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For centuries, women have been considered bodily objects to be enjoyed; rarely have their minds received as much respect, or even attention.
It is widely said, “Women are to be seen, not heard”. Generally, when something is repeatedly said, people start believing and internalising it.
Over a period of time it becomes a socially accepted value and people are expected to follow it. Like most other things, it applies to the presumed lack of ability of a woman to work in public spheres too.
Going back in human history, a woman is related to her body rather than her mind. Her body is simultaneously celebrated and abused as well. So, she could never think beyond the boundaries of her body.
When her body is celebrated, she is pressurised to always look beautiful, due to peer pressure and imposed social expectations. Then, her body becomes her identity. If her body is abused, then it creates fear psychosis in her and limits her movements.
Let us see how she is treated in a public workplace where she works along with her male colleagues.
To begin with, it has been a really difficult path for a woman to come out of her domestic space, to the world of education, awareness and knowledge. Let me not delve too much into her strenuous breakthrough into the world of paid work. I am trying to understand the conflict between her newly explored mind and already much talked about body. So, it is a transition from body to mind in the public perception, which is still an incomplete task. People get awestruck and dismayed when they see a beautiful woman who talks some sense or appears in public to be an intellectual.
Let me share my own experience of being a presentable professional. I have been an achiever in my academics to start with and a go-getter in my professional field thereafter. However, recognition for my excellence mostly never went beyond my physical appearance. On a negative note, my success has been criticised suspiciously, as being a mere by-product of my looks.
It brings me down and frustrates me at times, for the failure to recognize me beyond a skin-deep attempt. If men do so to a presentable woman, it can be ignored, but I found that it was mostly done by fellow mediocre women. At times, I feel pity for their frustration and lack of positivity. However, it is normalcy that I have to deal with on a daily basis. So, the question is, how do I live with it?
I feel, women are yet to take their role as full time professionals seriously. I don’t blame them entirely for this mess. They are still hesitant to voice their opinions, as they feel less confident of themselves in front of seasoned men.
Many a times, they need to request for concessions from work due to personal problems like juggling between work and domestic responsibilities like child and elderly care. Moreover, bodily issues like monthly menstrual cycles, pregnancy and infant care take a huge toll on their career progression. In addition to that, there are times they feel guilty to choose career over family care, as they, as well the rest of society still assume that the latter is their primary concern. In this context, it is important to program her that she has to take care of herself first. She needs to introspect without being judged, what really makes her happy.
We hardly hear the voices of women in public decision-making bodies. They are there just for namesake. Even those few women who have reached the top levels in organizations speak of gender discrimination, stereotyping or being neglected at crucial decision-making situations. I am not blaming men only to prove my point. We have to accept the bitter truth that there are a few women who take advantage of their physical selves for promotions and other favours at workplace. However, the example of one such woman is generalised to paint a bad name to all other truly hard working and deserving women.
So, it is time for women to show their true potential in all public spheres where we are engaged in work. Take for example, in the case of ISRO, women scientists are highly appreciated for their brilliance and no one cares to talk about their appearance. Similarly, in MNCs, we find women at the top levels now and they are doing extremely well.
But it is a different story in Indian politics. We find women leaders being ill spoken of, painted badly, their images tarnished in public. Moreover, their success is always linked to the patronage of some dominant male political leaders. Even if they succeed due to their own hard work, it is still cynically talked about.
In the ‘glamour’ industries like film, TV, et al, we find women being projected glamorously and generally labelled as ‘beauty without brain’. Their intelligence is mostly mocked at and little appreciated. These industries run on the power of women being projected as their bodies rather than for their minds.
In the unorganised or rural economy too, we find women being physically abused and later hushed up, but they remain in the same state, for the sake of their livelihood. We don’t have enough mechanisms to track these abuses. Generally, these incidents in both rural as well as urban public life, are not much spoken about, but deeply felt.
So, women have to wake up the world of their true selves and claim their minds and shed their image of being persons bound to their bodies.
Image via Unsplash
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Dr. Jyothi, Assistant Professor, Department of English, University College of Science, Tumkur University. Has been
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