Friday, March 16, 2012

Women’s Day? Really?

It’s been a week, since March 8th, 2012. I remember this day more because it’s my friend Sujatha’s Mom’s birthday and less because it’s Women’s day. All day long on March 8th, several friends and colleagues wished the world a Happy Women’s Day on Facebook. Among these messages, were also the one-off “What about Men’s Day” posts, to which some females had responded in jest, saying “Every day is a Man’s day!”. My 2 cents - Not that I don’t appreciate the posts, but do we need a Men’s day or a Women’s day? Yes, we attribute and acknowledge our women on this day, we appreciate women from different ranks and fields - talk high of their achievements, but what happens the remaining 364/5 days of the year? I think the same of other “Days” too like Mother’s Day, Father’s day or even Valentine’s day. 

Today recognition, fame, respect and acknowledgement are all considered sufficient as long as we pay our dues through Facebook. So what if India’s sex ratio in 2011 is only 914/1000? So what if despite considerable progress in education and awareness, the ratio has, in effect declined from 927/1000 from the last census of 2001? So what if a lady is capable of performing shoulder-to-shoulder with a man be it in sports, education, engineering fields, the defense, medicine and yet there are only an average of 15 girls in a class in an engineering college compared to an average of 50 boys? 

India's falling sex ratio over the past century - 20th Century


At one end, women are worshipped as Goddesses. The Goddess of wealth Laxmi is welcomed every Diwali, the Goddess of Education Saraswati worshipped along with books and tools and electronics every year, Kaali Mata, Parvati - the Goddess of Fertility and so many more. Yet, at the other end in their human form, they are humiliated, atrocized, debased every day. I have had a couple of MCP people at work subtly suggest that females should stick to house work, suggest alternate times for us females to go play table-tennis in the common recreation room because the “peak times are for men!”.  This in the city, I shudder thinking about the kind of lives women lead in the villages. Of course, until one has seen or lived the alternative, they would assume life is good. The recent number of rapes that got reported in Delhi (added to the ones that did not) is a clear indication of this double-standard treatment. Oh well, we keep trudging along. Slowly and steadily, step by step. 




Yes, there are situations where women cannot equal men and we would be foolish if we do not accept that. In nuclear plants, women (specifically pregnant women) are not preferred as reactor operators, because the radiation can harm the baby. Yes, Economic Times named Sania Mirza in the list of the 33 women who made India proud. She might be India’s #1 Tennis Player in women but when pitted against the top tennis players of India, she might not make it within the top 5. The physical strength and endurance are not comparable and we are simply wired that way. But the good part is, for every such Sania, Kalpana Chawla, Shreya Ghoshal there are more girl children now being encouraged to participate and move ahead in life.

Yet, I strongly believe that women and the nation can definitely progress being cognizant of the differences. I had read a statement somewhere which went something like “You can judge the progress of the nation looking at the way the nation’s women are treated”. Up until then, I had never looked at it this way. But I sat thinking and it rang true. 

I happened to watch the movie “Matrubhoomi: A Nation without women” today. Recommendation: Do not watch. Its a sadistic depressing movie about the atrocities against women in a village that runs out of the female sex eventually due to infanticide. It is what caused me thinking about the whole situation and hence this post. Do not also ask me why I watched it. The film received widespread critical acclaim, was awarded a couple of awards for raising social awareness. The film shows a rural village in Bihar and was made in both Bhojpuri and Hindi. My take on it - such films are never commercially released, they don’t really reach the intended target audience, specifically the people in the remote villages of India who should ideally be watching it. Most people in the cities also wouldnt go to watch it. But I commend the effort and the thought behind the film. I only hope there had been independant screenings in multiple cities and small towns, villages etc. 

How does the situation change then? Do reservations help? I am personally against reservations. Start with one such idea and you end up opening the gates to every other Tom, Dick and Harry fighting for reservation in the name of caste, religion and whatnot. Recently, the BEST buses of Mumbai increased the “Mahilan Saathi” (Ladies Only) seat capacity from 6 to 12. Result? More frustrated men and more arguments in buses between the genders. One time, I saw all 12 seats taken up by females and a pretty-along pregnant lady standing and switching her weight from foot to foot. Not one man or woman offered to give her a seat. Try to force an idea and it will boomerang. Instead, BEST could have started “Ladies only” buses at peak times to help. 

Yes, in an effort to improve the genetic imbalance, there will need to be some strict measures taken. But take from one to feed the other will only cause more disruptions. If one sibling does not like giving up his/her toys for the other, how do you expect a whole population to react easily with acceptance? That being said, we cannot give up on the goodwill and efforts being put in to innumerous “Rescue efforts”, as I would call them. I salute the folks who put in their time and money into the uplifting of the girl child. Its one more form of development - a way to help the country progress. Why shouldn’t I then? There are n number of NGOs that support and help the girls on the street, girl children rescued from red-light areas, help with their social upbringing, in educating them and so on. Religious and social dogma will continue to take precedence for a while. Social rehabilitation will not happen in a heartbeat. In order for the movement to gather weight, every individual’s mentality will need to change. The day our men start treating females as one of their own, as an equal, as a human instead of an object or a form of sating one’s sexual desires is the day we would truly celebrate Women’s Day. Do you agree?

I would love to hear your views!

22 comments:

  1. I completely agree with you. I recently read another article about this village in North India where there are almost no girls. The local school has only three girls! It's rather pathetic. I also think that in the olden days it was maybe okay for parents to favor a boy because ultimately he would be the one to care for them in their old age. But now that argument is rendered void. Girls are the ones who pay more attention to their parents and yet the boys will be first in line for their share of land or money. The situation is a sad one but it's sadder that nobody seems to be doing anything about it...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's the funny part. I find it strange that it's now happening despite all the education and awareness around us. A friend of mine commented that maybe genetics has got to play a role. But the probability is equal. Now with divorce-friendly laws being passed where females have a right to the husband's property the whole gender bias could take an ugly turn. I dont know if that is good or bad, haven't thought about it so much yet.

      Delete
  2. I agree about the genetic imbalance. The reason there are many more men than women in engineering is not as much genetic as it is social. There are many boys interested in the humanities fields growing up, but they are soon made aware that careers in those fields will not lead to high incomes (a sad but true test of a man in today's society). Hence a lot of the engineering students aren't engineers at heart, but simply pragmatic about their future. In fact, a woman in an engineering college is likely excellent at engineering because she probably loves it enough to break social rank and go in that direction.

    About women's day and stuff like that. I think these are all methods to infantilize women. First we suggest the idea that being a woman itself means being more evolved, more spiritual, more intellectual and all in all, more special. Even if that was true (which it isn't), no woman should be proud of that. It's a matter of luck whether you're born a woman. Just an accident of birth like being born black or white, tall or short, rich or poor. We look down upon segregating people as Jews, Christians, Muslims and Hindus. We praise individuality above all else. But for some reason, this male/female dichotomy is held up like an Olympic torch.

    I believe that the Indian system is parochial, and the idea of parents putting all their metaphorical eggs in their son's basket is bad, but right now that's life in rural India at least. A man is unworthy of the love, nurturing and the pleasure of a woman's company until he has made something of himself in education, work or inheritance. A woman, on the other hand, doesn't have the 'sky's the limit' situation, but she also has a much better safety net. If this carries on, people will prioritize their sons' educations over their daughters'. In one case, they're building equity, and in the other, they're sinking funds. Sounds cynical, but that's the truth. The change in this situation will come when women empower themselves, by taking risks with jobs and careers, and rejecting the parochial safety-net of marriage.

    You write very well Deepa!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Liberalcynic - Still think that's the case in the cities? I have a feeling its more to do with education again - this time of the earlier generation. Most students (girls or boys) with educated parents will end up wanting for higher education themselves - be it in the engineering fields or the medical - the top 2 professional courses still being opted for in India - unless the student is genuinely interested in some other line and opts for that instead. Of course, even with that there's social outlook involved. Even if a boy's parents are uneducated, he would want to be educated and have a good job so he can take care of his folks. For a female on the other hand, yes, she will need to break social rank. But awareness begins a step higher.

      Complete agree with your entire viewpoint around Women's day. The whole safety net concept is also again a social outlook, and I think females are also starting to enjoy the options they get - I want to work but its OK even if I dont - Unfortunately, the guy doesn't get this option in the Indian society. If he stays home while his wife works, he's labelled a good-for-nothing. As far as the whole safety-net of marriage goes, I wonder how the genders are going to react to the new divorce-friendly laws that award the female a share of the husband's property after marriage. India might go the prenup way if it hasn't started already.

      Thank you for the comment LiberalCynic! Interesting thoughts!

      Delete
  3. Luvd reading ur Voice of Concern. Awesome write up

    ReplyDelete
  4. this post has depth and facts. Hats off to for such a wonderful article. Loved every bit of it.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Very nice Deepa, straight from the heart. The point you make is very pertinent -- we have to look for a day when we are treated equal not forced to be treated equal.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Rachna! Yes, no gender should be forced to treat the other gender as equal. Force will never lead to acceptance. It has to be a self-mindset change.

      Delete
  6. I simply loved your post...Its so in-depth and well enunciated...You have made so many valid points...And to your question-'The day our men start treating females as one of their own, as an equal, as a human instead of an object or a form of sating one’s sexual desires is the day we would truly celebrate Women’s Day. Do you agree?' I sure agree...!! But along with that Women too have to start respecting 'Women' in general and not advocate orthodox practices derogatory and harmful to women in the name of tradition...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh yes, definitely. The onus of respecting women is hugely on other women too. If I dont treat women right or if I put up with a lot of nonsense, my daughter would think its OK too! Every generation sets the expectations around what's OK and what's Not to the next. And a major factor at play to correct that mindset is education!

      Delete
  7. Even I feel the women's day celebration is like laughing at our gender. We don't wish to have a day for us. Instead, we need only a space to occupy and breathe freely :)

    Regards
    village girl

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So true. On one end we fight for equality and on the other end we fight for reservation. Its a mockery. It has to be one way or the other. We cant have it both ways - I am all for equality. Reservation on any basis is unfair for everyone else.

      Delete
  8. Very nice post. Bill Gates is in consensus with your view point. He had iterated at a conference in a middle Eastern country that a country can only develop when women of the country do so.

    However, it's important women start addressing these problems. Mere blog posts won't help. Women need to start looking out for other women rather than defaming them during problems. Stop wasting time over protests regarding something Russell Peters said about Aishwarya Rai and look at more critical issues.

    As Marilyn Monroe would say "Women who want to be equal to men have no ambition."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ooh, like 'Bill Gates is in consensus' remark. Makes me feel important :) Yes, I wholly agree that women have a huge role - more than anyone else's in eradicating female injustice. The one who accepts abuse is equally to blame as the one who mets it out. Worse are the females who met out injustice themselves. Mothers-in-law, daughters-in-law, sisters-in-law, females who are a part of the sex trade voluntarily forcing others to be a part too, wives who harass their husbands, divorcee wives who take advantage of the judicial system and try to squeeze their husbands for everything, scheming girlfriends - everyone's a black mark on the face of feminism. Rooted in tradition women even set up their girl children for failure, a lifetime of being subservient, without any thought to modern times and changing mindsets. With education and financial independence, things are improving but then there are also people who take advantage of being financial independent too!

      As far as Aishwarya Rai and Russell Peters, what can one do? The media publishes/airs stuff that the audience asks for and the hungry audience laps it all up. Supply and demand. As Vidya said in the Dirty Picture - Filmein (translated to Zindagi in this case) teen cheezon se chalti hain - Entertainment Entertainment Entertainment. Folks love to leave their intelligent mind behind and get lost in senseless entertainment. And at times, to be honest, I dont know if we can blame them. After hours of being bogged down by work and travelling pressures, personal pressures, financial issues and such, why would someone want to spend an hour more on serious stuff? Wouldnt they just want to escape it all?

      Delete
  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Hi, I recently joined the WUC.

    A very interesting topic u are dealing with. Yes women are a section in a nation that determines its success in many ways. There is a say, you educate a women u educate a nation'. But it is so sad there is no end to the sufferings of women in our country. Also women are the least united too :))

    ReplyDelete

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...