In the conventional, much maligned sense of the term, I am not a feminist. But in attitudes, thought process and outlook towards many a thing in life, I definitely try to maintain a feminine perspective. A few, stray thoughts on my take on gender-based issues.
Harassment, exploitation, gender bias - the terms are many and the issues, never ending. What triggers these, what causes it, who is at fault? Do the so-called victims ‘have it coming’ or is it the warped mindset and attitude of the harasser?
First, the often heard and opt repeated phrase – ‘they were asking for it”
When a girl is teased in a public place, when a man leers at her and misbehaves, this is the most common reaction we get to hear. The same is true in the workplace harassment issues also. How far can it be true? Though I hate to admit it in public, in many cases, this is a fact. Now, don’t misunderstand me, I am not merely referring to how someone dresses or acts. It is a combination of how girls in our society are brought up and how the girls themselves behave.
Traditionally, girls have been brought up in a home centered set-up. Right from childhood, restrictions are heaped on them. Don’t talk loudly, don’t go there, don’t do that – and the primary reason behind all this, you are a girl, how can you? And the end product, you get someone who is not sure either of herself or of the world around her and easy target for any predator of the human species. Look at most of the reported issues, you find a girl who was not very clear what she wanted from her life, who to trust and not to. And how can she, when others have always decided everything for her.
Now, why do some men behave the way they do? We can understand some tomfoolery at the age when the hormones are at their highest peak. I mean the real perverts and the chauvinists here. Again, the ultimate answer comes to the upbringing. Someone brought up in a culture where everyone is respected for what they are and not their gender, will never stoop to low levels pf perversion and harassment. On the other hand, a boy who has daily doses of the women folk in his home being relegated to the kitchen just because they are women will always tend to see other women in the same light, be it in his personal or professional life.
No, I am not trying to justify or condone individual’s behavior on the basis of their upbringing. Still, the fact remains that some shades of childhood impressions will always be there in the sub conscious mind of the individual and it influences certain behavior at certain times. Some strive to grow out of it and succeeds to a large extent. Some others just let it deteriorate.
Things have changed a lot in the last decade or so. You see women in almost all the conventional ‘man’ areas. You find them working anywhere, everywhere and at all odd hours, day and night. Most of today’s youngsters are crystal clear about what they want to do, how they want to do it and when. Options to them are never ending. But sometimes you wonder, have things really changed where it matters? Society has always respected a well-educated, accomplished woman, but only after she is educated and accomplished. What if she tries a road less traveled on her way to that success?
Go to any of the usual evening haunts of the youth or even families. How many girl groups can you find there? Next to none, we all know. Can it be because our girls do not like an evening out with their friends? I am positive that is not true. Even if someone ventured out, the world will not leave them at peace for more than a mere few minutes. I remember a group of girls who ventured out on an afternoon outing to Bolgatty Palace around ten years back. Within half an hour, different gangs started hovering around, passing lewd comments and generally making life miserable for the girls on that beautiful evening. They tried ignoring it at first, but finally had to give up and get back. Years after that, one of group went to the same place with a few other friend and had one of the loveliest evenings in her life. The difference? The Palace is now a star hotel and naturally, admission is restricted. Otherwise, something similar would have happened even today.
I know many men who say what freedom do women want, why should they do that, who asked them to go out after dark, why did they have to go alone. And to those – just as you do, even we love the sea by the moonlight, chat with our friends by the waterfront, breeze on our face on a hot summer’s evening, raindrops on our head and face, a walk in the park when the lights come on. We too love all the fine things in life.
Now how do we tackle this? There can be no cure to this malaise, only prevention. To change the attitude of many who have been born and bred in a set attitude is a task which even Hercules himself would not be up to today. The best way to go about at present is to accept the fact that our society behaves likes this and act accordingly. For tomorrow, bring up our girls to have faith in themselves and go for what they think is right and our boys to respect their sisters as separate individuals who have their own dreams and a separate life to live. At least the next generation will have a carefree life.