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And “me?”, asks the woman


Whenever I hear some one compare men and women, all I hear is “yada, yada, yada..rant rant rant”. How can you compare men and women, do you ever compare apples and motorcycles? And why would a woman want to be like a man? What is with the equality thing?

I will agree that over the years I have grown up hating a man’s guts. I envied how men could do just do anything and be almost as least emotionally involved as ever. At least that’s what I felt. They could wiff away their mom’s concern or any concern for that matter in seconds. Simple emotional problems that we girls blow our brains on did not go anywhere near them.  No wonder I always liked guy friends over girls, there was never the emotional stuff there, it was clean and un-adulterated fun without any hang-ups. Initially, I never found girls fun and never bonded with them, always deflecting the inadequate-ness I felt at being one (and thus, feeling I was a bit complicated) to all of them, finally befriending only a select few and keeping just at the right distance away.

It was only when I started living in a girl’s hostel in my college did I realise that girls are fun too. Not just fun, they needn’t be complicated at all and they were different people who gave you warm comfort when they were around you. Obviously, some of my college friends are the people I’d say best know me. There is stuff that I have done and even before I had realised that I have committed a blunder, they had told me that I am going to regret it later. I am completely at ease with all of them and we have loads of fun, sometimes more than my guy friends, for whom, I have become one of all complicated womankind they generally don’t “get”.

It has been 5 years since I graduated from college and since then I have met a variety of men and women. Because I stopped taking women as complicated beings way back in college, I have befriended both men and women and have refrained from comparing them. All of them really have been an ensemble in my life and it has worked that way quite well. In all these years one thing that has hit home perfectly to me is that men and women are really two different beings. No one is better or worse, but they are just different. We are no one to judge their style of functioning and doing certain things as good or bad. It is just a way, and they do it because of different reasons.

As I study sociology, I understand the immense importance of society in a person’s life and the enormous impact it has on him (and him is as gender neutral as it can be). Men and women are socialised differently and thus end up being so different. Earlier, some of these ways of socialisation became so ingrained in us that they became a part of our culture and affected the evolution process. For example, the need for women to be sexually desirable has translated somewhere to the need to be smooth, hence the (comparative) lack of facial hair and body hair in women. There are numerous examples such as these, but it is not the examples that count…what counts is that these external agencies, such as the forces of societies have had a huge role in making men and women who they are today. There were different roles that men and women needed to fulfill in the society and both fulfilled them. Fulfilling those roles, they developed their primary and secondary characters and now present themselves as that. This is why, I don’t get the need for comparison. The need for the good and the bad. Everyone does their work and is happy. End of story.

This is the reason why I have never been a fan of women’s studies and I laugh when some one says that “aaj ki naari, mard ke saath har kadam par kandhe se kandha mila kar chal rahi hai.” I never understood the reason for a woman’s need for validation by a man. This comparison and this quest for recognition went beyond me.

However, few incidents, including the following have made me think and question this attitude further. Sometime back, heard a friend say, right after his marriage (when we were discussing if is wife should study MBA or continue with her job) that society is going haywire because too many women are getting educated and that now they don’t feel the need to look after their families. Also, that women who are very educated do not remain under the control of their men and upset everything. I was completely shocked (primary reaction, when you really don’t realise the need to get into the depth of any argument) and thought that the man was an idiot and was a part of the other extreme where all women think that men are responsible for everything wrong in their lives.

But when I really went back to what he was saying, I realised that on the face of it, he was right. Women were getting educated and they were experiencing a whole new independence never known to their tribe before. It was bound to upset the framework of society which was made on a specific role distribution which made women look after the home and men earn the wages. The power was all with the man and the woman was contend looking after the home and children (let’s not get into how the Industrial Revolution brought this change in English society and then the nationalist movement trickled it to India, what ever the reason, how the present society is structured). A working, educated woman who had the financial power obviously upset this arrangement resulting in chaos. He was right. I was wrong.

For those who did not leave reading this blog at the last line, this is my further line of argument. I admit that before the society was beautifully structured and impeccably functional. Women in the house and men outside was a great arrangement and we all benefited from it. However, this is a great and beneficial arrangement only if there is no difference between a person working in the house and outside it. When the respect accorded to both is the same. Patriarchal societies are all good until the male only ‘makes’ the decision but the decision-making processes includes the female of the house. Till today men of the family make all of a woman’s decisions. Even telling her whom to marry and what career to choose. For example, I remember being advised to become a teacher, why? because “it is the safest career for women”. Define safe I asked, and they said, “you will be able to manage your home and job easily and there won’t be too much pressure.” Prudent advice, but did it take my views into consideration? or my choices or even my intellect? No. Did these things mattered to them? Again, No.

You start asserting your identity when you feel there is a threat to it. When you realise that unless you do something, your existence will very soon put to question. A lot of women went through this identity crisis until they revolted. Until they asked to be made a part of the labour force because they wanted to be financially independent in a world where their future was uncertain. They realised that the only way they will be known as any entity is when they work outside the home (because at home, a full-time job is unpaid for and un-respected). This was and is the quest for recognition of a woman. And she has the right to demand it because very rightly she works very hard for it. It’s not validation, its demand for much more, a realization that your existence matters to people who matter to you.

With recognition, I bring in the issue of respect because it is time a woman is respected as a person and not dismissed because she is a woman. Not generalised because some idiotic film-maker thinks that it must be a woman who is all wrong in a relationship (without any input from the man) and thus decides to make a “Pyar ka Punchnama”. And not victimised by many others who, when they couldn’t get a “yes” for their proposal from a girl, decided it was time she be known as a slut in the entire college. Who understood that character assassination is to be done at will and will be done to prove a point. Case in point, a Mika Singh who thought that just because Rakhi Sawant is wearing a backless dress and is present in his party, she is fully open to his sexual assault and not just not open, she “asked for it too” (more on this stuff in the slut walk post)

I also bring in the issue of respect because many fail to understand and will never understand the kind of pressures that a woman faces in her day-to-day life. Imagine thinking about how to talk, behave, dress, and 100 other things in your everyday life because of how it might be taken by people outside and hence, how it might affect your family and its reputation. Even the way she laughs or talks to other people is to be thought about. Women go through a lot in their daily lives to live “as women” and they do deserve their fair amount of dignity and consideration. Recognise her labour. Her being. Recognise that the woman who works at home works too and that she deserves to be taken as a productive member of the house, of the family and the society. She deserves to be heard. It is not about who does what, but where one is put because of the kind of work he/she does that matters.And affects. Mind that.

So the next time you see a working woman who works even when her husband earns well, don’t stop and wonder – she works because you denied her her existence and she is fighting for that. And don’t pity a housewife because she just sits at home and has “nothing” to do. She probably gave up a lucrative career to look after the house – talk to me when you gather enough guts to make that sacrifice.

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About Shivangi Narayan

Dabbles in too many things at one time

10 responses to “And “me?”, asks the woman

  1. I agree with you Shivangi.
    Its the way one thinks about it.
    Ours had been a patriarchial society hence any growth by a any female is bound to be questioned since male’s egoes are hurt.
    I disagree somewhat on the point that boys arenot emotional.. they are but they may not show it up openly.

    Thirdly ask any “MATURE” person who will agree wiht you that a women has to sacrifice a lot every day, evry minute..

    well written .. hope to see more from you in future..

  2. shivangi1984 ⋅

    I dont think it is about male egos, it’s just that a working woman upsets the working of the house. And that creates loads of tensions. This is the direct indicator of how much work a woman does unquestioningly in the house which no one notices or considers as work. We need to respect the person who toils in the house as much as the person who goes outside. Both people are important and I am not pitching one against the other.

  3. Prateek Gupta ⋅

    Hi Shivangi,

    I respect women for all their abilities and sacrifices that she needs to make in her entire life. But I felt sad when I see every woman crying for their space to work. Every woman should take it as a challenge and fight hard as she has every ability to fight for it.

    We have to understand that the changes are not made instantaneously, It takes lot of time to make a change. Our genes has developed very differently for a man and woman. A man has supposed to do outdoor jobs and protect their family and a woman to take care of children and distribute their knowledge to the youngsters.

    This is what being done from the last 5 Lakh years, and since modern woman is now transitioning into the field governed by men, its obvious that they have to fight for it. A permanent change can be made only by persistent efforts and education by changing the mentality of our next generations.

    So if you really want to change something, I would suggest you to provide education to children who are so poor that they can not afford to buy books. If you want to see the changes, please stop crying about women’s sacrifices and do something which can change the thinking of our next generation. Then and only then you may be able to change what is continuously been done from ages.

    Prateek Gupta

    • shivangi1984 ⋅

      Prateek: Will take your comment point by point:
      a) Women did take it as a challenge, whatever we have today was fought for. So you see, no one is shying away from fighting or accepting any challenges.
      b) I agree it takes time to make any change. I am not asking for any instantaneous change either. In fact, I am just asking for recognition for a woman.
      c) I am sorry but our “genes” are not entirely developed that way. There are hundreds of tribes in Africa where there is a complete reversal of the roles of men and women and things are working perfectly well. Closer home, in India too, maximum work on the fields (I guess you consider that outdoors) is done by the women of the house. This work is never accounted, never paid and never recognised as work (umpteen debates on the census reports of such “working” members of the family, check it out)
      d) And don’t get me started on the direct relation between education and mentality. It has nothing, and I say it again, nothing to do with what you think about people and what your perceptions are. I have worked in the corporate world, I have met a lot of educated men but they are all there when it comes to basic respect for a woman and what she does.
      e) I agree with your point that we should educate our children and I know that apart from working for an NGO some time back I haven’t really done enough for it. Suggestion taken, will work on it.
      f) Not crying about women’s sacrifices. I don’t think anywhere here I have done that. I am just saying that the second grade status that we have given them needs to change. Needs to be thought about. The umpteen expectations need to be toned down too. And if nothing, they need to be recognised and considered for.
      Respect women. And not just your mother, but everyone.

      • Prateek Gupta ⋅

        Shivangi,

        Thanks for the reply. Will clarify my points according to your comments,

        a) I never said that women didn’t take it as a challenge. Neither they took only the challenge but did a very good job also. What I want to say that, this mentality to prosper in a tough condition should be developed in every woman. Life is not same for everyone, so we have to fight (we have to take it as a challenge) for developing that skill in every woman. Fight is not over until it is won and its a challenge for us to develop that courage in every woman. Isn’t it?

        b) The change will be obvious and Its encouraging to see a glimpse of it in our society. Just we have to enhance it.

        c) As an evolutionary biologist, I would like to tell you that there are 98% of societies with the corresponding trend. Our genes are developed majorly by those 98% not influenced much by those 2%.

        d) If you can not figure out what is the relation between education and mentality then what is the difference between talking to you and an illiterate person? Just You had a bad experience that doesn’t mean all people in the world hate women. You can not be too particular about all men. Don’t be too parochial in your perspective….that’s wrong..!!

        e) I am fully in resonance with your last comment. We have to respect all women equally but again as I said to achieve this target…we should recollect everyone who can help…and move forward…!!!

        Best,
        Prateek

        Hi Shivangi,

        I respect women for all their abilities and sacrifices that she needs to make in her entire life. But I felt sad when I see every woman crying for their space to work. Every woman should take it as a challenge and fight hard as she has every ability to fight for it.

        We have to understand that the changes are not made instantaneously, It takes lot of time to make a change. Our genes has developed very differently for a man and woman. A man has supposed to do outdoor jobs and protect their family and a woman to take care of children and distribute their knowledge to the youngsters.

        This is what being done from the last 5 Lakh years, and since modern woman is now transitioning into the field governed by men, its obvious that they have to fight for it. A permanent change can be made only by persistent efforts and education by changing the mentality of our next generations.

        So if you really want to change something, I would suggest you to provide education to children who are so poor that they can not afford to buy books. If you want to see the changes, please stop crying about women’s sacrifices and do something which can change the thinking of our next generation. Then and only then you may be able to change what is continuously been done from ages.

        Prateek Gupta

  4. poojalapasia ⋅

    If you could have read out this blog to an audience I am sure the crowd would go thunderous with applauds, and I would be applauding like crazy. So well written 🙂
    On the blog, I would like to say the respect aspect for women’s chores are not appreciated as they dont show monetary gains and hence they are not treated well or taken into consideration. As they say, show the money, get the respect.

  5. priyanka ⋅

    Shivangi:D the content of your blog was something i wanted to read from really long time. Whenever I tried to read online,all I got were articles which started with “in this male dominated society” lines..But that was not what I was looking for..I know it is a male dominated society, it has always been so..I just wanted to understand a little more about this domination, a little more on why suddenly it is saddening the entire society . This entire “male domination” subject left me in such a dilemma that I had to hear about it and get an unbiased opinion. I was this very big feminist before my marriage that I even secretly prayed Tsunami took all men away with it :p I was so adamant that I did not even make an attempt to look into the reason for my hatred..Not that my dad or brother showed chauvinism at home , but the movies, the daily soaps, the articles, they were all flooded with such during my early adult years and the impact was HUGE on me.. And then came my husband :D, he started explaining me continuously about everything that is explained by you,the cause, the effect and the correlations..But it only left me confused, my ego refused to accept the facts though I knew that it made sense..But with his help I Soon realized that certain things here are meant to be the way they are! I guess we need more men in this society who can help their women (like me) understand the issue in subtle and meaningful ways. And as long as they respect our femininity where is the need for us to compete with their genes, we all are happy females after all!:D

  6. priyanka ⋅

    and yes as your friend Pooja rightly said , this would have been a sensational speech as you would have shaken some big egos there….:D

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