Sunday, March 06, 2011

Women and an insensitive Indian society (II) - the reason

Thanks for all those wonderful feedback (mostly I got in email).

Almost all the e-mails mentioned about awareness and educating the people. But in a typical traditional Indian family where is the chance for such awareness? Which family gives priority to such ideals? We prefer high grades in exams but what about the awareness and sensitivity towards other lives around us? Which is the right place for such awareness? Is home the best place or at school? Schools will be more interested in securing prizes in so called cultural meets and reality shows but it’s very rare that we hear about any such cultural education being given to the younger generation.

In my own family I have seen this discrimination & this should be a very common sight in most of the families. Even when a girl child is in mother’s womb the so called rules and regulations are created in the family. She can’t do this she can’t do that. It is against our tradition. No women in our family did that …… the list goes on. I can even compile a book bigger than the encyclopedias with such don’t do list.

A lot of ladies talk about liberation, equality etc. but do they practice this? I believe if a change has to happen around us, first of all we have to change. There is no meaning in complaining about the inequalities in society if we ourselves don’t act on the principles we are preaching. There are many instances when I argued with my mom when she tried to enforce such rules on my sister. It’s anyone guess who won the argument. I lost heavily. There was no constraint on the education, love or any such things in our family among us children. Even my sister got a lot of freedom which is rarely available to other girl child in our society. I appreciate my mom and dad for that. But was she free to do all the things I was allowed to do? Certainly my sister cannot complain but there was this slight difference. She had a second grooming in cooking and other such other small household jobs. This is certainly good but soon it became her duty to do such things and I was never asked to do any such thing. Even when I volunteered, many times I was asked to do something suitable for boys; cooking and other such house hold jobs were for womenfolk. No one complained when I did cooking, washing and other such household jobs. But such occasions were very rare.

I was very fortunate that I didn’t see much discrimination in my family. But this is not the case in most of the other families. Girls are not allowed to study, they are not allowed to go out or mingle with others. In many parts of our country girls are kept like animals. They don’t have proper food, clothes, education. They are not even allowed to dream. Even when such basic things amenities are given she is under tremendous pressure. With 24x7 monitoring by family I don’t think most of them would even get a chance to breathe freely. With such pressure many don’t express their likes and dislikes. They are merely the puppets in the hands of their “strict” family. On many occasions when I went for campus recruitment I have observed this trait among the young engineers. In my professional and personal life also I have seen many who fear expressing their likes and dislikes. With a heavy baggage of the big don’t do list we cannot expect them to fight the discrimination. They are always at disadvantage. From this perspective, men think that women are weak. They can do whatever they like and they are just another instrument to satisfy their wishes. I cannot complain because no one told them otherwise. From childhood they are fed this notion that they are superior and women are second class citizens with no voice to protest, complain or express their likes and dislikes.

We can find the equality in almost all spheres of our life. If we look in our modern families we will see many working super moms who manage the office work and house. How many men help them in their daily “jobs”? In a family the onus should be on both. Men should also take equal responsibility is raising children and doing other household jobs. Last time when I had a discussion about this among my cousins I got support only from one of my brothers. Few days ago a very prominent figure in Indian society said that women should only do the things allowed by our culture. They have to first take care of the children and house. True, I agree but what about the menfolk don’t they have any culture or dharma? When men stay late in parties drinking alcohol they are called sophisticated and when women do such things they are called immoral!!!! (Personally I don’t drink or smoke so usually I don’t get invitations for such parties but still I cannot stop comparing the different perspective.). There are many such examples. Such notions of using different yardstick for same actions should be eliminated from our minds.

The attitude and approach of a gentleman who has seen equality at his home will be far different. If the parents teach with action that boy and girl has equal rights and should respect each other’s decisions, wishes then the world will be different place to live altogether. Many men are initially shocked when they see women expressing their ideas and wishes. In their family they never experienced this. So they take shelter in old Indian "culture" (but I wonder do they really know the meaning of culture.) and insult women with their words and actions.

This is a request to all those young mothers please burn that old “don’t do list”. Treat your children equally. If you deny something to a girl child, justify and use the same logic in case of your son. If your son can do it surely your daughter can also do it. From the very first day teach the principles of respect, equality and love to all others without any discrimination.

1 comment:

Jennifer Kumar, Cross-Cultural Coach said...

How you have managed to bring out so many topics in one post! And, to top it, you have a nice way to string them all together.... I don't know where to start with my thoughts.

The main thing is... culture and women are women's worst enemies at times. Not only other women but the woman herself. It is very complex. Think about something from a man's perspective being a man yourself- if you wanted to do something new, different, unexpected for who you are and what you are defined to be... wouldn't it be scary, hard, and require you to have confidence (or over confidence), you'd have to 'fight' a lot of obstacles to do that thing. In this case we could say if you broke the conventions of roles and started doing ALL the household work so your wife could work a full time job and rest when she came home. Society would not like this, family would feel 'shame' and on the circle goes. This is not just in India mind you, even in US. Now househusbands is becoming common because of the recession. Househusbands do this because they lost their jobs and wives did not or wives are more easily employable (of course at lower wages for same jobs as men). Men loose their self esteem in this role reversal, and women increase their guilt. But, it's brave on their part to do it. They may think they are doing it out of simple requirement. That's true, but sometimes doing something because you have to is not always easy, too.

I could talk with you at length about this topic anytime.