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Most Indian men are decent people who would never consider harming a woman. But men also need to actively dismantle male privilege in India.
A few weeks ago, a Professor at the University of Leipzig in Germany, rejected applications by two male Indian students to her course. This is, allegedly, the reason Prof. Annette Beck-Sickinger gave: “Unfortunately I do no longer accept any male Indian guests, trainees, doctorial students or Post Docs due to the severe rape problem in India. I cannot support a society which is not able to respect females in any aspects.”
Was she justified in rejecting these students? Absolutely not. Does she have a point in thinking that our society doesn’t ‘respect’ females? She does.
Most Indian men are decent and law abiding people, who would never consider harming a woman. They are genuinely concerned for the welfare of their wives, daughters, and sisters, and would probably help any woman in trouble. They vehemently condemn rape and want sex offenders severely punished.
But – here is where the problem lies – they don’t question or even consider the male privilege that Indian society grants them. Many are uncomfortable giving their daughters the same freedom they give their sons. They take very little, if any, responsibility for housework even if their wives have full time jobs. They expect the wife to live apart from her parents after marriage, but continue to live with their own. Many accept ‘gifts’ at their own weddings, and give lavishly at their daughters’. They show their sons-in-law a level of deference they wouldn’t show their daughters-in-law. It pinches them if a woman outperforms them at work or their wives earn more than they do. They criticize female drivers over things they wouldn’t put down a male driver for. They enjoy and share sexist jokes.
This line of thought and behavior is considered normal, harmless… acceptable.
Don’t we praise the man who ‘helps his wife with housework’? Do we applaud a woman for ‘helping around the house’?
Don’t we praise the man who ‘helps his wife with housework’? Do we applaud a woman for ‘helping around the house’? Do we ask our fathers to serve dinner, if our mothers go to work too? Do we teach or expect our sons to help at home? Do we realize that cooking and cleaning is not just ‘women’s work‘, that everyone needs to take care of their homes and requirements?
Do we, as a society, grant women the freedom to choose what they want to do, without question, judgment, or consequence?
Sexual violence is attributed to the perception that women are inferior to men, and are here on earth to fulfill men’s needs. It has its roots in the belief that women should be shown their place if they overstep their boundaries. The underlying cause of rape is gender-based discrimination.
Most Indian men, even well-meaning ones, without questioning or even realizing it, accept and propagate gender-based discrimination, or stereotyping, as a part of daily life.
In doing so, they are unintentionally reinforcing the very bias that leads to violence against women, by relegating the very women they care for to second place.
Discrimination and violence against women isn’t just an Indian problem; it’s prevalent everywhere, even in the west. The problem is the extent to which it happens here. It doesn’t take an expert on gender issues to state that women have it worse in conservative patriarchal societies like ours. They are bound by a whole lot of customs, traditions, and expectations, most of which are unreasonable and biased. They are much more vulnerable to oppression and subjugation, especially within their own homes.
Now, people will oppose anything that is a threat to their own advantage. So why would the privileged Indian male ever want to stop discriminating, if that means giving up obvious benefits like not being responsible for housework, or not having to make many difficult changes once married? Men aren’t the only culprits, though! Many Indian women take advantage of the existing bias when it suits them, too. For instance, why would some of us pass up the chance to get free household help in the form of a live-in daughter-in-law?!
Men aren’t the only culprits, though! Many Indian women take advantage of the existing bias when it suits them, too. For instance, why would some of us pass up the chance to get free household help in the form of a live-in daughter-in-law?!
A few generations will pass before we see a gender balanced society come into place. Even though our current generation is more progressive than the previous ones, change on a large scale will happen if people like you and I spread the good word as far and wide as we can. If we stop accepting and propagating discrimination within our own homes.
If we bring up our sons to not feel privileged over our daughters, and our daughters to feel equal to our sons. If women stand up for other women. If women have the courage to say no to biased societal expectations. If we’re brave enough to take a stand for what is fair, even if it is unpopular. To see the change, we’re going to have to be the change!
Pic of joining hands via Shutterstock
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So proud of you Ashima ,for writing this one. I guess it will take a few generations to get gender equality engraved in the minds of people who are not ashamed of practicing this inequality at every step of life. Men need to put their act together and decide that they don’t need this special treatment. Women need to stop accepting the fact that they are lesser beings.
One thing comes to mind though – The same men who fight for the reservation on the basis of caste to be abolished, are the ones who enjoy special privileges at their homes, workplace and society. Don’t they ever get this simple fact that they are the ones who are being given such a special treatment since generations and even this, needs to stop.
Quite right, Akanksha. Many are not going to like this article. Others may think of it as stirring up disharmony or negativity in normal family dynamics, where women seem to have no problem at all compromising so much more than their partners to keep their marriages going.
The thing is, most women don’t have a choice. Perhaps, for every one woman who asks for an equal relationship, there will be thousands who are willing to accept bias and compromise (because they won’t find a partner easily if they don’t). It is not easy at all, in our society, for a woman to ask for what should be the right of every human being – equality of *opportunity* and *entitlement*.
I am not for creating disharmony in families at all.
I am all for being considerate towards women in your home and family, for not treating them as though they’re obliged to serve you tirelessly, for putting in an equal share at home regardless of your gender, and for not judging women over their choices.
I am also for men being cut some slack – for e.g. not being compelled to bear the entire burden of ‘providing’ for the family, or stigmatised and ridiculed if they choose to take career breaks to relax, or for earning less than their wives, or for choosing to be stay-at-home husbands or dads, or for taking on the entire ‘stress’ of making important financial decisions, or even being looked down upon (rejected) by prospective-groom hunters for not making enough money or not having ‘good’ jobs.
Different dynamics work well for each family. However I speak for a system that allows each and every member due entitlement and equal regard. I don’t support a system in which one member benefits at the cost of another.
I am for fairness, and nothing else.
One might say that life is never fair, there will never be equal relationships, there will always be someone gaining at the cost of another, imbalances will are going to be there, it isn’t good to disturb family dynamics, and that’s just the way the world works…
BUT – if we don’t even try, we’ll never have a chance of achieving a gender balanced society. The feminist movement, for all the resistance and antipathy it garnered, is responsible for a lot of rights and entitlements that 50% of the human population enjoys today!
No good was ever achieved by accepting the status quo. You’ll have the disturb the peace. 🙂
Thanks Ashima….I have a few add-ons to your discussion.
1. Do not make daughters study for getting degrees which help them better in finding prospective groom, but let them acquire knowledge because she needs to earn for herself and follow her passion
2. Accept babies born to you as God’s gift, and not one as a future ATM and care-giver, and the other a liability which should be soon ridden off in the best interest of the family and all….Do I need to explain which gender stands for which role….? It’s not rocket science,eh !!
3. Do not groom daughters for marriage, but just to be a good citizen of the country
4. Family’s pride rests on every family member’s shoulders right? Then why place it squarely on the daughter ?! (we call women vulnerable, but I don’t see how that vulnerable person is able to shoulder such a heavy burden for generations, it beats me)
5. Girls’ parents can start aiming at the boy’s value system and not his salary, bank balance, assets and NRI status (when will we stop compromising on habits like smoking, drinking and womanising, just because the boy comes with a huge sum as salary…if you still do, then rest assured that he would treat your daughter as a slave for sharing some of his money, and cannot respect or love her, fully)
6. If your son-in-law goes wrong question him, as your daughter would be questioned by his parents, for not carrying out the codes in ‘sanskar’ and not advice your daughter to accept that crap.
7. If your daughter is unable to sustain marital ties, because of differences or abuse, stop worrying about ‘THOSE FOUR PEOPLE’ who are going to stigmatise…..mind you ‘those four don’t exist in your lives, as those four did nothing to bring up your loving daughter’. They are just passing clouds….Focus on her future and how to help her through this.
8. Parents…please stop encouraging your sons to ‘pee in public’ (upper class parents do it too…haven’t you seen Chottu throwing tantrum to go to washroom in the middle of a place, where there is no restroom available…and darling parents, asking him to do it in public). Would they allow the same for their girl child, who may also throw tantrum….baap re, aurat ki izzat blah blah….would surface. Further it is a hygiene issue, for which our country is becoming a laughing stock among better developed countries.
9. If you are a film director, stop men’s restroom scenes please. We are really greatly enlightened about it and seem to know more about it by now. Hence the education of the same can be stalled.
10. Again if you are a film director..stop scenes wherein, a woman is in her scantiest clothes, and the man wearing a full ethnic outfit (bought afresh from ….courtesy – Manyavar) or in white dhoti, espousing – ” dress like an Indian naari, only then men will respect you….”. Then he throws a sari on her face, which she accepts like a garland and a romantic song numbs our brains. I don’t know about recent movies, because I stopped seeing bolly,tolly,kolly,mollywoods…
The list is long, but let us try to attempt a few of the above. This is said with the conviction that our children will benefit if all of us can make change, without any mental block.
Very well said, I agree completely.
अगर इस लेख को हमारी किसी
हिन्दुस्तानी बोल्ली ( हिन्दी वगैरा)
में लिख देते
तो, शायद ज्यादा लोगों की समझ बढ़ती
और इसका घणा
फायदा मिल जाता…
Dhanyavaad Rajesh. Meri Hindi itni acchi nahin hai 🙂 par agli baar koshish karungi.
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