Wednesday, March 8, 2006
Focus must be on men
The hype around International Women's Day celebrations has been coming down over the years, and this year it definitely looks low-key.
One reason could be the giant strides women have taken. There are very few areas women haven't made their presence felt.
Women have gone to space; women have climbed Mt Everest; women fly planes; women drive trucks; women can design, wash and repair cars; women know the difference between centimetre and barometer; women drive home alone at midnight from work; women own, run and manage huge companies; women take up jobs in cities other than their place of residence, live in big cities alone (meaning away from parents, relatives and even friends); women choose careers and spouses single-handedly run their lives, tackle problems, find solutions; and make a success of not just their lives but of others too.
Of course there was a time when being a woman was a disqualification. Now no longer. If at all you find it, it is only like our dark skin being a disqualification for some jobs; or similar discrimination we all encounter obliquely because of our lack of material possessions, rural upbringing, not being "modern" or "stylish", or because of our philosophical and intellectual thought processes. To that extent, discrimination continues. And it is absurd to think that such discrimination would completely end one day.
Women don't need help anymore because they are women. They need help just like any other human being. Yes, women are also human beings like men. We need to look beyond gender.
Yet, why are highly educated women of Kerala (the southern Indian state widely acclaimed for its high standards of educational and other human development indices) still victims of greed for dowry, victims of male chauvinism of their equally highly educated men folk?
Yet, why are -- even in many urbane families -- daughters brought up differently compared to their brothers?
Yet, why are women sold many times over to different men?
Yet, why are women -- across different strata of society -- still told: "You are a woman, there are limits to what you can do"?
Because myths live on. Because there are still people who believe that a woman is a few notches below men. But, this discrimination is no different from any other -- discrimination based on colour of the skin, "beauty" of the face, shape of the body, the accent of speech, language, region, ethnicity, caste, religion etc.
I think gender-specific discrimination of women will be better addressed if women are less pampered, and instead, more attention is focussed on men -- and may be on some women too -- who need to be enlightened on the fact that girls and women are as endowed with abilities, as boys and men -- may be differently, but definitely not less.
The focus of International Women's Day should not merely be celebration of women's achievements -- as we see usually. The focus should instead be on the inability of many people to accept women as equal (maybe differently endowed) partners, to recognise and acknowledge their abilities.
There is change happening. It's all there for us to see. But like many other social ills, a lot of ground needs to be still covered. Learning and change are continuous processes.