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Bias against women in India is no news to us! But when was the first time you realised it exists? Many women share their stories!
Discrimination! Ah, almost all of us as women know at least some thing about it, whether it is casual sexism at the workplace or things we are told by our families not to do as ‘girls’. Some of us go through life not even sometimes that we have been discriminated against as we come to believe that is how the world works, that things are different for both genders.
Trawling through Quora, I found a bunch of interesting responses by women on when was the first time they felt the bias against women that we soon come to accept as ‘normal’.
Deepthy Menon, recounts her story. She tells us how her father taught her to stand up for herself and never made her feel any different. She says that she loved her parents and wanted to take care of them as she grew up. Then one day, she recalls, when she was in her first grade, one of her father’s colleagues asked him how many children he had, to which her father replied one, gesturing towards her. The uncle’s response shattered her world upside down, when he said, “Such a shame. You’ll be alone when you’re old. Once girls marry, they go to the in laws and they’re part of their husband’s family.” She started welling up thinking about her parents being alone in their old age with no one to take care of them. Though her father later talked her to settle her rage and told her that she was powerful, Deepthy says that this was the first time she realized that being a girl was different from being a boy, and of how deeply the bias against women exists.
Laura Kranz’ experience is one which resulted in her hating anything ‘girlie’ as a result of systematic sexism. She writes how she always raged from age four about being a girl, as she was constantly told that being a girl made her less capable than a boy. Things like being made to frilly dresses, and being excluded from playing games that were believed to be boys games made her believe that girls were inferior; she always wondered how anyone could be okay with being a girl. This led her to believe that anything ‘girlie’ was idiotic. She made a rule in her make-believe games – if you don’t pretend to be a boy, you cannot play.
Stacie has a similiar story; she recounts on her first day of first grade, all the girls were sitting and colouring, while the boys were playing with their matchbox cars; when she asked one of the boys if she could play, they told her that girls don’t play with cars and laughed. She made female friends instead and so began, as she says, the gender split playtime that was most of elementary school.
An anonymous Indian source re-tells her story, of how she participated in a quiz competition when she was 7 years old and was mocked in the final round where she competed against a boy. The crowd cheered the boy loud and clear, while one of the women told her mother, “Take care of her, so much intelligence and she will remain unmarried”. Bullying by the crowd left her in tears. She could never realise what was her fault, until later, when it hit her that she was being discriminated against for being a girl.
In more blatant examples of bias against women, Anmol Kaur, a boxer from Haryana was refused boxing tuitions as a kid by the coach, while her brothers were admitted. Another girl reveals how her grandmother used to refuse her food to give more to her brother, as a result of which she became a weak child. She was later refused tuition, books etc as ‘her brother needed them all, and her parents were saving it all for her ‘dowry’. Shraddha Jain, an economics student, was refused permission for a school trip despite her pleadings, while her brother got to go on one without putting in any effort to convince the family.
Can only women perceive discrimination? No – boys and men willing to open their eyes can see it too.
Shubham Kishanpuria, answers the question, saying “Although I am a male, after having 20 years experience growing up in Indian society, I think I can answer it”. He says that he doesn’t have to go very further to answer the question; he remembers how when he was 16, a girl was born in his neighbourhood which led to no celebrations by the family, while when a boy was born in the same family, a big celebration took place; he was dumbstruck and couldn’t understand it then. He later realized how this was the story of many households in India.
This thread on Quora provides an appalling and disheartening bunch of stories when it comes to this rampant bias against women. The most saddening part is how early in life girls start getting discriminatory treatment, either from family, friends, in school or neighborhood. This discriminatory treatment of women affects the life of the person much later too, like in one of the cases where the girl started hating anything which she thought ‘feminine’; some lost their confidence, while one stayed hungry as a child and started being sick often.
All these stories reflect our own experiences in life, one way or the other. People around us discriminate on the basis of gender, knowingly and even unknowingly. But thanks to all these experiences (as told in some of these stories above), a fire started in us, and made us fierce feminists, advocating for equality.
Image via GraphicStock
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