Tag Archives: reflections

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


Promises

My mum has always tried to coax out a promise from me, ever since I remember- be a good sister,study and top every exam possible, help around the house more, be more like my cousins, eat healthy, stop drinking coke, sleep a bit… I get ahead of myself; and I’ve always half heartedly nodded along, because like mothers do, she wouldn’t stop nagging me about it till I promised.

But the very first time I made a heartfelt promise, I really knew I’d keep it. I wanted it to be true. I wanted to be the person who my promise said I would be. It was made over a text message to someone I loved, and it was a promise of ingenuity, with a tad bit of unhealthy intensity. Needless to say, I broke it about two months later.

Now before you judge me, beloved readers, I have to tell you that I maintain I have changed- priorities, interests, person, and all. You may argue that people don’t really change, which probably is true, but they open up a little bit more- to the world, to themselves, to others. Their worldviews become a slight bit realigned, and that’s exactly what happened to me. Call it an epiphany, if you will, but I stopped living in the past, somewhat like Hugh Grant in Music And Lyrics.

That promise, at the time of making was something I’d wanted to make since I was 8, and finally I found myself living that daydream. And I think that’s what promises are- your dreams conveyed to another person. And once you realize you don’t desperately need to fulfil that dream, you break them (unless you think of honour and all those shitty things).

Recently, a couple of my friends asked me about the five people I’d keep in touch with five years down the line. To be honest, I’m not sure. I mean, I really like the people I hang out with on a regular basis, and I can’t imagine life without them- considering the fact that they keep me in check when I go nuts with work and save me from burning myself out. And I have fun with them with their quirks and their stupid decisions and their endurance. But then I think of the people I thought the same about 5 years earlier and I realize how many I haven’t talked to in years now. And I know I disliked half my friends 5 years back. And while I’d love nothing less than being as close to them as I am now, I know that we will change- we’ll prioritize, and we’ll have fluctuating egos, and we’ll have schedules which will clash, and some may have SOs, and we’ll move on with more promises of emails, and texts, and WhatsApp messages. And we’ll move on as we dream of better prospects and people who belive in and are willing to sacrifice for our personal causes. And more promises will be made and broken.

Twitter: @WallflowerBlack


The Garden of Memories.

Yes, you now want to call that friend and tell them about how sorry you are that you couldn’t catch up earlier. You’re sorry that the present interfered with the future and the broke all the promises. You’re sorry that you were so interwoven with your commitments, and compulsions, and obligations, with your essays, and applications, and promotions, with your battle against the inevitable, and your desperation for a better future. You’re sorry that you ignored them and snapped at them and they just didn’t understand you!

And you almost tell them, because you finally are free from the hazardous past, and you are taking time off to build yourself because that one year has healed you, but also left behind scars- but then you stop. You stop because you have ignored their birthdays and dodged their calls, and they must have moved on, like you had. And you had moved on, and you had prioritized your childhood dreams in favour to your childhood best friends- your childhood dream of the big job in the big city was bigger than your childhood dream of building a castle with all your best friends and living together in that castle of dreams.

You look back and laugh at your naivete. You look back and hope that you can revive that dreamer, and you hope that you don’t lose track again. You don’t call them, because you won’t give up who you are, and you have changed. You know you’re today unrecognizable. Your soul is made of strings of multi-color, now, instead of a block of solid painted sunsets. You don’t call them because you remember only the ghosts of their pasts. You don’t call them because you haven’t read a few of their chapters like they haven’t read yours. And you don’t call them because you tore apart the fabric and no amount of stitching will make it look untouched. You don’t call them because you’ve been touched and so have they and you don’t want to change who you are and you don’t want them to change who they are for you. You don’t call them because narratives do not compensate for pain and beauty and love and heartbreak- because stories do not replace experience.

And you now tend to those roses and the thorns in the garden of memories.