Tag Archives: psychology

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


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.


The Psychology of Evil

On Zimbardo, Rape, and India’s Daughter

I remember having studied Zimbardo’s contribution to Psychology in my Social Psychology Class last year. But apart from how unethical his research was, I sparsely remembered much. But it wasn’t until now when I revisited his infamous Stanford Prison Experiment and other works for a Seminar Paper, that I understood how very relevant him and his ideas still hold true.

A recent BBC documentary called India’s Daughter has been making waves in social media today. Many have been shocked at the things some of the people had said, how they justify the rape- how the girl derserved being raped. Many cannot believe the horrible crime that it turned out to be- not just mere rape (nothing about rape is mere), but murder!

While I do not want to go into details about the event, I do want to explore what went wrong.

Some of the rapists were on drugs and alcohol- which means they were clearly uninhibited and aggressive. Who prescribed drugs to them? Who sold it to them? They are also to be blamed.

The juvenile hadn’t been home for two years. His mother reported that his family had assumed he was dead. She also reported that they hadn’t eaten anything except tea for a couple of days. The erstwhile juvenile had run away, to survive. What happened to poverty reduction? What happened to provision of fulfilling basic needs to people? Why are his parents to be blamed?

Zimbardo aggressively opines that it is not just a few bad apples. It is the bad barrel. It is not the person- it is the combination of circumstances and the system. It is the system to be blamed, more than the rapists. The system which allows people to look for recreations in harming other people. The system which lets people go hungry, the system which fails to detect consumption of illegal drugs. The system which lets people to believe that they have the right to teach somebody a lesson. The system that tells men that women are inferior to them, that she needs protection against being plucked by a thorn. The system that tells men that they are right, they are superior, they are worth making sacrifices for. The system that tells the female that she is nothing without the man- a man who raped an innocent, and has been given a death sentence. The system which lets a man of power to say that the culture has no place for women.

When I condemn my male counterparts- or females- as being sexist, it was always for the little things. How they had tailored their aspirations and interests to fit in with the gender roles. Little did I know that the extent of sexism in our society was so pervasive and so intrinsically woven into our psyche, that there would be males who think that rape is justified if a woman gets out of her house with a male who is not her family on a date; or if she stands up for what she believes is true.

So when Zimbardo talks about ascribing symbols of power to a select few, it is true- the few who are randomly chosen into being a male, being born in a particular socioeconomic status, into a particular religion even. And when these few start with little acts of evil– stealing candy from their little sister, and aren’t stopped, they move on to bigger acts- catcalling, Eve Teasing, stealing. The documentary said that the accused had already picked fights, being in fight clubs, and assaulting other men. When they were not punished for it, they continued to bigger acts of evil.

Zimbardo talks about dehumanization and infrahumanization– looking at the other person as less than human, less than unique, as an object. This is obviously the case with women in the country. She’s collectively perceived as not being worth it, as if less than human- inferior. That perception is enough to commit acts of evil upon her, without feeling remorse.

He also talks about creating an ideology where the ends justify the means, which is apparent in the idea of ‘teaching her a lesson’. The means of raping her has been justified by the end of teaching her this lesson, which was very important to them. These evil ends are seen as acts of necessary evil. Related is the idea of obeying to a lawful authority, which propagates these ideas. I assume this is the culture, the religion to which the rapists identify- perhaps which dictates, “Women have no place in this culture”. This is further enhanced with socially important figures recognizing the act and propagating it- as many political leaders, important bureaucrats, and Godmen often are quoted as saying.

Where is it stemming from? The place culture stem from- the minds of a select few, the ones who give themselves the authority, the ones who have the dichotomous vision of good and bad- the ones who refuse to see the shades of grey. This evil stems from the men who ascribe themselves power, at least over the five women he encounters- his mother, his sister, his wife, his daughter, and by extension, the other women he encounters. It stems from the woman who refuses to voice her opinion, whose voice has been subdued by the others, who gave up her fight to prioritize for others. The evil stems from those who have been a silent spectator while evil occurs- in the movies, when the hero doesn’t take no for an answer and follows the heroine around, at home when our mothers give in when she’s fighting with our fathers about trivial things, on the road when a drunken man beats his wife and child. The evil stems from conformity. The evil stems from you and me.