More gender sensitivity please! Jan 7, 2012
Crime against women has gone up in Delhi since even last year. A young woman was mauled in Gurgaon on New Years eve by a large crowd of men. Those enforced with addressing equality issues and protecting women against harassment are narrow-minded enough to blame rape on what women wear! One point from Namita Bhandare’s column in the HT today struck me deeply- that of how abysmally low gender sensitization is even among the educated middle class, many of who are occupy positions of authority to protect women!
In our home, we consciously strive for gender equality. Though in practice I go a little easy, I am the kind of person who gets seriously upset with someone telling my son to ‘protect’ his little sister because she is a girl! Why not simply because she is smaller? What’s with the girls being weak thought being drilled into boys at such a young age. I object, in my head, to the “papa ka paisa gol gol, mummy ki roti gol gol” song taught to nursery kids. Why such a strong gender bias, when so many women in urban India are already part of the workforce and men would certainly benefit from playing their part in the kitchen!
Several times have men friends casually referred to the obvious inferior intelligence of their wives, not to talk about jibes about driving skills that were taught to the women by their male relatives- usually fathers or husbands! I’m not even getting into the number of abusive relationships I know in which the woman is the victim. Not so much because the man is an aggressive, twisted brute but because the woman is conditioned to be submissive and fear social ostracization more. Also because even parents and friends usually advise a woman to bear such situations patiently rather than support her to really figure out what she wants and act accordingly!
Of course, I also immensely admire couples who nurture the equality of their relationship. Who admit that a wife dropping out of work to bring up her children is a pragmatic decision, and that her contribution is as valuable as bringing in the bread. Who bring up daughters to aspire for good education and follow this through by not coercing them to marry into an inappropriate family that will not understand what she wants to do with her life.
Of course, things don’t always turn out as planned, but still, if we condition our girls to be conscious, unequal and constantly alert to other people’s opinion of them, we do immense damage to their self-confidence- the one thing that will have the power to take them through life’s crazy circumstances.
I cannot thank my parents enough for giving me an upbringing in which my gender was largely incidental till I was into my teens. My father often simply forgot I was a girl, telling me to “pick up a shirt” from his cupboard if I complained about not having something to wear! My mother thankfully talked me through the necessary parts of being a woman early enough and then let matters be; a lot of gender discoveries were made on my own, through friends and books. My father’s extreme sensitivity to womens issues were often reflected in dinner table discussions about the cases at work (both my parents are docs and medical anecdotes were a constant in my growing years) and influenced my perceptions deeply.
Can we do something as a community, society to enhance gender sensitivity? Can we at least starting talking openly about these issues among our friends and peers, in our homes, at our workplaces….anything, at least make a beginning. We all live in constant fear of sending our girlfriends, sisters, wives and daughters into the world of bad men; it would be good to do something, however small, about it!