Fighting the gender stereotype

My FB news feed is currently full of ‘anger’, though there is nothing new about that! This time, it is the BBC documentary called India’s Daughter that has re-sparkled a subdued issue. Not just sparkled, more like torched the fire to satisfy the need to be emotional about a very important issue. Most of my face book friends lie in the same group of educated, coming from the middle class community with secure jobs and financial independence, living quite a good life style. Almost none of them have ever lived in rural remote India, much less experienced the culture of hard core traditional setup.

The documentary is quite provocative, the film maker very clearly wanted it to be provocative. Remember, Su in Rang de Basanti? Do you think she wouldn’t have made a provocative ‘anger’ generating movie? Before going further, let me clarify that I haven’t watched it. I started watching it, but after a few minutes I couldn’t continue. I am unable to watch any video which generates too strong emotions, just like the recent hit Baby, which was quite distastefully made, arousing intense emotions in audience during the entire show. There was no objectivity in the film. You involuntarily react, the way video wants you to react. I simply can’t stand such videos, hence I needed to stop this documentary as well.

Coming back to the strong single voice of my face book friends that is filled with lot of anger and frustration, I would like to ask this crowd a few questions:

  • How this powerful negative emotion of ‘anger’ will help you do something positive about this issue? If you are helpless and do not know what to do, how does your being angry and affected, help the suppressed Indian women?
  • How many times in an year/decade, do you get molested or watched someone get molested? How did you handle those events in the past? After watching this documentary and backed up with all that anger, does you plan of action for future has changed? If you are a girl, what do you plan to do when you are traveling alone from Gurgaon to Delhi after party after 10 pm? If you are a guy, what would you suggest to the girl about traveling in Delhi alone after dark? Have the answers to these logistic questions changed because of this documentary?
  • I assume further that your anger is towards the ‘attitude’ of people who treat women like objects. From a few glimpses at the documentary, I believe, among those people would be the defense lawyer and the criminal. As per my understanding, their words are worth not much. The criminal is going to die and defense lawyer was doing his job. But I agree, more than 100% if possible, that attitude towards women is that of objects, especially when it comes to freedom to express one’s sensuality. Now, my question is to those highly educated, very talented Indian women, living in India or abroad, do you remember being treated as objects by the men in your life? I repeat the question to the highly educated, ‘at the top of their corporate careers’ men, do you remember treating women in your life as objects? If you are having a hard time remembering those instances, let me give you a hint. Do you remember how you were married? Do you know what those symbolic rituals represented? Do you know what vows you took when you were getting married? Do you know how much money was spent in to ‘maintaining an image’ for your wedding? If your spending crores in a wedding and later in jewelry to wear in more weddings is required to ‘maintain an image’ in the society, why do you support such videos which create and publicize a horrific image of India in the world? Why is not maintaining an good image of India in the world as important? May be, because of the stakes, right? I would like you to spend a moment and think about the hunger/malnutrition/epidemics that the money could rather be spent on. As a collective society, we do not question spending a lot of money in buying the ‘dream-bridal gown’, which is never used again. Have you ever questioned why the groom’s suit does not cost even 10 percent as compared to the bride? Why does a woman of your stature bring with her, in her marriage, jewelry worth a good Ivy League education degree? Or just simply answer a very basic question for me: Why doesn’t a man wear jewelry? It is not an absurd question. It is the crux of the matter. Why is only a woman sexy and beautiful? And how many times in your life, have you accepted this as a fact? What are our values? 
  • By this point, I am sure a lot of you would be thinking of me as an insane person who doesn’t understand the real issue. I agree, may be, I do not. Being a girl, who was brought up in a very liberal set up, was told at a very young age to find my own life partner if I ever wish to get married, showered with all possible opportunities to become a person I wish to be, I still fight stereotypes every single day. In every call I have with my parents or in-laws, I need to ideally inform them what I have cooked for my husband that day, whether he is eating properly, where I am fulfilling this ‘duty’ of the marriage. If I am keeping in good health, both his and mine. He is also supposed to answer some questions:  whether his work is going well, how he is investing his savings, if he is taking care of his health. There is a clear division of labor. A woman cooks and cares. A man earns and provides. I would like to know from my FB friends, how many Indian households you know of, which do not follow this division of labor? Even if you are well off and have help for everything, who manages those helps/maids?

I wrote this post today not to create more anger or frustration in an already spent mind of yours. My mere attempt is to ask some pinching, uneasy questions, just like those which were asked in the video to people who come from a completely different set up and background and circumstances from our own.

The change starts from introspection, not from anger.

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