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We are all members of the Elitist Club, the club of women who are conditioned to put down other women. But – our future lies in being united as women.
Time and again, time and again, I see this subtle push on the part of women to make themselves feel a wee bit better than all the other women out there. I am not counting myself out when I say that, and I do realise that I am a part of this ‘elitist’ club as I call it. The club where each woman thinks that she has this extra something that other women lack, or she doesn’t have this one quality that others have and that makes her superior somehow.
I am sure each one of us at some time or the other has been prey to this deplorable condition; a condition that without exception places one woman above another, a place where one thinks one is on higher ground and hence has the authority to look down upon other women and pass judgment. This condition starts off right at the grassroots where educated women think that they are somehow superior to women who are lesser or not as educated as they are. What bull crap! If anything, education should make you humble. Instead you face unsettling statements like:
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“Oh! She did not even go to school!”
“Oh! She did not go to an English Medium School!”
“Oh! She did not go to college!”
“Oh! But she only did her Bachelors!”
Well, let me tell all these ‘well-meaning’ members of the elitist club that no woman in her right frame of mind would reject education. If given a chance I am sure that every woman out there would like to better her state. But a number of factors might prevent that from happening. Factors like her family, the customs she is forced to follow, her finances or lack thereof, her own intelligence, facilities, culture, religion, social status, lack of resources – heck, the absence of toilets even – the list could go on and on. Just because you did not face these challenges does not mean that you can put down other women who were not as fortunate as you were in obtaining an education. Always remember that even if you hold a Ph.D. from the best college, there could be a smug woman saying under her breath – “But! She did not get it from MIT!”
Yes, just imagine yourself on the other side of the receiving stick and you will understand that it is not the least bit funny to be told that your education is lacking. A well-educated person will understand that though they might have learned a lot, it is a tiny drop compared to the vast ocean of knowledge out there. That tiny drop does not become bigger because of a smaller drop. It is still tiny! No matter if you hold the highest degree from the highest institution in the world, what you know is nothing compared to what you don’t know. So, quit feeling smug about it.
Of course, you have every right to feel good about your educational qualifications. What you don’t have is the right to make other women feel lower because they don’t have the same level of education you do. Be a bigger woman. Treat everyone as your equals if not your superiors. Education alone does not guarantee your higher ground. Each one of us is rooted to the same earth. Life is a great leveller.
If I could get a penny for every time that I have heard this statement, I am sure I would be a millionaire by now. OK, we get it that you are different. But different in what sense? According to a DNA study published by Science Journal in 2002, “All humans are 99.9 per cent identical and, of that tiny 0.1 per cent difference, 94 per cent of the variation is among individuals from the same populations and only six per cent between individuals from different populations.”
Basically, we are bragging about this 0.1 percent saying I am so unique because I read books, because I don’t watch TV, because I don’t put make-up on, because I repeat clothes, because I don’t take selfies, because I am not a girly-girl! Oh, please give me a break. Whatever it is, or it is not, good for you. I am glad you read books and are expanding your consciousness. But what sort of consciousness is it that makes you feel better than those around you? Isn’t consciousness supposed to make you feel humble? Isn’t it supposed to make you understand that all of us are connected by an invisible thread and that all of us are reflection of each other.
We should be celebrating our differences, not feeling superior because of it. It gives me great sadness to look at women behaving as if they are better off than the one they are talking to just because they have some things going for them.
I want to bring your attention to a picture that has two women on either side. One women is calm, composed and dignified. Her skull has books inside of it. The other woman is shouting and has nothing inside of her skull. Consider this scenario for a moment. Is the intent here to say that one who reads books somehow climbs onto a higher plateau because she had read so many books whereas the other woman is dumb because of the lack of them? So, one is implying that being able to afford an education and using that education to read books somehow places one higher than all those poor women who cannot afford one or who don’t have the time or energy or interest to read books. Don’t get me wrong, I am a voracious reader myself – but I don’t believe that reading books places me above all those who don’t or can’t read. There are many things I don’t do – like going hiking, watching sunsets or helping the less fortunate. But I read books and apparently that makes me better than someone who doesn’t. Ha! If only it were that easy to become better than people around you, everyone would be reading truckloads of books.
What makes you a better person is not the knowledge you gain by reading books but what you put into the world. If you have humility, compassion and love, then you are a much better person than one who consumes one book after the other! Educated or nor educated, reading books or not is not the criterion.
Some of us like to do make-up, some of us don’t! Some of us like to go out and party, some of us like to stay home and read. Some of us like to talk in a loud voice, some talk in a soft one. Some of us are comfortable in our skin, some of us are not. Doing one thing doesn’t make you somehow superior to someone who doesn’t do the same thing or does it in a different way. This un-acceptance of the other person’s intrinsic qualities and pride at possession of traits different from this person is the root cause of the issues facing us women today.
When a woman gets married, her in-laws make her feel inferior because she is used to a certain way of life and almost 99% (I could make that 100% and still not be exaggerating) of the times, the in-laws’ way of thinking is deemed superior to the hapless new bride’s. The way she makes khichdi with moong ki dal is somehow considered inferior to the way khichdi is made in her in-laws’ house by using masoor ki dal! It doesn’t stop there. It continues for all her life for each minor and major difference between them!
I found a dialogue in a Pakistani drama very compelling and apt to the point I am trying to make. The scenario is that a young woman is visiting her father and step mother. The girl’s stepmom comes from a rich family, her father not so much. The stepmother and father both work and leave her in the morning. To make herself feel useful, she washes the entire courtyard. The step mother comes back to see her splashing water all over and shouts at her not to waste water. The water runs off and the step mother is not very happy about it and asks the girl why she wasted so much water.
The girl grandly replies, “I am used to cleanliness. That’s why I did it!”
The step mother looks at her and says – “Well, we don’t like to live in dirt either. But we need to watch out how much water we use. We can’t use it for cleaning and then have nothing to drink!”
I found this dialogue had so many layers to it. Why is it that we always think that our way of doing things or the way we were taught to do things is the right thing to do? Well, it is ok to think that is the right thing to do, but why is there a need in us to undermine the ways of other women by associating the word better with our actions? What gives us the right to pass judgement on other women? Are we living their lives, are we in their shoes, are we in their situation? While I do understand things of extreme nature like being downright evil or violent and their condemnation, I cannot bring myself to understand the superiority complex we ingrain in ourselves because of minor differences.
What if were we lose those characteristics that we grandly associate with ourselves? I used to have a hell lot of time to read books before I was managing a home and a career. There was a period in my life where I could not even finish a couple of books a year. Does that somehow make me less of a woman than when I read a couple of books a month? If not, then what right do I have to judge someone who does not read as many books as being inferior to me?
Judging others while placing yourself on a plateau because your innocuous differences from others makes you inferior. When you somehow put the other person down while trying to bring them down on the pretext that you were more fortunate than them is nothing but blatant violation of human dignity. I’ve seen woman do that a lot and as I have stated earlier, I am a victim of that elitist syndrome too.
We all are because unfortunately we have been conditioned to be so. This is how we women are kept in check. We are left to bickering and squabbling about minor issues while men take the cake and eat it under our noses. I have seen the best of girlfriends doing this to each other, I have seen women of the same family competing, putting down each other, saying vile things to each other.
I say to these woman – slow down. Where do you think you are going to? Even if you were to make it to the top, pulling the other woman around you down in the bargain, let me tell you that being at the top by yourself gets very lonely. Life without other women, I kid you not, becomes quite a burden! Instead of putting down the women who are different from you or have different interests than you, celebrate those difference.
Instead of going, “Oh! I have never worn how much make up you wear”, try saying – “Wow! That looks so good on you. You should help me with my makeup sometime!”
Being supportive is a positive trait whereas trying to feel superior is negative. When you start giving your thoughts a positive turn, you will find yourself warming up to the idea. You will soon realise that you are genuinely being encouraging. You will find that you are not finding any fun in putting other women down. You will slowly see all the positivity coming back to you. Yes, Karma is real. If you find women to put down, you will find women who put you down.
If you find women to support up, then you will find yourself being carried on the shoulders of other women. Unity is strength, let not anybody put you against each other. As it is, we women have hard lives, don’t make it harder for other women. They are already battling their demons and their lives. If you can’t do anything, at least don’t add to the burden it. Walk away silently or put your weight behind them. But never, I repeat, never demean other women! You are too much of a woman to be doing that!
Top image is from the movie Cocktail, a classic example where a woman of ‘one type’ is pitted against another
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