Madhu Arora works as a content specialist with a leading multinational IT firm. She is an advocate of gender equality in both her personal and professional life, and currently walks the tightrope between full time motherhood, the idiosyncrasies of family life in India, and a demanding career. She blogs at Madhu Arora and her twitter handle is @aroramadhu
As the victim of the gruesome gang rape incident in Delhi battles for precious life, we, a nation of armchair activists, are busy getting outraged. We complain about the lax law and order situation, we lament ‘ki kuch nahin ho sakta’, we offer what we think are perfect solutions to the situation if only someone would implement them. But no one will; and women will continue to be molested, raped and maimed.
Because the truth is that change begins at home. Our home. You and me are as much a part of this society, as were those girl’s rapists. A friend of mine said this morning,
“While WE DEMAND quick and strict action against the perpetrators, we need to reflect …Ram Singh and Mukesh were not created in a day…”
Indeed. Every time you have laughed at a rape joke, every time you have spoken about women in terms of boobs and ass, every time you have told your son to be stop being a ‘sissy’, every time you have used the term ‘easy’ to describe a girl; you have contributed to the culture of rape that plagues this country.
And let’s be honest here, all of us have been at some point or another, guilty of the above or something similar. If for nothing else, then simply to fit in, not create controversy, not to be seen as a “cause wali bai/bhai” by our peers.
But you can only ‘hope’ for change and not really make it happen, unless you are willing to step out from your comfort zone.
So if you want it; real change begins with you and me, and here are some small ways you can start trying to change the status quo.
Discourage sexist language and behavior
Rape jokes are not funny, whether women dress up or dress down, they are not ‘asking for it’. No matter what women do, they are never ‘asking for it’. Be vocal against this culture of blaming the victim. Condemn ‘eve teasing’ and sexual harassment in all forms; don’t just brush it off by saying ‘boys will be boys’. Neither does it help to refer to women as bitches, whores, sluts; even if you do it as women with each other. Stop defining masculinity with aggression and femininity with submission. And with children, stop telling your boys to “stop crying like girls” and initiating your girls into the entire pink/ princess culture.
Be the right role model for your children
Children are the future. If we can teach them the right values, then we are at least setting up the next generation right. Show, don’t just tell your children that mommies are not damsels in distress, and dads are not know-it-all macho dudes. Teach them that no matter what the situation, violence is not the answer. If you are a mom, learn to change a bulb, pay your taxes, learn how your car runs, don’t just drive it. If you are a dad, help around the house, cook, clean, take the lead in child care when you can.
Teach your children that men and women are equal partners, maybe with different specializations but equal all the same.
Complain in the right forums about sexist media
Think critically about the messages you receive from the media about gender and violence. Don’t those fairness cream ads make your blood boil? As and when you find objectionable matter, try to report it. Radio/TV/Web related complaints can be submitted to the Electronic Media Monitoring Centre. For newspapers/magazines, you can complain to the Press Council of India. Here is a link from the organization which describes the process in detail.You can also reach out to the National Commission of Women.
Now, you could either argue that the system doesn’t work or try once for yourself and see what happens. The choice is yours.
Volunteer with organizations working for the cause
Last but not the least, volunteer. There are a great number of organizations that work with both men and women to combat the culture of violence and sexual subjugation in our society. Volunteer with one and help them have more impact. From counseling centers, to rehabilitation homes, to organizations that provide gender sensitivity trainings, you can take your pick based on your time and comfort levels. Just a few hours in a week will go a long way. For people based in Delhi, here is a list of organizations from the NCR region (PDF).
Some of the actions outlined above will often mean standing up to or against the people you hold dear; may be your spouse, your mother, mother-in-law, and your friends at work or home. But if a little discomfort, a little dissonance today leads to a safe and unfettered life for the women in this country tomorrow, is it not a very small price to pay?