I am often termed a feminist. The reasons are the obvious. I am opinionated, I am vocal about my thoughts, advocate gender equality and believe that women are in no way inferior to men. I am said to be biased in my views about women. Yes, and I am unabashed about it. In this men’s world, it is really hard to be a woman.
Gender inequality is not new. From time immemorial, women have been made to believe that they are inferior to men. That they are just objects of desire, created to satisfy men. That women are assets, just like land and wealth. That they are meant to be ruled and possessed. These thoughts have been embedded so deep into our culture that it has become a part of our social DNA. And this culture is the foundation of all crimes against women and several social evils like rape, honour killings, domestic violence, abuse and molestation, dowry and female foeticide.
I am thankful to God that I was born into a family that never saw daughters as a burden. I am grateful to my parents who educated my sister and myself, and enabled us to be financially and mentally independent. I am so happy that they brought us up like sons. But sadly there were relatives who had questioned their decision to educate us to higher levels. Many at times, aunties have expressed their shock on finding out that we didn’t have a brother or my mother did not have a son.
I am not looked upon kindly when I say that just because I am a woman, it does not mean that I should love to cook and clean. I am not applauded when I say that men of the house should share the household chores. I am told that kitchen is my temple and cooking for the family is my worship. The fact that I don’t like cooking causes many people to choke. At work, I am looked at negatively when I refuse to work on holidays and say that I have family commitments. When I say that as a married woman I need to balance work and home, unkind eyes look at me as if to say, “Why the hell are you working then?”. In interviews, I am asked if I am planning to start a family. In my society, most men view their wives’ jobs as a pastime, rather than a necessity. A friend recently had a baby and when I asked about her career plans, her husband said, “Now, it is not feasible and later, it would be her wish. Anyways, what is the need!”
When I got married and was leaving my job back home to relocate, one of my seniors told me that it is tough for a married woman to balance work and home, and that many people don’t understand that. And he wished me luck. I wish more men thought like him.
Sadly, it is also women who make lives of other women miserable. Instead of becoming allies, we often become competitors and fight for attention and power. At home, instead of teaching equality between her children, a mother teaches her son to be tough and her daughter to be submissive. A mother-in-law rebukes her son when he tries to help around the house and insists that the daughter-in-law takes care of everything. It is preached that family and home is the only career of a married woman. At work, instead of coming to each others’ rescue, we waste our time pulling each other down. Stay-at-home mothers do not leave any chance to taunt working mothers about their children’s well-being. We have to understand that it is only together that we can move forward to a world where men and women are truly equal. We need to watch out for each other and take care of each other.
From the time we are born, we are taught to behave in a certain way. Girls are taught to be soft-spoken, well-behaved, coy, love the colour pink, play with dolls, be submissive and homely, not to have opinions, not to speak their minds and to feel inferior to boys. Boys are taught to be tough, make decisions, be the breadwinners, hate the colour pink, play with cars and swords, not to do any household chores and to be superior to girls.
So, to achieve gender equality, it is not just enough to teach girls that they are as good as boys. It is also necessary to teach boys that it is okay to cry, that it is okay to not be tough always, and that it is okay to like the colour pink.
“A truly equal world would be one where women ran half our countries and companies and men ran half our homes.” ― Sheryl Sandberg, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead
I have said this earlier, and I am saying this again; it is not just enough to bring up our daughters like sons. Nothing will change until we start bringing up our sons like daughters. And only then, an equal world for both men and women would become a reality.
First published in Women’s Web on March 26, 2015.