What a week it’s been for women’s right’s activists who couldn’t decide which way to direct their ire as misogyny and sexism took centerstage at the highest political platforms across the world
All at once, there seems to be a massive wave of barely restrained fury and outrage sweeping women across the world. Last week, hundreds of women marched on the streets in Britain to lobby for women’s rights, but most notably to protest against Jeremy Hunt’s proposition to halve the legal time limit for women to have abortions, from 24 weeks to 12. An equally strong movement took place in the Australia when Prime Minister Julia Gilliard launched a scathing attack against opposition leader Tony Abbott in the Parliament, accusing him of being a misogynist. The ‘misogyny’ speech, as it’s now being known, has already led to a sharp rise in Gillard’s popularity among both men and women in Australia.
But nothing compares to the massive outcry in the U.S that came with Mitt Romney’s “binder’s full of women” statement during the second Presidential debate, last week. In a response to a question on how he will seek to rectify inequalities between the sexes in the workplace, Romney referred to his time as governor when he allegedly asked women’s groups to find suitable candidates to fill his cabinet and “they brought us whole binders full of women.”
Never to be left behind, India of course made its own mark when BSP MP Saini said in a rally that women should not be allowed to have cellphones as it “invites trouble.” The statements and the reactions have provoked the ire of women not just in these countries but everywhere. “It doesn’t matter where these incidents happen. In fact, it goes to show that sexism and misogyny prevail everywhere, even in ‘progressive’ socieities. The whiplash was deserved and necessary. It’s horrific to imagine that these are the people we are electing to rule over us and empowering them to make life-changing decisions for us. Women have always had to fight to vote but now I think women should exercise their right to not vote until we have leaders who will respect and recognise us as an integral part of the society,” says Sudha Krishnan, a student specialising in gender studies from IGNOU.
The statements are provocative and offensive but what they really designed to do is distract us from the real issues, say others. “Take Romney’s statement for instance. The real issue there is the gross inequality of pay and benefits between the sexes in the workplace. Women draw significantly less than men despite the same qualifications, aptitude and capability. The gap exists, in our country and in every part of the world. Nothing’s being done about it. That’s the issue which should be the focus and which we should be fighting, ” feels Ramya R, HR Manager in a city-based MNC.
Whatever else be a matter of debate, women agree that progress is a very relative term. And a moot one at that, especially with regards to their own rights. Especially in India, the country which was recent voted to be the worst G20 country for women.
Kavya Sharma, an NGO worker from Mumbai, is quite disillusioned with the debate. “With every decade we are growing technology, scientifically and economically. But in terms of mindsets, nothing has changed. You just have to look at the news to see the alarming frequency with which episodes against women taken place. So, if anything, we are regressing. We are no more liberated than we were a hundred years ago. We are just in difficult shackles, that’s all.