So, 2018 has been declared as “the year of Women”! Isn’t this just brilliant? A whole year just for Women. When I read about this, I was overwhelmed and delighted and incredibly flattered. I mean finally… finally we have an year to ourselves! This obviously must mean that in 2018 women will not be harassed (at work, outside of work, at home, on the street, in the bus, at the grocery store etc.), that women will be finally paid as much as their male peers, women will not be asked inane sexist questions about work-life balance and their future children, that finally women will be considered as just regular ordinary humans who have as much freedom to live, express, work and exist as the other half of the population. It is not too much to ask, is it?
2017 saw so much turmoil in the world of women and men. We shared, with the world, our stories of various degrees of abuse we go through, we read these stories, cried, hugged and empathized with each other. We saw powerful people, the abusers, brought to justice. We opened the dialogue on equal pay and maternity/paternity leave, and saw many organizations starting the process of implementing these new directives. So much has been done yet I somehow feel that we are at the precipice of something exceptional but it remains out of reach. I feel that there are problems at the most basic fundamental levels like downright misinterpretation of Women’s rights and Feminism.
The problem is people generally do not understand what Feminism actually means! They either glorify it or vilify it, but nobody wants to take the effort to just open a dictionary or google the word Feminism.
The advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.
Did anyone notice something in that definition? Try reading it again! I hope everyone read the part with “the equality of sexes”? Yes! That’s the true definition of feminism ladies and gentlemen. And it has been ever since the term was coined.
Before you roll your eyes and move on, I would like to clear the air about why we needed to include the part about “equality of sexes” in the definition. You see, the feminist movement started almost 200 years ago and at that time all women wanted was to be treated fair and equal to their male counterparts in marriage, child custody and property division. Again about 100 years ago women had to take to the streets just to fight for their right to vote. And now as we know we are again fighting, apparently for the right to exist. There was and still is such a gross imbalance of power in the society that women have to resort to scream at the top of their lungs if they want to be heard.
One very valid example is the birth of the unimaginative term “feminazi”. According to which, if a women walking down the street is catcalled and doesn’t immediately fling herself into the arms of the catcaller, she is a feminazi! Because how dare she get out of her house to get groceries in her yoga pants and sweatshirt? And if a woman is flashed by a man, she should just blush and smile and thank him for introducing her to such an important member of male anatomy. If a balloon full of semen is flung at her, she should be proud that a man deemed her worthy of his seed! And whoever voices out her/his opinion against these acts of sexual perversion are feminazis and obviously wrong… Right?
I don’t blame these people for misconstruing the term, because as history has time and again proven, we human beings are exceptionally good at skewing up a perfectly written set of laws or principles or religious texts for our general amusement and benefit. Somehow the thing about gender equality was lost in translation making us cynically consider even the most genuine cases of harassment/abuse. So I have here made a list that you can follow that will help in avoiding social embarrassments while discussing this very topic:
- Say, you are at a party and someone is talking about the latest rape case. DO NOT ask questions like “But why was she out so late at night?” OR “What was she wearing?” OR “Why didn’t she say NO?”. When such questions arise in your mind, stop yourself from blurting them out, or even better, stuff a towel down your throat. That will definitely do the trick.
- On news media, when you read a story about a little boy or a little girl who endured sexual abuse from a family member over an extended period of time, DO NOT write things like “Why didn’t he/she stop their uncle from touching them?” OR “Why didn’t they tell their parents?” in the comments section. When such a need arises, go and wash your face with cold water, look in the mirror and envision yourself as that little boy or girl. Ask those same questions to yourself.
- When you read about a well respected movie director or actor abusing a minor during the filming of one of your favorite movies, DO NOT give excuses for their actions. They were despicable! Because nobody is allowed to exploit the innocence of any human or any living thing in the name of creativity or otherwise.
- When you see a pregnant colleague being unfairly treated at your workplace, DO NOT speculate about her work ethic OR how her priorities will now have to change OR how she will be on a paid holiday for 6 months after delivering her baby! When such thoughts cross your mind, think of your own mother who sacrificed her career for you and who has always looked for validation of her individuality in her family and children and not in herself.
- When you find that your friend is being abused or is abusing, DO NOT stand aside and pass judgments. DO NOT tell the abused that they should just endure for the sake of their children. DO NOT condone the abusive behavior in any way. Mental/Physical abuse strip a person off of their self worth, and there is nothing more cruel than that.
- When you see your female colleague being sexually harassed at your workplace, DO NOT pass comments on how she should stop dressing in skirts OR stop wearing makeup OR stop wearing heels. If you find out that a male colleague is being sexually harassed, DO NOT make fun of him for being so whiny and for God’s sake please DO NOT tell him to take it like a man. And instead of looking the other way, be a friend, support them and help them DO the right thing.
- DO NOT quantify sexual harassment/abuse into categories of “less likely to cause damage” and “more likely to cause damage”. When that need arises just try to put yourself in the victim’s position. Would you like to have your butt pinched? OR Would you rather like having a stranger’s erection rubbed on you?
In the end, everything is essentially about doing the right thing. IT is just that simple people! There is this mysterious voice in our minds that help us in achieving that; its called conscience. And I know my set of “rules” might be misunderstood too, but hey! No harm in trying right?
So on the international women’s day I just want to say that it will take more than just declaring an year as “the year of Women” for things to change. It will take a deeper understanding of where we as a society are failing in implementing a concrete value system. It will take more than sitting at home and commenting trash on other people’s experiences. It will take us, the people, the human race to change at a fundamental level, and stop stereotyping sexes and instilling misogyny. It will have to start with us teaching our children how to be decent human beings, know right from wrong, who have a stronger conscience, who would stand up for themselves and others, who would know what Feminism and equality of sexes actually means, who will be better human beings than us. Yes! The change will start with the future. And because it is long overdue, we have to start now. On that note, Happy International Women’s Day everyone! I hope we strive for more than just an year.