The long-drawn movement for women's rights has been fighting to bring women and men on an equal footing in society.
However, the perception that women are oppressed and exploited by men alone is not true. Patriarchy is so seeped into the system that often, some women vehemently act as espousers of patriarchy and misogyny. The ideology of patriarchy has been so deep-rooted that every part of the system works together to maintain this power structure. There are women who can’t break out of it. On the other hand, there are women who have ingrained patriarchy upto a dangerous extent that they will do anything, in extreme cases, kill another –just to uphold self-righteous 'principles' (read: honour killing).
How gender sensitive are our women?
Girls are more prim and proper than boys
A woman's primary role is that of a homemaker and a mother
The portrayal of women in soap operas is a reflection of a woman's characteristics
Women need to put the needs of her husband and children before hers
The answers to all the statements above are obviously NO, breaking away from the traditional perception that stereotype women and force unreal expectations on her.
Around 4,500 answers by women have been incorrect – placing them in the category that is in need of gender sensitisation.
Women should be allies of each other – and work together towards uplifting the so-called "weaker sex". That cannot happen if we have women continuing to perpetuate the oppression of women.
Here are some severe ways in which women contribute to their own suffering:
Forced by another woman, a woman aborts a girl child
This is common knowledge in India. The number of instances where not just men, but women who make the daughter/daughter-in-law in their family abort a girl child is unusually high. The innate bias towards a girl child only breeds the prejudice and misogyny towards women in India, and it's worse when women are the perpetrators.
Killing your child to save the "honour"
The recent case of honour killing of a young woman in Delhi by her parents for marrying a man outside her community shocked the country. However, it's certainly not an isolated case. These so-called 'values' are so deep-rooted that even children are not spared. Participating in such crimes further reveals our twisted sense of 'values and honour' that is inbred in our society.
Women guilty of torturing, or killing women for 'dahej' or dowry
According to an IBN report one woman dies every hour due to dowry-related reasons. Over 8,000 women were killed in India in 2012 for dowry.
Even in the 'modern age', at a time when dowry is illegal, such cases refuse to die down. We are following this tradition at the cost of abuse of thousands of women, and even murders of many more. Women have also been guilty of subscribing to these demeaning traditions. Instead of recognising these inhuman practices and banishing them, we still have thousands of families, including women staunchly espousing them.
Everyday instances where women make women the weaker sex
Many of us shrug and think of such extreme cases as the ones we read about in the news, not as something that would happen to "us". Yet the fact is these crimes are an inseparable part of our culture – they are born out of our culture.
You will notice everyday instances where women are allowing abuse, subjugation and offence; as subtle as it may seem.
"You're a girl, you don't need to work, you should be at home": Mother
When a society tries to shut out opportunities for you, because of your gender it sure is discrimination. When your own mother ascribes to the bias and proclaims it as "tradition", where does the girl go? We have to let a woman learn to be financially independent, instead of readying her simply for her "marriage". We cannot deprive her of her freedom to step out of the house and imprison her life and dreams – so she stays in her parents or her husband’s house.
Often, set roles are laid down by society of what a "good woman" should be like. Demure, soft-spoken, adorned in salwar kameez, home before dark etc. are some traits of the "good woman". Anybody who breaks out of this stereotype is usually looked at with disdain. Men and women often indulge in defaming such a woman – be it relatives, neighbours or the ‘society’ at large. It's time we learn not to scorn when women make independent choices for themselves.
Ofcourse, the media plays a big role in perpetuating this norm. The "good woman" is the sari-clad, super chef, self-sacrificial mother at home, and the "evil woman" is the outspoken skirt sporting siren. They haven't even masked this ridiculous stereotype and the audiences have willfully accepted it as real life models to go by.
Many over-the-top cases of moral policing we see today, also stem from such attitudes.
Tolerating objectification of women and idolising it
Our media may be guilty of this, but impressionable girls and women are also guilty of placing such women on a pedestal. Even when we have amazing role models like Mary Kom, Kalpana Chawla or Arundhati Roy, the idea of "beauty" is only limited to those who have an itsy bitsy waist, clear and flawless skin and an idealistic anatomy. Who decides what is "beauty"? Why are supermodels used to sell products that have no connection with them? Why are we (both, men and women) falling prey to such unrealistic standards of beauty?
Men and women, both have to learn that a woman is more than her skin, her figure or her looks. Women can start taking the onus, and men should embrace it.
Tolerating sexism and rape 'jokes'; not calling it out
'Rape culture' is being talked about widely. Often we are silent when offensive "jokes" are passed around. When a woman stands up for herself, she is also standing up for other women. Only when we call it out and draw the line between humour and sexism, is when the rape culture will start to recede.
Women should be allies, and not competitors
It’s high time women recognize each other as allies, support each other and embrace the power of their feminity. Several women (and men) have been fighting to make gender equality a reality for all women in India. Instead of supporting them, when we project misogynistic attitudes, it only puts their work ten steps behind. Identifying the root of patriarchy in day-to-day life is a start. At a time when crimes against women are at an all-time high, we need to transform our society in every way so that we give way for a country that is safer, more gender neutral and respectful to all genders.
Do you display sexist attitudes in your daily life or are you gender sensitive? Click on the game and play now to know your score on gender sensitivity.
Before the elections started in 2014, Jaago Re launched a crowd-sourced 10-point manifesto about serious issues affecting women in India. We presented it to leading political parties and asked them to pay attention to our concerns.
Are they being followed through with sincerity by our leaders? Is India catching up with any of the points listed in the manifesto? See the manifesto for yourself here
If you see instances of harassment against women, don't stay mute. Push the Pin here.
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