Today has been one of those days where I felt pain, pain of feeling what a woman means to the society at large. Watching the documentary on Jyoti Singh, I thought of what she meant to be and now what her legacy is: spreading light on the often subdued, often ignored issue: role of women in the society.
India was put to spotlight in this gut wrenching BBC documentary where the mentality of men and the society towards women were displayed in its most ravage sense. While most societies don’t regard women the way some men did in this particular documentary (I truly believe so) and while most women don’t have to go through the complete role reversal as in the case of some Afghan women who are brought up as men “Bacha Poosh” (for the lack of having a son in the family), most societies still have their own levels of silent hypocrisy about the women’s status in the society. The mindset of the people seems to be in a constant battle with regards to gender specific roles and gender specific expectations.
Often girl child when born are not scorned (not be a victim of feticide because they happened to get the X chromosomes from their dads rather than the much sought after Y chromosomes). Having a baby boy would have definitely put a wider smile and a sense of relief for the parents: one thing checked off the bucket list and scoring bonus points for living up to societal expectations of keeping the lineage alive and well.
With the changing times a woman, if she desires and goes for it, has the opportunity to be successful professionally. In fact, women from the same cohort as men will have better opportunities because “women are encouraged to apply.”
But same set of men and women when they return home after work will go through different sets of routines, especially if they are married. Dad, son, brother, husband gets to take some time off from the hard day at work and the Mother, daughter, sister, wife will probably have another shift on her shoulders: cooking, cleaning, taking care of children, preparing for the next day.
I admit, things have improved in terms of getting a helping hand but what about the mindset, the mindset that still remains:
- It is OK for a boy to have a girlfriend but the girlfriend is frowned upon for going out with a boy.
- Son takes the family’s lineage forward while the daughter will help another man take his lineage forward.
- Son’s wife and children become part of the family and daughter’s husband and children become mere relatives.
- A daughter and a daughter-in-law is expected to take care of both the families and the son and the son-in-law will get the best of worlds.
- And many more
When a woman questions or protests then the secret weapon is out:
“You are a woman”
“This is our culture”
“This is a patriarchal society”
Shopping for sweets or getting some advice, in crowds, or in quiet or busy streets, when heart was already pounding or in places you least expect, men have crossed their lines. And it just isn’t fair.
Being a forestry professional in Nepal introduced me to the world around me. I love going for field visits and meeting new people, but if I happened to be all by myself, it wasn’t the wild animals that I feared that might come out from the shadows.
I still remember my one-day hike (no road transportation due to strikes) to catch the plane to get home from my work area to take my GRE (Graduate Record Examination). As the sun came down, I became conscious of the way people looked at me (I don’t recall seeing women) and my pace fastened. I could have never taken that hike if it were not for a male colleague who accompanied me.
It is an irony to think that we need men in our lives: dad, brother (elder or younger), uncle, husband, friend, colleague, stranger,
………………. to feel safe from men out there.
It is good to have people you can depend on but not in lieu of the threat to you just because you are a woman.
The physicality of women, power to give birth has somehow been tied to women’s role as a homemaker, caregiver, nurturer, …….., weaker
There indeed needs to be a change, a change in the mindset of people and the gender specific roles and off with the differences in expectations as defined by the society.
This blog somehow became focused on the problem, which I tend to talk about only when I can recommend a solution to.
But this time, I do not have an instant solution.
I however believe things can get better.
And I can vow to speak up and keep learning and keep trying to find the voices and the change agents to gradually seek a future
…….where there’s us (no rules that discriminate, no expectations that differentiate, no fear from you to me),