I have many friends, thanks to the non-tech education I got myself into, who feel very strongly about gender discrimination. These are all girls. As a matter of fact, the male-female ratio in education sector is reverse of the same in the tech sector. These friends of mine are highly gender sensitive and protest at the slightest of provocation caused by unequal treatment based on gender. Simplest example would be: if their moms tell them to come back home at a certain time or not wear clothes which attract attention (leading to further troubles) as they travel in public transport – DTC buses or to behave in a certain fashion outside the world, they revert back. They ask their moms why their brothers are not given a similar sermon. On how to behave with girls, on how not to stare (etc), on how to behave in a certain fashion outside the world. A simple explanation to the query which occurs to me is a scene from college days when I was traveling in a vikram in Kanpur. I was being stared at, in a very humiliating fashion. I responded. Asked the guy to stop staring. It didn’t help! It was a little late in the evening, dark outside. I was alone. I don’t even remember why I was alone in late evening; there were very few such instances when I would step outside the campus alone, if at all. I got a little scared. Often once you speak up, the person stops staring. He also gets scared. But this guy was drunk. Now when I think of it, I wonder why I didn’t understand then that asking a drunk guy to do something sensible was impossible. Anyways, he stared at me the entire journey. Which was like 7-10 minutes long only. Now, to answer my friend, can her mother also lecture this drunken middle aged man on how to behave with girls? Isn’t the onus on the girl to save herself in case of a coming catastrophe. But this wouldn’t answer her completely. She was asking why her brother, and not the stranger, is also not lectured about dos/donts. Are there no rules for boys to follow?
Yesterday while traveling on one of the main roads in Delhi, where traffic moves at a high speed of 60-70kmph, I saw something which made me question too. We were in the area where there is a temple at a slight elevation just on the one side of the road. In the current festival season I could see line of devotees outside the templer. Just as we were crossing the temple, I saw a girl being held by the arm and moved to the safer side of the road and the man (his brother or husband) coming to the other side on which the traffic was flowing. There is no pedestal there for the people to move and the traffic is very fast. When I saw that gesture, the man coming to the traffic side while the woman being moved to the safer side, I wondered why is it that I have never seen vice-versa. Will a woman, even the one with strong feelings about gender equality, ever offer to take the riskier side? Isn’t the same woman who harps about all equality and fairness also used to taking for granted the “gentleman-ness” of man – which includes small things like running around to get popcorn in movie hall and big gestures like giving up the chance to be saved first – “Women and children first”. Whats the fairness in that? And do we accept these as cases of discrimination?