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What measures we have taken to keep public spaces safe for women? How long do women have to wait to get their real freedom?
Recent developments in our country with reference to Supreme Court verdicts on Adultery and permission to enter Sabarimala temple as well as the unprecedented #MeToo movement force us to remember Sultana’s Dream, a feminist utopian story written in 1905 by Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain, a Muslim feminist. In this story, men are secluded within the house and women go out to earn a livelihood for the family. Women do this work effortlessly using the latest technology.
This story debunks the myths that ‘men have bigger brains and women are naturally weak’. There is no crime in that society as all men are confined within the house. Women manage the outside world and men are caretakers of the house. Men wear purdah, take care of children, do the cooking and other household chores.
In the present context, this story highlights that if realignment of gender roles happens it will lead to a better society. If we take the male-female population ratio in the world, men constitute 48% and women are 52% of the population. Yet, women are second citizens. With this background, it is important to probe what makes them special. It is women who create and continue the legacy of the human species. It is women who bring children up singlehandedly. It is women who take care of the rest of the dependents in the family. It is women who cook food for the family. It is women who start the day early and end the day late, serving the family without breaks. It is women who work without taking off on public holidays, Sundays and vacations.
With more women working outside, they are burdened with responsibilities from both sides and struggling to juggle both tirelessly. Meanwhile, it is important to ask, what do men do, other than working outside the house for livelihood? Do they come back home and cook food for the family? Do they come back home and take care of children? Do they monitor children’s progress in the school? Do they bring daily vegetables for cooking? Do they nurse their own elderly family members?
In this context it is important to ask, after all, what do men do outside? As more and more women work outside too, women feel outside work is manageable compared to the work that they do inside the house. But, by merely earning money for the family, why do some men show so much arrogance and superiority? Is it deserving? They take a stance with the family, as if taking care of family needs is a great favour that they do. I have not yet seen a man who gives money to his wife for managing family needs without grumbling. If earning capacity gives so much power in the relationship, what makes women so inferior? Why are they performing ‘Karvachauth’ and ‘Bheemana Amavase’ to make men feel great?
To be more specific, as we see more and more women visible these days due to their earner role, it is making patriarchy shaky. Women are prominently occupying public spaces which were not open to them in the past. As women have a work life, they get to meet other men, and sometimes may even get into casual adulterous relationships to destress themselves. Adultery has been the domain of men all these years. But when the Supreme Court decriminalises adultery and says a woman has a right over her body, we have a problem with the verdict. Similarly, when women gain a voice and say we have the right to enter into temples hitherto not open to us, and the Supreme Court grants permission to do so, we protest against it. Likewise, if women say we face sexual harassment at our workplace and say ‘me too’, we question their integrity. What is the real problem?
The problem lies with our internalised attitude towards women. We want her to do everything to help us out. But she can’t take the centre stage. A voiceless woman is the darling of the society. She has to remain playing second fiddle and concentrate on self-beautification to please our eyes. So, this new self-confident and independent woman makes the system shaky.
All these years, society has been saying that the outside world is dangerous to women as there are vultures who can attack them. It is a different issue that women are not safe inside their own houses. But still women have the courage to explore the outside world. They get harassed and raped repeatedly. But women have kept quiet initially, so that they are not stopped from venturing outside. The glass ceiling is another problem which curbs the career growth of women, which I don’t want to discuss here. However, years of exposure to the outside world has made woman a strong human being and has given her a voice. The result is ‘me too’ movement. But we have enough measures to stifle her voice.
As women outnumber men in the society and there is a danger for our movement in public spaces, why don’t we restrict the movements of these wayward men till they learn their lessons? We imprison criminals as they are dangerous to the civilised world. But, what measures we have taken to keep public spaces safe for women? Why are dangerous men roaming around freely and threatening the movements of women? How long do women have to wait to get their real freedom?
Image is a scene from the Hindi movie Pink
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Jyothi, Assistant Professor, Department of English, University College of Science, Tumkur University. Has been a
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