As the countdown begins for another Women’s Day, I have a few thoughts that are bouncing around in my head. So here I go.
The buzzword that is heard around these days is women empowerment. For women to be empowered, independent & free of any form of oppression is essential for a positive evolution of the society. The blame for women not being any of these has traditionally been dumped on the males. The Indian society has long had a patriarchal setup, which had gone unquestioned for centuries. Even laws like the Hindu Marriage Act, and the Hindu Undivided Family Act had been biased for several years in the favor of men. Now this is all changed. CBSE has made the Mother’s name an entry with equal importance as the Father’s name, a women has equal power, and can demand her fair share in family property or her husband’s property.
The number of educated women in the country has gone up. More and more women are taking up higher education, and becoming doctors, engineers, lawyers et al. The Times of India in its buildup to Women’s Day writes, “Its a women’s world!!”
Most of the changes I mentioned above are seen in big metropolitan cities, Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore etc. But these cities can boast of a really small women population when compared to the rest of India. And how are things in the rest of India?
In most cities, women are waking up slowly. They are paving their way towards empowerment, putting up a brave fight against any adversities or oppositions they encounter. The smaller towns are yet to catch up. I am sure in a few years they will too. My question though is, is the brand of women empowerment being sold to us by the elite metropolitan women, the so-called ambassadors of women rights really going to empower more women?
My skepticism rises from some simple facts. One of the biggest reason why women empowerment has happened so rapidly in the last few years is because of a shift in the thought process of our society. Parents have taken bold (& sometimes even risky) steps of sending their daughters out to other cities for better education, & have stood with them in their decisions. With the society moving forward, lawmakers also realized the clear need for amending laws that tilted the scales in favor of the men to being more equal. And the information age that has swept the world like a storm has really opened up a lot of eyes. Killing of unborn girls gets splashed on to national news, and is seen & condemned by more people than it ever has been.
In plain words, awareness, followed by a maturing society is really what women need to be more empowered. But is it just the males who are responsible for these things not happening?
The alpha-male has long been blamed for all of a women’s woes. Be it ogling a girl walking on the road, be it eve-teasing a woman on board a bus or be it beating the wife after getting drunk, men are there and they are to be blamed. And to be fair, these men are to blame for our women feeling unsafe on the city’s roads. But then, what about those mother-in-laws(MILs) who force their daughter-in-laws(DILs) to sit at home, cook food for a house of 15 people, clean the house and press the MIL’s legs at the end of all this.
What about those MILs who force their DILs to go for an illegal ultra-sound, just to find out if the next offspring is the son they so desire for their family? What about those MILs who ask for more and more dowry from their DIL?
In the Indian society, it is not always the man who is to blame for women not being empowered. A part of the blame also lies on women too. I do firmly believe that one hurdle in the path of women empowerment is women themselves. Which brings me to the so-called women liberation-ists.
What women liberationists want today is for women to get reservation, reservation in the parliament, reservation in educational institutions, reservations in government jobs etc etc. But are reservations really the answer? What good would booking 20% seats for women do towards women liberation? The “activists” would say, there would be 20% more educated women assured.
But aren’t we totally missing the point here? Women liberation, women equality are being pursued so that women have a level playing field with men. With reservations, we will achieve the opposite. Equality means a deserving woman candidate has equal chance of getting into a college, or a job, as a deserving male candidate. Performance is the only selection criteria. Reservation achieves the opposite. It tends to give undeserving candidates equal opportunities as deserving ones.
If women need to be empowered, a lot of things need to change. Men need to understand that women are at par with them. Chivalry though, should not be lost at all. It is a disappearing quality but as men, we need to be chivalrous towards women. Giving a women her share of respect is also very important for men. When men would respect women, the problem of objectification of women would cease to exist.
The same holds true for women. They must understand that empowerment means a lot more than just being the bartender at a pub. Empowerment should mean parents being proud of having a girl child, empowerment makes parents wanting to send their girls to school & further to college to study subjects of their choice, empowerment makes parents happy when their daughter wins a job of her own. Empowerment is what makes a family happy when their son marries a girl without any sort of dowry. Empowerment is for the man & wife to put in equal effort when they are at home, be it in the kitchen or otherwise.
Empowerment is to respect the woman, who gives us birth & nourishes us. Who is there for us as a mother, a girlfriend or a wife, when we need willing ears to hear us out, when we need a lap to put our heads on and relax & at times when we need a shoulder to cry.
With these thoughts, I wish all women a Happy Women’s Day. May each day of the year be yours.