Sunday, July 14, 2013
A few days back, after a session on gender sensitization a young colleague asked me " if patriarchy is all pervasive and every institution supports it, is it ever possible to bring about gender equality?"
Recently there was a little tweeting on an advertisement of Delhi Police, where a daughter of a policeman says" I will follow the footsteps of my father" the question raised was why not show daughter of a police woman saying" I will follow the footsteps of my mother"
Imagine how refreshing it would be if a son of a police woman was shown saying " I want to follow the footsteps of my mother" !
Patriarchy manifests differently and to varying extent in different contexts. What is important is for men and women to be conscious of it's existence and challenge it at every opportunity.
Look at our equations with our spouses. Are they equal? Are we making decisions consciously? Let me share with you a small study done by Sophia college students. Girls were asked to choose qualities and qualifications that they seek in their future husbands. Most girls chose better economic status, higher educational qualifications and assets over qualities such as understanding,sensitivity, liberal thinking etc. Thus marriage is aspirational for many women, get married into a wealthy family or to an IAS officer or what have you and your life is made. When marriage is based on such a requirement, how can we stop the practice of dowry and under valuing of women? Don't you think the equations would change when women start looking inward for fulfillment and achievement than gloating in reflected glory of the achievements of their husbands?
I cannot talk about gender equality to students if the equations between the male and female teachers is a reflection of the power equations at home. Male teachers being authoritative and female teachers being submissive. Female teachers engaged in cleaning and decoration work and men handling mikes and sound systems when there is an event. If a child never sees a man cooking or caring at home it would be very difficult for her/him to even imagine that it is possible. I have seen idiosyncrasies of male professors at the university level being ignored but those of the woman professors being exaggerated and stigmatized. And we ignore and often participate in it, because we are not using our critical thinking or wearing our gender lens.
Often people say that you are reading too much into an incident or a remark. If a sexist remark is passed do we just ignore it or show that we have noted and not approved of it? I always feel we should be conscious of where to draw the line. It is your call and the other party has to respect it.
Gender is not about women. It is about the power equations between men and women. Just as we women fight for our right to be in the public places and work places, it is also important that we make space for men in kitchens and creches. I see women going into a frenzy when a male guest enters the kitchen to help, they do not mind my doing it, even if I am meeting them for the first time.
I also , particularly in middle and upper income families, that girls are being brought up to make them independent , confident and assertive. But at the same time there is no attempt to make the sons caring, nurturing and sensitive. They continue to be what they always have been Dependent on women for all their daily needs,aggressive and violent.
When each one of us looks at oneself as a human being, and not as a man or a woman and are able to realize our full potential we would have a better society. Just imagine how beautiful life would be if only we could be rid of the burden of living up to the expectations of ourselves and others from us as a man or women.