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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!
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