Throughout the world there are numerous instances of 'inequality towards women', if I can call it that. In recent days it has reared its ugly but true head before me in many instances. Right from the movies Dhoom II where the women are not even glorified, and neither dumb, sex objects, to Kabul Express which makes you rethink about the Taliban majority in Afghanistan. In Dhoom II (taking a recent, top-of-mind-recall example)and the likes, English/ Hindi not withstanding, the women are potrayed as what the directors think are real women under then thin veneer of "we're just making a fictional dream woman/ sex object". So it made me think. Heres something on women in this world.
It begins right from before birth to adulthood.
There are places where upon conception it is checked whether the child is male/ female, and the appropriate is done by the parents, and sometimes even as the doctor deems 'correct' - namely abortion of the girl child (Yes, doctors have adviced, even forced parents to abort a girl child on occassion). Killing girl infants is a common enough phenomenoon, so much so in fact that we all talk about it laconically, and accept the fact. It has been waved about so often in front of us and nothing done, or with nothing to be done, that we just look, and then look away. Not commenting on the so-called developed nations, it definitely is a widespread phenomenon in most developing nations.
Education of the girl child. Well, need I say more on that? The need to open a charity school by Oprah in SA to educate, at least primary educate girls, the government programs in India to make people send girls to school, the fees reduction and the awards given to parents of girls in high school and college...they all point towards awareness, but definite lack of education for women.
In educated and 'liberated' societies, in upper middle class social circles, and even in upper class social circles, it is not uncommon to have parents of a girl to be told even today "Why are you expending so much energy to educate etc your girl? Afterall she is going to get married." as if thats all that life holds for a girl - to get married and look after the husbands house. The bitter truth being, that does stand true in many cases, till today. Programmed by parents, the girls are dolled out and taught home making. They are educated yes, but to provide a good paralell to the husbands accomplishments, to be able to make more or less intelligent conversation. Apart from becoming baby factories, they should be the correct eye candy to be draped over the arm of the husband, and Heaven knows, after being coached in it since childhood, they think its the right thing to do. (Oh yes, they may be running the occassional kurti shop from the basement of their house as cotoure clothing once in a while at exorbitant prices, but then thats just a diversion, isnt it honey? The men dont want 'working wives' per se, but 'occupied' wives.)
Just like the daughter of a conservative moslem family does not find anything odd about wearing a dark piece of shapeless clothing over all her normal clothes in blistering heat or cold or rain everytime she goes out. And that too only in presence of a male member (even if a 10yr old brother), or with a large groups of similarly clad women.
As for the status of women. Well, once you have removed the scope of earning, they automatically become dependant ready-to-please beings. Its only natural. If you depend on somene for your living, you consiously or sub concsciously succumb to their whims. If I can trust Wikipedia, it seems to be compulsary in the Q'uran, and not doing so can result in punishment, which by the way, is stoning - as decided by the upholders of Q'uran, and not the book itself.
Which brings me to the topic of death of women. Perhaps thanks to the Taliban, we all now know of Namus, and the results of it being lost. In case you dont, Namus is the honour of the family, as measured by the chastity of the women. Chastity here means everythign right from the women dressing "right", following orders of the male members of the family, to knowing when to sit/stand etc in presence of other people. Of course, if she gets raped, or if her Burqa cedes a chance glance due to wind or something,it is entirely her fault, and she can then be stoned to death, shunned by the de-faced family, or something similar. Of course, the Q'uran does not support the stoning etc. it just stipulated that she be tried in a court of 4 (men) who decide what to do (punish) next.
In India we have the Sati, a (negative) glorification of the Goddess. In the name of the Goddess of power in one of her avatars, this is the phenomenon where the wife in grief over death of her husband, commits suicide by jumping on the burning cremation pyre. It all started sometime during the Moslem invasion of India where the queens used to burn themselves to death on the losing of war of the kings, in order to escape the monstrosities of being the loot of war. It reached its heights in British India by missguided religious fanatics who loved the idea of seeing a live widow burn to death. Often sedated and swayed by public all around, the woman would come to her senses as she was on the pyre, half burnt. But then its too late to escape. It was eitherway too late to escape. They were born in the wrong era as women.
We heave a sigh of relief as we think of the modern world. Satis dont happen now, Taliban is notional, and Cmon! Islamic countires dont actually practice punishment of violation of namus!How wrong are we. Apart from Indonesia and Bangladesh, the notion of namus is widepread. Sati still happens, though in secret and isolated pockets. Widows of central India are still shunned by their families for a life of 'worship' on the banks of Ganges at Benaras. And, till today writing an article on it on the newspapers, covering it in a magazine or making a social awareness related movie out of it can get the 'righteous' public into a righteous rage, and eventually hush up the issue. It is, of course given a different dimension.
And here I have not even touched upon China, Japan, Africa and their customs.
Ah well, we say, we are sorry for them and all, but at least we live in a more equal world, of proud parents and earning daughters, of independant wives who call for divorces and women spearheading multi-million dollar organizations. We are lucky to be born in families where such customs are not followed/ believed in.
Sure we do.
Its just that work, like most of societies is a different society. Thanks to all these years of patriarchal society with male workforce, it has evolved into a men dominated domain. A place where the rules are made adaptable to the general psyche of men. A place where women when they enter, mould themselves, and learn the rules of the new world. And they better cope with it, fast. Because if you dont, you are a useless wimp, or a woman. All this apart from the fact of course, that since you are a woman, you will be checked out, treated differently (better/ worse, but always different), given special notice, commented upon etc etc. You still have official lunch time conversation where polite conversation can include topics like "It is nice to see a lady in pharma marketing", 'Is it common in India to have women working full time in work place?', "How many women are there in top positions in your company/India?".
Sexual Behavior in Workplace Act notwithstanding, its not uncommon to get indirect advances by colleagues, known and unknown, young and old, senior and junior. Everyone from the peon to the senior VP will notice the new entrant, not by her work, but by her being a "her". Sure, women also after a point of time revel, if not revel, at least make use of the advantage. Well, what are they to do? Doesnt the practical saying go - if you cant change the rules, play by them. Harsh, but easier to do than to up and go away, shun the system, or try and make a mark differently.
Hell, considering all this, the requirement to work twice as hard, the need to prove ourself, the readiness to take on and parry advances intelligently, whether used to it or not, whether using the "womanly advantage" or not, women have to be shrewder and definitely more on their toes than any male in office. All this apart from normal work.
Then of course comes personal life where she has to afterall, take care of the family. Loving hussband or not, she is still the one who cooks most of the times, or worries about what to eat. If we start at the basic level.The one who 'nags' to ensure the house functions etc. And then of course, Motherhood. Mothers know their kids better.
It is not uncommon for me to have heard "Oh I asked my wife not to work after we decided to have a child. The child's formative years are mother dependant, at least till the age of four afterall". I dont get it. Usually in India, the wife agrees, and becomes a bored housewife after a certain point of time. There is only so much nappy changing you can do in 5 years. After that its down to gossip and soap operas. oh yes, it is a difficult job. It realy is, to have a fully functional house, working perfectly. However, if she thinks she can manage with a job, then why does society not want it? And afterall, Society is the ultimate decider. Why cant she take up a part time job while her child goes to primary school at the very least?
It is common to hear the man marry and then 'take care' of his spouse, well because thats is duty. What does the guy do? Live with his parents. His parents are taking care of him even if he does go to work, how does he expect to take care of an individual from a totally different house? Ah, its the girls problem to adjust.
Sure, women allow leeways and help men make the stereotypes. But its the chicken and egg problem. Do they do that to fit in and move on faster? Or do they do that and so there is the stereotying? Well, because they are the minority, every act is noticed and one act of stupidity can get stereotyped, to become the basis for future women. Whats worse is, to increase acceptability, women join men in condemning the different women. Hell, even I do it. But then, if you want to be accepted you cannot acknowledge the gender "war" can you? (to use a strong word)
So, how much better are the women of today? The woman after filing divorce applies for child support frm the ex-husband. The court in facts insists on that. Even if she is working or earning better than him. Because, the legal system recognises women as the caretakers of the family, not the bread earners. And once she decides to stay away from her husband, she is, of course, unable to care for herself! Wonder why all women dont get some compensation from their fathers/ brothers/ boy freinds or whatever, on leaving home, on becoming an adult etc. And then, once given the compensation, why should they say no. Who would, to free money.
I dont see this as much different from 'earlier' times. Not much different from the binding of feet of women in China, violence at home in Japan and the resultant creation of the infamous Geisha, not very different from lashing of women because their ankles were visible or burning them because their husband died of a heart attack. Neither is it much different from email forwards like
1. All men are extremely busy.
2. Although they are so busy, they still have time for women.
3. Although they have time for women, they don't really care for them.
4. Although they don't really care for them, they always have one around.
5. Although they always have one around them, they always try their luck
6. Although they try their luck with others, they get really pissed off if
the woman leaves them.
7. Although the woman leaves them they still don't learn from their
mistakes and still try their luck with others.
It is after a long time that I have let loose the feminist in me (what is feminism eitherway). The last strong statement I made was I guess on Womens Day. But once in a while the topic has to rise from casual lunch time conversation, from cocktail party hot topics to a serious thought. And yes, another thing. No one case say "I know", except those who have faced it.
If this is how the world is, we have to live with it, hope for the best, and do what little we can too make the single drop of our presence help change the colour of the sea.