Where do we go from here?

I’ve been taking more of a stand on things these days. I’m not sure exactly what my motivation is at the moment, but I think taking a stand, any stand for that matter is empowerment. Knowing that you’ve firmly placed your weight on an issue adds an extra dimension to it. Instead of watching from the sidelines, you now have a vested interest. And with this, you become so much more than the sum of your parts.

I have always been strongly opinionated, and when it comes down to it – intensely stubborn (the amount of cajoling it takes to make me deviate from a cast iron plan in my head, oh my). Lately my views seem to have taken a feminist bent. I find that every remotely sexist comment sets me off, and I feel that as a woman, I need to fight this fight. Honestly, I’m not even sure what being a “feminist” entails. Well, mostly I seem to hear the term used with all its negative connotations of loud, men bashing hustlers. But leaving meaningless prejudice aside, I looked up feminism on the Internet and this is what I found.

Feminism is a collection of movements and ideologies aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights for women. This includes seeking to establish equal opportunities for women in education and employment.

With India as my context, I think defining, establishing and defending women’s rights is so very important. In all fairness, I claim to have no solid knowledge of the situation in the country, just what I could glean from my surroundings and my experiences. We have always been a patriarchal society, and we still carry the burden of that baggage. Times have changed, but as a people we really haven’t. Countless years of suppression have left all of us, even ‘modern’ Indian women like me with that stigma. It’s almost ingrained into our DNA. Oh yes, we work and we may be the breadwinners in our families. But we still want to put a well cooked meal on the dinner table. We will still serve our husbands first and then sit down to eat ourselves. We will still take sole control of domestic affairs and be proud of that very fact. We will still think twice about smoking in public for the attention it would generate. Even if society doesn’t expect us to feel this way, we will. I’m not sure if this is a blessing or a curse. I’m really not.

The situation in India being as dire as it is today, I think we need more ‘feminists’, men and women both. I would also like to know, how do we go about changing the way our society is conditioned to think? You know, treating women as actual human beings if not equals and the rest of that jazz. I’m starting to think education has nothing to do with it really, and neither does class or social background. Domestic abuse is rampant in rich families, and ‘educated’ college students are cat-callers and lechers. I am seriously stumped. Someone, please enlighten me. Where do we even go from here?

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3 thoughts on “Where do we go from here?

  1. Tough but pertinent question.
    I feel this difference keenly when I compare two experiences. One, at home in Delhi, where I’m expected to help out at home and the kitchen, when mom’s busy with work. Secondly, when at my ancestral place in Maharashtra, where I don’t have to lift a finger to have food, and my aunts/cousin sisters/grandma are amused, incredulous even, when I offer to help out. The kitchen is forbidden territory.

    Do I understand the need to help out a busy working lady? Yes.
    Do I enjoy the attention, luxury and lavish food in the village? Yes.

    The way people are brought up in the village and city is vastly different. That definitely has an impact on the way we treat women. Women in the village don’t feel insulted to do all the housework; they do it with pride and as a duty. Things ARE biased towards men, but that is slowly changing as more women take up jobs and contribute to the household income.

    With greater acceptance at the workplace, rising incomes and affluence, women definitely have a greater say in things.

    The way forward? It’s a complex answer. Upbringing, attitudes of parents, friends and family; all have an impact in shaping the behavior towards women. We need to live by example to show others and young children to behave with decency and respect towards women.

    I feel we should move more towards being a meritocracy. Gender bias (or even race bias) has no place in a society where people are judged by their skills and ability; Chanda Kochchar is a great example.

    I am a firm proponent of treating women (and all people) with dignity and respect. However, in India, there’s a constant battle between the orthodox traditions and liberating ideas of modernism. It’ll take a while to settle to an acceptable equilibrium.

    Long answer, but hope it helps.

  2. Pingback: In conversation with a jaded Indian man and a dented-painted Indian woman | Quixotic Semiotic

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