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"The Reality of Equality" by Sudha Narasimhachar

Discussion in 'Snippets of Life (Non-Fiction)' started by Laxmi, Aug 4, 2006.

  1. Laxmi

    Laxmi Administrator Staff Member Platinum IL'ite

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    Mahatma Gandhi had said that Ramarajya is such a state where a woman can boldly walk all alone on the street even at midnight! In fact, he had even written about self-defence techniques that a woman should adopt in case of emergencies. Is there any part of the world where Gandhi’s dream has come true? All of us know the answer. Even in a society where the holy ‘Ardhangi’ philosophy is worshipped, women are not treated on par with men!

    Women, from time immemorial, have been facing difficulties and challenges of various kinds. A woman has travelled a long long way from where she was, is what we think. But when we go through history, we read of certain golden periods in history, when women earned a lot of respect, they were free to pursue their hobbies or spiritual life, while leading normal family lives and were even accepted back after they were found infidels. There were great women poets, artists, rulers and administrators. However, Indian history is also a record of how women have always been considered second class citizens, equated to cattle and the lowest strata of society as per Varnashrama Dharma, which in itself is unfair, by Manu and all rules of how women should lead their lives are laid down by men, but cruelly implemented by even women! So this dichotomy has always been there. It is very much present to this day. Thus on one side women like Kalpana Chawla, who have conquered space inspire us while on the other side we find women being cruelly suppressed and meted out with most inhuman treatments, just because they are WOMEN!

    The Misconception of Equality:

    Even today, we find women of different segments of the society, different countries and different religions being treated in different ways. What is equality? This is the word most misunderstood or let us say, conceived in most number of ways. When the ‘Women’s Liberation’ movement or the ‘Feminist’ movement began in the 1960s, what one understood from equality was that a woman need not dress differently just because she is a woman and a woman could do all that a man does like she can smoke, she can smack, she can date or whatever. So women not wearing bras, smoking and drinking were considered liberated.

    Of course, this is liberation in one way this is the beginning of a long process. When a boy can go astray, why not a girl? When a boy can walk naked, why not a girl? I remember one of my friends saying that a gentleman is one who can control his biological urges even if he sees a naked girl and men have no business in gorging at half-clad girls with bad intentions. Does a girl ever look at a naked man with lust, on the street? Then why should a boy do that, when both have similar urges, both come from the same society and both of them are endowed with the same senses? How true that is! But the reality is quite far away from such an ideal situation. Not that we women want to go naked. It is just that we expect the same mental maturity from men, as we have.

    For instance, in India we find men passing urine, wherever they get the urge, even if it is the street. But very rarely do women do this. Don’t women have the same biological needs? Then why cannot the man control his urge till he reaches a toilet? It is just that he feels he has a right to piss anywhere. Catch one lady doing that, it will become a talk of the town.

    So, if the so-called Women’s Liberation is not what we women really want, then what is it that we want?

    The True Essence of Equality:

    This is a vast subject because each woman has different conceptualisation of this term. We generally think that women, to be treated on par with men, should be educated, should be permitted to pursue their hobbies, should be permitted to marry persons of their choice, should be able to decide when and how many children they should bear, should be free to build a career, should be free to break out from relationships, stay single or do anything that their hearts and brains dictate. Of course, all these really give women a lot of self-confidence and freedom. But the parody of the situation is that despite all this, women still suffer. And very often we find illiterate women from the lowest strata of the society are bolder in taking decisions regarding relationships, while educated women from the upper classes, break down, give in to pressures and commit suicides rather than boldly walking out of relationships. What a sorry state of affairs!

    Equality is a state of mind. It is the mental security that one has, irrespective of her status, her leanings, her educational background, her career, her country and her religion. Women may be doing so many things to preserve the institution of marriage, family and bonding, out of their own choice. But nothing should be imposed on them. She should never be reminded often that she is a girl, she is a woman and she is weak. She should be treated as a partner everywhere, just as a man is treated. If a man goes astray or ruins his life, it is out of his choice and so also a woman. She should not be compelled to stick to certain dictums of the society, just because she is a woman and the bearer of the torch of culture or tradition. So, does the man not have any responsibility towards preserving the institution of marriage, family and culture? Why should the whole society rise up against a woman who talks openly on sex or relationships, when it closes its eyes against men who carry on all sorts of immoral acts in public? Politicians and bigwigs boldly marry two or three women simultaneously, though it is illegal. These are accepted as ‘normal male behaviour’. But one woman like Diana breaking relationship and falling for another man is not tolerated by the society, to such an extent that she was driven to death by the sneaky society!

    Thus, ‘equality’ is a situation where man and woman carry on with their lives as two individuals in whatever way they choose. They are free to choose their career and their partners and make decisions of their personal lives, without interference of the others. Equality is such an ideal situation where in a family, decisions are taken after mature discussions between the men and women of the family. The biological role that a woman has to play, as a mother is well respected and not taken advantage of. No woman would shun her duties as a mother or wife, provided the man is ready to help her out with love and respect. By offering to help men in earning the finances required for the family, the women have come a step forward and so men also should come a step forward and help the women in running the family. Equality is not an expression of ego and no family can be run smoothly if that happens. For instance, women demanding men to do the exact quantity of work at home, as a matter of equality or men shunning their responsibilities at home on the pretext that they are ‘men’ and cannot perform ‘feminine’ duties are both the main hindrances in a family. Compromises from both the partners should be equal ( “ realisably accommodative”; equality does not mean 1:1 in any measure) and voluntary.

    Equality should be all over. For instance, when a woman steps out of her home to earn, she should get due respect on the street, in the bus/train and in the work place. Her work should be judged in an unbiased manner, treating her as an individual and not as a woman and she should be rewarded or punished in the same way as a man is done. I remember how the Chief General Manager of State Bank of India, who was a lady, objected to everybody referring to her as the ‘first woman CGM’ because, she worked like any other man and won her designation out of her merit and not as a woman. Ms.Sudha Murthy of Infosys Foundation also expressed discomfort, when referred to as wife of Mr.Narayana Murthy of Infosys, because she was an ‘individual’ and she was proud of her personal achievements. Why should she be leaning on her husband’s glory? I remember how the commoners are so fine tuned to the idea that the heads of institutions should necessarily be men that once when I pointed at my lady Senior Manager at my work place, the customer said, “I want to talk to the ‘in-charge’ Manager Madam”, presuming that a woman can never be ‘in-charge’ of a branch. This mentality should go. A boss should be treated a boss, be it a man or a woman.

    Thus ‘Equality’ is that state when from morning to night I forget that I am a woman, except on occasions like when my child calls me ‘Mummy’, brother ‘Akka’, or my husband makes love to me!


    - To be continued.....<!-- ~~~~~~ HTML code 'BookMark-4' ends here. ~~~~~~ --><!-- ~~~~~~ HTML code 'BookMark-4' ends here. ~~~~~~ -->
     
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2006
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  2. Vidya24

    Vidya24 Gold IL'ite

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    Empowering article

    Dear Sudha,

    'The Reality of Equality' is a very empowering article. You have chosen an apt topic, delienated your sections well and written the article powerfully and gently at the same time. I loved reading it.

    I liked the part where you say that women from lower sections of the society are often bolder in making decisions. As a post-graduate student, I used to travel by the city bus where men would sit stonily on 'ladies' seats' everyday. It took a group of fisher women to gherao the bus, and evict the men from the seats. We educated women learnt a lot that day about effective action by women.

    Great article,Sudha- you have celebrated womanhood!

    warm regards
    Vidya
     
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2006
  3. rvnachar

    rvnachar Silver IL'ite

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    Thank you

    Dear Vidya,

    Thank you for your feedback. I am surprised I received just your feedback. I thought the topic was quite relevant to this forum and I would hear from many women.

    Thank you for all those nice words.

    Sudha
     
  4. Laxmi

    Laxmi Administrator Staff Member Platinum IL'ite

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    "Reality of Equality" - Continued here.....

    Continuation of "Reality of Equality" here.....

    Challenges faced:

    Challenges are many and different for different women. Certain religions impose many restrictions on women and women who fight for their rights are suppressed by terrorising them. In certain religions, the women are psychologically hypnotised with so many ideologies that women start following them and imposing them on their next generation with iron hands. That’s the easiest way for men to get their plans executed! Women of middle and upper class societies suffer these kinds of abuses. A woman is taught right from the womb that she has to obey a man at all times, her father, brother, husband, father-in-law and son. She is the torchbearer of the wonderful culture and so she has to lead her life well within limits laid down by the so-called social rulers. So, even given a chance, the woman finds it difficult to break the tradition. For example, though it is quite common now-a-days for widows to remarry or unhappy women to walk out of marriages, there are women who cannot think of such things because of their psychological preparation. They, therefore, suffer silently. A woman is taught that once she becomes a mother, her individual life moves to the second place. So, down go her career, her aspirations, her ambitions and her wishes. She has to live for the husband and the children. Very few women achievers have successful family lives. Very few of them are able to balance family and career well because the others do not get the required support from their families and the work place. There are thousands of women sacrificing their wonderful careers, suppressing their inherent talents and giving up their passionate activities just to please or support their husbands and their achievements.

    What about women who are full-time homemakers? Many of them suffer with no recognition of their duties, no financial independence and no identity of their own. They lead mechanical lives, just to preserve the so-called ‘culture’.
    The increasing number of suicides of women belonging to this category due to various reasons is an indicator of the level of stress that these women undergo.

    The woes of the women of the lowest strata of the society are endless. They are physically abused, mentally abused and live lives of worms. They bear the tortures of drunken husbands, toil for their livelihood, fight for everything from water to food to bare necessities with corrupt administrators and filthy system. They are more than equal to men there because the men hardly share any of their duties or woes! The children suffer and the vicious cycle goes on. Though these women need not bother about moral strictures or culture, they have loads of other difficulties to face. Their life is a challenge from morning to night.

    The worst kind of harassment that women of all segments of society and all countries face is the sexual abuse. This is the cheapest and most cruel form of harassment that a man uses against a woman. It is sad that a woman who is equated to the five basic elements of life and worshipped as ‘Shakti’ is also most harassed by the same society! How treacherous can it be to kill female foetus, to rape infants and children (even when they happen to be their own daughters or granddaughters sometimes), to use women for lust and pleasure, to use women as means of earning heavy dowries, to burn a woman alive if the cheap wishes of her husband are not met, to dump her on the street or in an old age home, once she becomes physically useless to the family? How can we call our society ‘civilized’ until we attack all these issues and find solutions? A woman does not feel safe in her house, her work place or on the street. Her biological status is most abused by men for fulfilling all their wants. My heart bleeds to read about rapes at home, trains, streets and even police stations, bride-burning cases, suicides by stressed out women and the sad lives that thousands of women forsaken lead on the streets!

    Solutions:

    Man has not realised the importance of woman even after so many generations. It is high time he realises that man will be extinct without woman. Unless women, who constitute half the population, are considered as partners and respected, no society can prosper. I should be secure and free at home, on the streets and in my workplace. I have to enjoy mental freedom to think and execute, physical freedom as far as my physical needs are concerned and self-respect. My husband should consider me worthy of sharing all his pleasures and pains, my family should recognise my contribution to the family and the society and I should feel safe and secure at home. Even if I choose to live alone, I should be safe and free. I should be able to walk alone on the streets without any fear at any time of the day. I should command respect in my workplace whether I am a labourer or a white coloured official and I should be paid and promoted on par with my male counterparts. Nobody should touch my physique without my consent.

    There are many things that women have to also learn, in order to create such an ideal society. Women should not get carried away by unwanted social dictums, but be bold to fight for their rights. Unless women come out and seek help, how will the society know as to what is happening behind the closed doors? Women should realise that marrying and getting children is not the only way to lead their lives. They should be open to options and pursue their dreams, even while doing their duties in the family. Women should not at any time let themselves be used as commodities for the sexual pleasure of men. A few women yielding this way, endangers the lives of all the other women. Whatever profession a woman adopts, she should not lose her self-esteem and let men use her as mere objects of beauty and sex. Just because we want equality, we cannot shun our duties and responsibilities as mothers, wives, sisters and daughters-in-law. The true meaning of equality has to be understood and we should groom our children into confident and strong individuals, who respect every other individual, be it a man or a woman! While doing so, we can also play our roles in transforming the entire society into such an ideal society by making our small little contributions.

    Things like ‘I’m the boss of this house; I have my wife’s permission to say so’ should go and families should be healthy environs for the development of the ‘ideal human beings’ and not the ‘ideal man’ or the ‘ideal woman’! So, please stop saying, “Sonu beta, remember you are a girl. Start learning cooking and washing” and “My son. Please don’t touch the broom.. You are a boy. Don’t cry like a girl” from today!
     
  5. meenu

    meenu Bronze IL'ite

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    very powerful

    :wave :wave dear Sudha,
    Your article is very nice and your expression very bold and strong. Iliked particularly the solutions you have given- how a woman can emerge intellectually and mentally stronger than man without compromising her responsibilities as mother and wife.
    Regards,
    Meenu
     
  6. meenaprakash

    meenaprakash Silver IL'ite

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    best article on equality

    Dear Sudha,

    One of the best article putting forth the bare truths of where the women stand today. You've been brutally honest while analysing the problems.

    Even I feel a housewife's job is the most thankless job on earth.

    I do dream of a world of equality - sure every woman would wish for it.
    For an ideal society to come to existence, we need to work towards it; we need to work very hard - but definitely together we can bring in the change. Now it's we, we who represent the present generation & if we mind, we surely can make a difference but only we should understand what equality means.

    I just read your solutions para thrice & couldn't help pray things shld change as fast as possible & help women of all walks of life lead a decent life on earth.

    Love & regards,
     
  7. vidyasarada

    vidyasarada Senior IL'ite

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    Thought provoking

    Dear Sudha
    You have laid bare the sorry state of affairs that lies concealed behind pompous declarations like: " in our culture Woman is worshipped as Shakthi !" " Our country is adored as Bharath Mata !" etc.etc. But in India, men are all schizophrenic. They will adore the woman who gave birth to them as Ma Durga , but will treat all other women as inferior species.
    But the saddest part is when such Male Chauvnist behaviour seeps into the psyche of women too, conditioning them with paternalistic ideas of male superiority and female inferiority. and they start treating their own children differently according to gender.
    And women ( mod., young ones) trying to become masculine in the mistaken belief that it is emancipation is very unfortunate indeed. I'm always reminded of a witticism: " Women who want to be like men lack ambition !" How right !.

    vidyasarada
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 21, 2006
  8. Vidya24

    Vidya24 Gold IL'ite

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    good reading again!

    Dear Sudha,

    The sequel to the first part is also interesting. The topic is apt for IL, the ideas are strong and the solutions seem practical. And you have expressed well. I liked the way you have structured the analysis in the religious, traditional and contemporary milieu. Also liked the 'solution' part. Stereotyping is a common unintended danger in most families/societies. And as mothers, women can avoid that in their primary and immediate sphere of activity-the family.

    Good reading,Sudha.

    regards
    Vidya
     
  9. rvnachar

    rvnachar Silver IL'ite

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    The Reality of Equality

    Dear friends,

    I thank you all for those nice words about my expressions, which are from my heart more than from my head. Interestingly, I wrote an article about Sexual Harassment, Eve Teasing and Equality on Sulekha.com and one or two men are bashing me left and right for the article. I have never been nor am I a male basher. I don't know how the two men construe things which I never imagined while writing the article. They comment very personally and nastily. I am fed up of explaining my intentions to these men. These are great examples of those men, who can never take criticisms from women in the right spirit. I am proud that I have many friends like Varalotti, who can perfectly understand what a woman feels and expresses. Interested friends could visit Sulekha.com, search for my blogs under 'narasu' and leave their comments. Please don't fail to read the comments of the men while doing so.

    Thanks once again.

    Sudha Narasimhachar
     
  10. Vidya24

    Vidya24 Gold IL'ite

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    read yr blog in Sulekha

    Dear Sudha,

    I read the mentioned blog in Sulekha. I liked the piece. What I liked about this particular piece on sexual harrasment is that you have drawn real and practical issues faced by women, especially working women. While it is easy for academics to be shrill on theoretical aspects and impactical solutions, you have focussed on what matters.

    I am not surprised to read what the manager did to the female employee or what the class four workers(and the manager) remarked- but it is still very shocking.The snide remarks that women face in Kerala which is the most literate state in india, and one that had more women to men ratio, is appalling.

    Coming back to your article, it is a forceful piece, well-articulated. The men who are posing these lewd comments have not understood the purport of the piece, or maybe are just 'dirty ole men' who act on these lines. Ignore them. You have a better set of values to write and offer, stick to that and keep writing. And we will keep reading your pieces!

    I could not post a comment. Is it cos I am not registered? I shall try again.

    Wishing you more power and words,

    regards
    Vidya
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 28, 2007

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