We talk of equality of the sexes, gender stereotyping breakthrough but these terms get restricted only to discussion on right to work, right to body, freedom of movement, choices of clothing so on and so forth. Even the women’s role as decision taker in the kitchen and at home politics is mistaken as women empowerment in many household. The young people across all gender talk of their mothers as empowered in this sense, without even being realizing or being skeptical of their choices in the public life, leave aside the talk of economic independence. Empowerment is a process of becoming, not to be confused as a result.
Then, there is a section of Then, there are these people who in our society who mock at reservation for women in educational and profession in Public realm. They often forget that equality is for equals not for un-equals. The creation of level playing field from the beginning itself makes sense of equality amongst sexes, which is very much lacking in reality. The conditioning from the childhood of both the gender is well defined in our society which cannot be forgotten while taking a case for an egalitarian state. Is it justified or even rational to put both the sexes at par when they are different in sex as well as in the defined “gender”. Sex is, that we are born which; gender on the other hand is a social construct which starts from the moment we are born till the day we die.
Not every girl is born in conducive environment which provide enough avenues for a girl child to grow as a rational and decisive being. Though exceptional cases are prevalent in our society where the parents take initiatives from the beginning itself to provide equal footing to both. I am not denying this fact yet a voice is needed for those who are not born in such emancipated family and compatible environment. In our family structure, where dialogue with the parents is taken as “disrespect” hinders the personal growth of child irrespective of sex from the beginning. Then after certain age male is granted a little scope to put their opinion forward but this space is prohibited for a female in that respective family.
Then, the question of marriage which is seen as an institution of bond between two families instead of a bond between two people. The concept of companionship is missing. The training starts with the girl being informally educated by elder females. The aim is to get married not to how to maintain a healthy marriage. The training of the man is lacking and if in case done then same old school of domination in the gasp of patriarchy. Mind it, I am not against the institution of marriage but redefining it as a bond of love, respect and partnership between two people.
The psychological pressure that a woman through while getting ready for this institution is traumatic for the mental well-being. Firstly, the stereotype of a kind of (criterion) for suitable bride and suitable groom is problematic. For the girl, the criterion is soft spoken, “feminine”, beautiful, slim and homely, career comes later and for male, the criterions are good home, hefty salary and handsome. The female of the house rejects the other female if they are not fulfilling these criterions, funny but true.
There are number of issues related to these stereotypes: firstly, what feminine is, the concept of beautiful, homely etc. These are subjective attributes but still we have a very narrow objective definition for them. The celebrities and may feminists talk about different perspective of looking at beauty but still the subtle way of universalistic definition is prevalent there. For instance, fairness cream now called glowing skin and promoted as a necessity for girls. They are wrong at many level and how does these affect the others who doesn’t fall into these brackets.
Divorce come hand-in-hand with marriage, in case two people are not getting along respectfully, the question of divorce bewilders them. The whole society come into action to “save” the marriage. Both the person involved in it becomes secondary and the family values, status, respect take the primary focus. Everyone adopts the role of middleman to make both them to reach to a compromise, irrespective of considering the fact how the couple would stay together with problems they face. The relationship becomes toxic for both, more for a female. Even, if the marriage fails, the female counterpart bears the blunt of it more stringently.
The question of Identity comes very much late to a woman. Her journey to create a sense of individuality for herself is different from her male counterpart. She has to go through an intense triad struggles; emotional, physical and social. The fight with your own self and with social taboos drains the woman of strength and courage, they fall and rise each day. The societal values imbibed in her from the beginning, makes her to re-think about the choices she has. The question of whether to fight or to quit and live a “normal” life, haunts her. The fight becomes more and more difficult if they are not economically independent. This women’s day, let the other sex i.e. male takes a pledge to promote sex-equality rather than just gender-equality.
Dr Shama, Centre of Philosophy, JNU.