A few years back, my father said something, which set me thinking about the boundaries we create for ourselves.
On a week when the national media is crying hoarse over the molestation of a minor girl in Guwahati by 16 brutes in full public view and with prompt visual coverage, as a man I am forced to relook at the status of the average woman.
At birth, she is predominantly welcome if there is a male child already in the family. A first-born girl is always a sign of tension for the mother, particularly if she is born into a business or `respectable’ family, where continuance is not assured through the female (pray what does that mean?).
Protection is inevitable to the welcome or unwelcome girl in society, as her body is more an object of shame. Contours and colours will determine how she is viewed and the way she is viewed will determine her nature of existence (ashamed, proud, confident…). Even the most overtly feminist families will heave a sigh of relief if the girl is carved well at arrival. Otherwise, the struggle for packaging begins, well at birth. And believe me, fairness creams will never run out of business.
There are constant comparisons with the `opposite’ gender that begin from high-school level, which become obvious after puberty. Girls are the subservient gender because they ape boys and not because they biologically face tougher and more challenges. For example: Girls want to wear trousers and T-shirts, which in the parlance of psychology is called cross-dressing but boys never wear skirts, even if a small percentage might want to grow their hair into pony-tails.
By graduation, half the gender battle is lost as the sacrificial lamb for higher education either due to poverty or affluence, and hence better alliances, is the girl. If she is treated well, it is only because she will soon be leaving the house and will never be welcome back as the barter price at marriage is high — money, land and gold. The best of fathers will want their wards to be good wives even if they fail as daughters or true sisters.
At work, a woman boss is the four letter word you would not want to associate the wrong gender of a dog with and on the roads she is the hesitant rider or driver. Back home, however, all decisions on daily chores made by her are always right. She can earn high or garner fame, but if she lets her husband do any of the homely jobs, she is no longer the fulcrum that is holding together the family.
Then there are other aside like dressing inadequately and inviting trouble, over-dressing and drawing attention, under-dressing and causing aversion. Any which way you look at it, the attire of a woman is a two-sided debate. Only depends on which side you are, gender immaterial.
After a quarter of her existence, she takes pride in shifting from her father’s to her husband’s name, or adding one to the other. After nine months of rigour, she takes pride in attaching her mate’s name to the child, without questioning the need for her name also to be a part of her flesh. Some cultural and religious practices make life difficult for her, more so after childbirth.
Crimes and violence against women are proportional to the apparent mental and physical superiority that the male race enjoys in the respective groups. Women’s liberation has in parallel only resulted in more opposition to her moving away from roles traditionally defined by men. Women’s Movement has been unable to garner media support to the extent that economically well-lit lobby groups have been able to. Media itself, like most fields, has fewer women at policy levels. Whether you are a labourer or a film heroine, if you are a woman, you are paid less than half. Statistics, however, say that more than half of the world comprises women.
If dowry menace,crimes against women,mental marginalisation and domestic violence are handled, female infanticide can be addressed. Otherwise, only women will continue to think, write and address women’s problems; with an odd exception.
As long as we do not wipe out patriarchy from society, any tear we shed towards saving the girl child — unborn or born, will only remain crocodile!
The writer works for Postnoon