Tag Archives: college

Shares of the Pie: The Sexist World We Live In

What is it about being a woman that you’re proud of?

It was a Counseling Psychology class, where this question was posed to us. They called the module Counseling Diverse Populations. We got a range of responses, some saying they like the fact that they could wear pretty clothes and others saying they wouldn’t form their identity based on gender roles. What was it that made me proud of being a woman? While I was trying to understand how to respond to this question for class, I thought of feminism discourses that I’d so frequently engaged in- with my parents, friends, and other relatives. How was I, as a woman, different from my male counter-parts? And how much of it was based on only the fact that I was a woman?

Growing up with only a sister for a sibling, both of us were never had to question gender differences. Perhaps, giving every need and luxury was only based on what we required and earned never taught us much about feminism. And as over-achieving children, we never had to question if we were better than the boys in our classes. We knew we were better, and the only differences were where we were seated in class. Nobody dared tell me, in my elementary or middle school that I couldn’t do anything because I was a girl. And I wasn’t barred from having a fair share of guy friends, with whom I was as comfortable as I was with my girl friends. The only time we hung out seperately was during P.E., and that was because I, for one, hated sports.

It was during high school, when I’d moved cities that such differences were highlighted. It was a bigger city-a metro. You’d expect people to be more egalitarian, but they were not. There was a (friendly?) sense of competitiveness for just about everything- who got to use the better computers, who would be group leaders, who should do the homework, so we could copy it off?
Girls are better and Boys are better war-cries were everyday incidents. Girls did the artsy-craftsy things, while guys played sport. Girls sang and danced, while guys played sport. Girls volunteered to do elocutions and debates, while guys would volunteer, at most, for science exhibitions. And let’s not even begin to talk about the teachers! A particular female professor exhibited blatant sexism even while teaching! She would look only at the boys’ rows while lecturing, with her back towards the girls! She would only encourage boys’ doubts, while shushing the girls! And she would frown and yell at the girls, while happily pulling guys’ cheek and shuffling their hair. She would even give them more marks than the girls, for the exact answers. Once, she even blatantly declared something along the lines of Of course! Why would I tell them anything? Girls are good only at gossiping. Another teacher, this time a male, would joke around only with guys, and give them more marks. And to think these people were supposed to be role models!

The other day, my sister (who’s now in the same high school that I went to) was annoyed at yet another sexist rule the school had exercised. They had decided that only boys will be made the President and the Vice President (the top two positions) of the student body, regardless of the number of votes, while girls will only get to be the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister. Thus, the face of the school in all inter-school competitions and events would be a boy, by default. My sister was furious about this, because she was close friends with both the guy and the girl who were the President and the Prime Minister, and was of the opinion that the girl definitely deserved the title much more than the guy (and when I am in Class 11, and allowed to stand for the elections, I will definitely protest)

When I finally moved on to college, I found a worse kind of differentiation. In my class of 110 students, only 10 were guys! Over the next couple of months we found out that there were more guys (maybe 15 to our 10) in the class which had Math as an elective, while those classes which were dedicated to the Science stream (Physics, Chemistry, Biology, and the other hard science subjects; as opposed to our Arts Stream, consisting of Psychology, Sociology, History and the other Social Sciences/Humanities subjects).

One of the papers I took in college was Economics, which had 75% of the guys in our batch. The class consisted of an approximate 60:40 ratio, which was a huge achievement considering the fact that my other paper was Psychology, and we hardly had, again 10 guys in a class of 120. By the time we entered our final year of college, there was no guy wanting to major in Psychology, and most of the 75% in the Econ class chose Econ as their major.

On the other hand, my friends over at the various Engineering Colleges across the country cribbed about not having girls in their class. Some of them said in a class of 800, an odd 75 were girls, and most of them specializing in Computer Science (and the good looking ones, to their dismay, either committed or swung the other way, but I’m swinging dangerously away from the point).

For those who are Statistics-averse, this means bad news! Not only are we exercising inequality in the way women are treated in general, but also in the kind of careers they choose! Like they say in the movie 3 Idiots, If a boy is born, he’ll be an engineer, and if it’s a girl, we’ll make her a doctor! Not only are those poor sods opinionless in what kind of careers they get to choose, the careers are tailored for their gender!

So when in a Counselling Psychology class, they taught us about Counselling for the Female population, it pissed me off. I do not understand why Females are considered a ‘Diverse’ Population. Was Therapy only meant for men? (Definitely not!) Why couldn’t we look at Females and Males as not seperate from each other and treat them with the same levels of empathy, and unconditional positive regard? Why is there that need to seperate on the one discipline that urges you to see your client on the same level as you and everyone else- the one that propogates equality?

They say the reason why patriarchy is so irresistible for men and feminism as a movement is like a slap in their faces. This is explained through the following analogy:

Imagine the resources and freedom and every other thing in the world as a pie. Traditionally, the pie was divided as 70:30 in favor of men. So, of the 10 pieces, the boy child in the house got 7 pieces, while the girl child got only 3. Now, as the girl started understanding the unfairness of the situation, she started demanding an equal share of the pie. The next time, the boy got only 6 pieces, while the girl got 4. The boy suddenly noticed that he’s getting 1 piece less as compared to what he was getting earlier. And hence, he lashed out against the girl for stealing what was rightfully his own.

So, apart from the issue of fragility of a man’s ego and other such complex issues, the backlash for feminism can be understood as because of a simple reason. It is rooted in men getting lesser shares of the pie, and not in women getting a larger share.

Sexism isn’t only about if women are in a purdah, or are raped by the minute, or how it’s unsafe for them to get out of their house after dark. It is about how everyone gives them a questioning look if they wear short shorts, or their boyfriends get them pink teddies on their one month anniversary. It isn’t just about gender-specific jobs, and glass ceilings; it is also about the classes they are allowed to be interested in, and excel in. It isn’t just about a GI Joe vs a Barbie debate, it is about how the infant girl’s nursery is painted pink and that of the boy is blue. It isn’t just about infanticide or foeticide; it is how much nutrition the mother gets after knowing it is a girl, rather than a boy.

Do you also see other kinds of discrimination around you? Do you disagree with the points I have to make? Let me know in the comments section below. I’d love to hear what you guys see in your communities!

This post has been evolving since February, 2015. That probably explains the inconsistency, if you may find any
Twitter: @WallflowerBlack

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Change

I never imagined walking in through the same gates, past the same two men (who asked us a different question today than his usual), and through the same arches, the same overcrowded stairways, and towards the same photocopy-place we had for the past five years would feel so different. Their cold What work do you have instead of a strict, yet playful Put your ID around your neck seemed strangely wrong. The repainted arches, and the redone Multimedia Room made you feel like a lifetime had passed, when in reality it had been hardly four months.

Standing in the heat, waiting for the photocopy guy to listen to you, and then explaining the nuances (3 copies of 2 sheets, 4 copies of 1 sheet, and 5 of 4 sheets) and him laughing, felt like nothing had changed. I look out the window and see a girl, probably late for her classes, help a visually challenged person get to the Resource Centre at the other end of the campus like a thousand others before her. I see a group of friends, probably First Years, clicking pictures in the first quadrangle, just like every fresher in the history of the  college has done before them, and I see the various organizers of the college fest with dozens of colourful papers strutting around- the full load of stress, frustration, and nervous breakdowns not hitting them yet, like every batch before them.

There are so many things that have changed- I can never be seated in the first bench of the corner row of the Psych Lab and be slightly irritated if someone else occupied it; I can never go for the Seminars in Khandala, and sing along at the bonfire with the professors, and other classmates, juniors, and seniors; I can never sit in the foyer or the canteen and eat Special Maggi, or Paneer Kathi Roll, and gulp 3 cups of coffee in 5 hours because I slept for 45 minutes last night; I can never pull off eating a red velvet cake at 10.30 in the morning, or take a cab because there were only 5 minutes left for the lecture and it’ll take exactly 8 minutes to the campus and half to the staircase 3 to run up 3 floors; I can never miss a lecture for which I got up at 5.30 in the morning, by 3 minutes and decide to have a quiet breakfast by myself only to end up meeting a friend, and together decide to bunk yet another lecture just to bitch about an annoying classmate that we both hate. I can never enjoy the light breeze in the terrace classroom while studying Lord of the Flies or reading a sonnet or arguing about Foreign Direct Investment in Retail. I can never pretend to listen to a professor rant on about Environmental Psychology while listening to Singing in the Rain or Citizen Kane that the students in the class next to us are studying for Understanding Cinema. I can never write 10 pages of colour-coded notes in a 40 minute lecture with closed eyes because I was too sleepy to keep them open; or actually dream because I ended up dozing off while writing an important assignment. I can never sit in a corner with friends and taste every sandwich in the menu at 5 in the evening when we have yet another submission the next day. I can never call up another friend at 3 in the morning to ask her why on earth are we using this particular statistic and 15 minutes later ask her how to state the result APA style, but end up bitching about everything under the sun for a good 50 minutes. I can never crush on someone two years above me and join every club he’s a part of, or stand outside his class at the opposite end of the campus just to catch a glimpse of him. I can never wait in line for a professor to approve our hypothesis till 9 PM, to get home at 1 in the morning because all the public transport systems were blocked due to heavy rains.

No, I can never do these things- because things change, and people change, and priorities change. I know I’m only moving forward, but no matter how horrible some days in college felt, and no matter how much of a struggle it was to get to the end, and even if they told us that now we’re Alumni, I know Xavier’s will always be there to welcome us home.


Phases of Us

The crescent moon shines bright in the night sky; starlight on the other side- poetic perfection. The cold wind blows right into the half open tainted glass blowing the scarf that I wear loosely around my neck.

I’ve always been fond of the passenger seat where I am presently seated. There’s a soft cushion, planted especially for me. My favourite songs playing on the stereo, and my new favourite person driving the car, headbanging at the right parts.

“Tell me about your dreams,” he says, “when you were ten.” I laugh at the randomness of the question.
“I wanted to be everything- a doctor, a professor, a lawyer, everything. I wanted to spend forever studying and be the person who knew everything. I wanted to see the world, and marry my best friend. I wanted the town to be proud of who I was. Oh, and start a math club and a reading club and host balls for kids my age.”
“Always an over-achiever, weren’t you?”
I laughed in response.

This road trip had become more about exploring him than exploring places. The people sitting behind us sound asleep, I had only him for company: our sleeping patterns creepily had synchronized. Probably not that creepy, since we spent half our day on the phone, and the other half texting, even at work. We even fell asleep together, and woke up together, even though we didn’t live together. It had been months now, and everybody was waiting for us to go official. But I knew that he needed to know something- not just know about it, understand it. It was my lifelong dream, and he needed to understand that to understand me completely. I knew we were close, and his question was my door. It was almost time.

“When was your first ever crush?” I ask. “I think kindergarten two. I used to sit with her, and she was feisty. She made me pick up everything she dropped, and taught me how to use bobby pins- don’t laugh! She also taught me some phrases in French, which she’d learnt from her cousin in Paris. I’d thought they paired us up because they wanted us to be married. So I thought I should lay groundwork, or its equivalent when you’re five.”
I only laughed, almost feeling warm at his disclosure.

“You know I want you to be my girlfriend, right?” he said, suddenly, his eyes intensely focusing on me for a moment, and smiling, before focusing his eyes back on the road.
“You know I want to be your girlfriend, right?” I ask, grinning.
“So story time?”
I nodded in response, and began.

I began telling him about my childhood- an overdose of Romantic Comedies, and fairy tales, and Disney Princesses. I told him about how at ten, I had found the boy I wanted to marry- my best friend for years to come. I told him about how awkward it got at a point when he was drunk and told me he’d drop his girlfriend if only I’d date him, and how we are soulmates and we don’t have to find other people. I told him how terrified I was about loosing our friendship, and even though he wasn’t prefect, he was, I’d claimed by twelve, mine. I told him about how we watched movies at our respective homes, and texted each other comments, about how we talked late into the night, only to meet up the next morning in school, more excited than ever. I told him about how he broke my heart again and again, by dating new girls, and telling me how I was always going to be his first girl, and how I almost died, when the new girl he was dating was the girl who spilled water on my English essay, and how he told me to get over it, because she’s pretty. I told him how I applied make up to school once to show him I was pretty too, but he laughed at me, and later told me I was beautiful, and the only reason I should wear make up is if I like it, not to show it off. I told him how he tied his hand and refused to use it for a day when I broke mine, and how he got down on one knee to propose best friendship for life, when he forgot to wish me on Valentine’s Day, because he was making out with some other girl. I told him about how we went out on a double date once, and the girl was horrible, but he stayed anyway, because I liked the guy I was with. I told him how he walked me home from school almost everyday, even if it meant it was a longer cut for him, and how I had to wake him up every morning, because he had a phase when he wanted to hear my voice first thing in the morning. I told him how his first favourite thing about me was that I could answer a question about Phases of the Moon, when nobody in our class could. I told him about his drug and alcohol problem, at fifteen, which I didn’t even try stopping him from, untill too late, because I had shunned him out to study. I told him about his manic stages, where he’d come home in the middle of the night to dance under the moonlight. I told him about how he proposed marriage to me one night- asking me to run away with him. I told him how he asked me to stay at home, while he worked and bought us food, and how offended I was, even though he meant that I deserved to be treated as a queen. I told him about how I thought it was my fault that he developed bipolar, because I should have seen it coming. I told him how shattered I was when the medicine made him an empty shell, and I almost wanted him to stop taking those, because I wanted his raw self back. I told him about my guilt of leaving him because I got into the best college in the country, and how my parents moved with me. I told him how I’ve never seen him since, and how our conversations on the phone are empty, and how it’s been almost a year since I’ve even asked him how he was. I told him how slowly I stopped differentiating his disorder from the person that he is. I told him how I stopped loving him the moment he called me a whore once when I told him about the guy I was dating at that time, even though I knew it was his disorder talking.

We were silent for some time, each lost in our own thoughts. “Do you still feel guilty?” he asked, almost in a whisper.
“Not anymore. I’ve learnt that it wasn’t just me. Living with a person with bipolar was difficult as it was, and I was too young to understand at 16 what the hell I was doing. I don’t feel guilty about walking away, because I knew it was pointless being in a different city and trying to act like it didn’t matter. Because, of course it mattered. There was nothing I could do, because the harm was done. And shunning him out was his idea, because we distracted each other too much. A month off to study seemed decent enough then, because we had the rest of our lives together, you know?”
He nodded.
“Do you see me differently now?” I asked, knowing full well the answer to it.
“Well, of course I do! How can I not?” he said “But that’s not making me like you any less, okay? If that’s what you meant.”
I sighed relief.

Next morning saw us holding hands, and making it official, finally to the relief of our friends.