are ‘freed’ by men and they find never-ending eternal love for each other, and so on their wedding days, we find women saying “I’ve been dreaming of this ever since I was a little girl.” These cartoons drill this idea of ‘a man is your only savior’ into the brains of this young innocent children, and so they grow up looking for their savior. Studies show that girls are more likely to give up during school in the 5th grade; what are they supposed to do, give up and start thinking of being whisked away by prince charming?

Now this is what the post is about: Barbie – she annoys me. Barbie’s toes are designed so that she is always standing on her tippy-toes, and so the only good shoes she can wear happen to be heels. Now, Nicolas Sarkozy is the only guy I’ve ever read about/heard of who tries to be taller. OK and Tom Cruise – but somehow, this design of Barbie’s feet made women find comfort in shoe-shopping. The evidence is clear – my best friend grew up loving Barbie, and she loves shoes. I hated Barbie and I hate shoe shopping. I find comfort in socks. We can further link the idea of Barbie’s’ feet to Cinderella and her prince charming – he found her shoe.

Even in fashion, if we look at mainstream designers such as Galliano, Max Azaria, Zuhair Murad, Mark Jacobs, Christian Louboutin, Jimmy Choo, Alexander McQueen – they’re telling us what to wear. Sure we have designers such as Stella McCartney, but even the fashion industry, which is mainly marketed towards women, is filled with these men. They’re everywhere dammit.

It is not possible for us to point fingers, whether we are men or women. But I want to ask the female readers: what are you fighting for? Are we fighting for prince charming, the white picket fence, and those absolutely mind-blowingly gorgeous Louboutins, or are we fighting for equality? Are we fighting to find the man who will buy those Louboutins for us, or are we fighting to receive more income so that we buy those Louboutins ourselves?

I don’t want prince charming to find my lost glass slipper; personally, I’m fighting to give each girl, female, and woman out there the opportunity to fight for what she wants, even if it’s a glass slipper.

– Yara Al-Wazir. Image: barbie.com

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