Tag Archives: India

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


Untouchable.

The soft silk of her skin touched the rough brash of his hardened skin and her whole life realigned for her.

Don’t touch people like him, her mother had told her. You’d have to have a bath again, honey. She hated baths, so she went out of her way to avoid him. She tried not to catch him while playing run and catch, and tried not to find him while playing hide and seek. She would see the smile on his face falter everytime she did that.

The next summer she’d forgotten all about him, till he peeped into her window and called her ‘Miss’ and bowed, grinning. She looked at him awkwardly, but grinned back nonetheless. She didn’t understand why she couldn’t touch him- he looked like her, only a shade or two darker. This summer, he climbed trees and plucked out flowers for her.

The summer after that, she went away to a hill station, and the next summer, she went off to a camp, and after that she had broken her leg, so she couldn’t go back to her parent’s native.

When she went three summers later, she was sixteen and he was eighteen, and she had a vague memory of a boy who plucked out flowers for her and whom she wasn’t allowed to touch, and whose smile faltered every time she’d go out of her way to not touch.
She sat in her room with her cousins when he entered and bowed. One of her cousins asked him to join them and he drew out a mat and sat separately. They played cards and carrom, and Atlas and charades. Every time they locked eyes, he grinned at her and she looked away in embarrassment. Later, it was just her, him, and one of her cousins whom he was close friends with. Her cousin teased her relentlessly and he laughed at her with him.
The next day he came back and when he sat down, she scowled at him, unforgiving of yesterday’s jokes. Your best friend isn’t here, she said in mock-bitterness. You’re enough, he said as he winked at her. Her other cousins didn’t treat him with much respect. He got up and left before lunch.
The next day Arjun sat next to him, and he was at ease once again. This time he sat till late at night and the three of them laughed till they clutched their stomachs.
This time she knew she wouldn’t forget him.

The next summer, when she came back, he was away in college the first two weeks. She couldn’t wait, and bothered Arjun more than it was acceptable. And when he was back, there was a bounce to her gait, and her smile was broader, and her laugh more livelier. Now every night the three of them sat up till later than it was acceptable and she returned his every bow with a curtsey of her own. Every night she’d want to ask him to stay over, but she knew it wasn’t her place. So every night, as the clock struck 10, he’d walk through the dark streets and begin his hike towards his house a kilometer away. A couple of days later, when she asked him to give Arjun a missed call, as soon as he reached home, she earned a guffaw from Arjun, and a grin from him. How about giving you a missed call, Miss? he asked her with a wink. And that’s how they exchanged numbers.

The next Summer, she went on a tour up to Kashmir with her friends, but they continued texting each other, especially during the weeks she was supposed to be with them. Your cousins are humorless, Miss, he said.
Stop calling me Miss, sir, she replied.
No, Miss 😉 was his text.
Don’t be a tosser, sir.
Whatever you say, Miss.
Stop calling me Miss is what I say, sir!

The summer after that, when her mum wanted her to go to Europe to explore colleges for post grad, she requested her to let her go back. There’s a year left to think about that mum, she’d said.
This time was his last Summer, and when he’d told her he was planning to move to the States, she’d almost called him and yelled at him. I’ve won a scholarship to North Carolina, he’d said.
This time the two of them sat up later than Arjun did, earning scowls from her other relatives. He told her about his dreams of entrepreneurship, and she hers of spending a summer as a street poet. He laughed at her anecdotes and she at his stupid jokes. And as the summer drew to an end, they’d promised to meet each other at the other end of the world- vastly different from this small village, where the streets, like the practices and dreams of its villagers, are dark, ancient, and nameless.

So when five Summers later, she was in New York, for her PhD in Comparative Literature, he was there to welcome her to his world. And when they shook hands for the very first time, in a little awkward gesture, she welcomed him to her world, with a little street poem in his memory. And when he asked her to come over to his house every weekend for lunch, she made it. And when she spent a summer in the streets of New York, he was her last customer every day, at exact 10 PM. And when he had his first baby, she was there to help him and his wife. And when she thought she had everything in life, he called her out with Whatever you think is right, Miss.

Twitter: @WallflowerBlack


Because You Want to get Married.

I remember all the times I’ve been pointed at, at weddings, with a slight smirk, and a “You’re next.” While I took those as jokes then, even when they counted down all the cousins, who’d get married before me, now I freak out, just a bit. Because no matter how old I am, I’ll not marry for the next seven years anyway. (I’ve been saying that since I was fifteen, and now it’s been 5 years since.)

Over years, my goal for adult-life has changed from getting married and living happily ever after, to getting published in a well accredited academic journal, having a challenging career and adopting a child, and through this, living an almost happily ever after. And that might not be a very big goal, but for somebody who comes from India, it means your parents will get questioned why they are not looking for A suitable boy for their 25 year old daughter. Is something wrong, they’d ask, as if it were their business poking their noses into something as intimate as marriage.

It’s not a question of what culture and society has to say, but how your parents would feel- most likely they’d question themselves and their worth at bringing up a daughter. And for every ounce of feminism and self-sufficiency you have inculcated, that’s not something you want your parents to go through, never mind the fact that they were the scapegoats to all your teenage angst.

But every bit of my world view is exactly that-mine. Extremely subjective. It is you who confuse me, even though we’ve been friends for six years now. You want to get married right out of college. A boy might come to see me, you say, jokingly I hope, right after graduation. And while I took it lightly all this while, now that the horror of graduating is coming closer, becoming more and more real, you freak me out.

You, with your fierce independence, and your I-have-red-hair,-don’t-I? days. You with your watching the latest movies twice-once before, and once in the theatres-in the same week. You with your sleepiness, and your forever hungryness. You with your pathetic cooking skills, and your experimentations with make up, and face colouring, and your 10000 likes on each of your facebook pictures. You with your contacts all over the town. You want to get married.

We’ve spent hours and hours together planning this wedding of yours-scrolling over my Pinterest feed, and looking at all the wedding collections, we’ve got everything decided- from your dress, to all the bridesmaid’s dresses, to the wedding cake, to the venue (and the back-up venue), and walking down the aisle, with your steps choreographed, and your dad’s proud face envisioned. We’ve spent hours detailing out what emotion you are going to feel and when. We’ve spent hours debating if your groom will have tears in his eyes, and when you’ll cry- when you’ll weep with joy, and when with grief.

We’ve all projected our wedding fantasies at you, knowing how much it’s going to mean to you- definitely more than it might possibly mean to each of us. Maybe more than what it’s going to mean to all of us together. And we’ve seen the joy radiating off your face each and every time we decide upon something new, whether it is the time of the day, or the exact shade of white of your wedding dress. From bidding dibs on who gets to be your maid-of-honour, to who gets to be the godmother of your first kid, we’ve gone through it all (except finding a groom. But that’s another story.)

So when I say you’ll have your share of drama and gossip surrounding your wedding, just to make it exciting enough for you, and when I say it’ll be pretty flawless, thanks to all the controls we’d use, just so you focus on being happy, and dreaming of your happily ever after, I mean it.

So what if our dreams are completely different? And what if you want to get married? Perhaps, at twenty-one, while the rest of your friends are still around? And what if you want to do it all, while the rest of us are still making rookie mistakes? It’s amazing how you are so sure about this, when all of us haven’t got a clue as to where life’s headed!

So everytime you talk about your wedding (and not a marriage, have you noticed?), none of us question you, because we know you are making an informed choice- and if not, you know the rest of us will intervene, and drill sense into you. And that’s what matters, in the end, isn’t it? That you’ve found your soulmates in your bunch of friends?

So, love,
Everytime you question yourself, and dream of a romanticized life, know that the rest of us gave it up years ago. The world is cruel to dreamers, as you know by now, but not cruel to those who chase their dreams with passion and commitment upto your heart’s content, and to the full extent of your ability. And everytime anybody questions you, know that in the end none of them matter as much as your dream. And if you fall, you know we’d be there to catch you.
Love,
Me.

(This post was in no way coerced with emotional blackmail and promises of publicity.)

image

Because you want to get married