04 January, 2013

Is it just the men that are to blame ?

(Pic courtesy : lolzombie.com via Google)

A lot has been heard over the past few weeks about how men need to be educated better when it comes to treating women, about how men need more sensitivity in dealing with issues related to women and how mothers need to educate their sons better and so on and so forth.
I have one simple question – How about the womenfolk ?  Many a times, the saying “A woman is a woman’s worst enemy” takes on a real life connotation.
The picture of a placard that someone had posted on Facebook the other day, captured the essence in totality – “Females are not safe in India – not in the womb and not out of it”. 
It is a well known and well established fact that female foeticide is all too common and prevalent in India, even today.  There are instances of mothers in law forcing their daughters in law into having abortions because the foetus is female.  There are instances of mothers in law forcing their daughters in law out of the house if they have borne daughters.  There are instances where mothers in law try and get their sons married off to some other girl because his earlier wife was not able to bear sons to carry on the family name and lineage.
Recently I came across an article which reported that a shockingly large number of girls (especially in towns and rural areas) are made to drop out of schools upon reaching puberty.   Education, which is the only redeeming hope for the future, is totally cut out of their lives.
Just the other day, there was a news report of a grandmother and her son having beaten his 3 year old daughter (the old lady’s granddaughter) up so badly that doctors say that child may never walk again.  What was the child’s fault ?  Simply this – she is a girl.  Imagine the plight of that child if she has to grow up in a family such as that, now with an added handicap that has been caused by none other than her own father and grandmother. 
I've come across so many instances of women gossipping about other women.  "Oh !  She's divorced." "She's a woman of loose character".  "You should see the number of male friends she has.  Oh ! What a shame !".  Women need to stop doing this to each other.   
In many families, the elderly women in the family din it into girls’ heads that they are basically “impure” when girls have their periods.  Not even for an instant does the thought cross their minds that this is just another natural bodily function and that it has nothing to do with purity.  I, for one, have been at the receiving end of special treatment during those three days of the month.  All you get to sleep on is a mat and a pillow.  Most of the time, during those three days of the month, one gets food that is leftover from the previous day.  No one at home is allowed to touch these girls during those days of the month nor are the girls allowed to touch people.  For all practical purposes, one is treated like a pariah three days of the month.  While I have nothing against eating leftovers from the previous day, I do object to girls being shunned during those days of the month, just because the elderly women in the family are misinformed and choose not to change their views and attitudes.  Have these women ever given a thought to how girls feel about being treated that way ?  No.  They don’t.  They don the blinkers that have been handed down generation by generation and successfully continue making girls in the family feel like a burden, a “commodity” that is just being reared to be handed over to another family for “upkeep”.  Trust me, it is not a good feeling !
Herefrom begins the saga of treating girls like commodities.  Like I said, it starts pretty early on in life.  It is very common to hear statements like “paraya dhan” and so on and so forth.  By the time girls are past their teens, they’ve heard these statements so many times and been treated like secondary citizens for so long that they, I guess, actually begin to believe in the same and fall in line with these absurd customs and practices.
Take weddings, for example.  One of the most important aspects or rituals in any Indian wedding is the KanyaDaan.  I’ve seen many a parent say that they’ve waited all their life for this particular event.  I’m prepared to buy the fact that they are talking of sending their daughters away to her in laws place and that is indeed an emotional moment but think about it – KanyaDaan (if one is to go by the ritual during the wedding) is nothing other than the parents handing over a girl to their prospective son-in-law and his family for “safekeeping”.  If this does not make girls feel like commodities, pray tell me what will ?  In many a marriage, even today, even among the well educated and the socially mobile population, the girls parents have to pay the groom’s family – dowry.  Now this could range from hard cash to material possessions.  Even today, there are many instances wherein girls are ill treated because the groom’s family were not given enough dowry.  In South Indian weddings, another ritual that is blindly followed is where the girl’s father has to wash the feet of the groom.  Basically, we have a 60 plus year old gentleman washing the feet of his prospective son in law, who, in all probability, is in his twenties.  Where goes the respect and the self-respect that the Indian culture is said to be steeped in ? 
I remember reading an horrific report about a month or so back about circumcisions that were performed on more than 200 girls in Indonesia – girls whose ages ranged from 6 months (yes – you heard me right !) to 12 years.  One might argue that this is because of the rules imposed by the men who head their religious institutions but end of the day it is the mothers who take their own daughters over to be circumcised and then proudly proclaim that their daughters are now “clean and pure”.  The mood in that place was actually said to be festive !!  In this instance, the whole thing came to light because a journalist happened to be there but this happens routinely with so many girls all over the world.  My question is – Why do the mothers, having gone through this trauma when they were kids, still take their own daughters over for the same inhuman procedure that brings with it nothing other than added health problems – not to mention the fact that it scars girls for life, not just in the physical sense ?
I’m not trying to say that men are not to blame for the appalling state of affairs when it comes to violence against women or mistreating women.  Yes, they are indeed to blame.  But women are to blame as well.  Women themselves are equally responsible for degrading women and girls.  When this kind of an attitude passes on and is practiced generation after generation, what we see is generation after generation of girls being brought up with extremely low attitudes of self-worth and self-respect.  If women are to try and take control of their lives, the whole process starts with a healthy measure of self-respect, it starts with a strong sense of respect for who they are. 
Women have a core of strength, women are born with a core of strength.  Women themselves, have to start recognizing and respecting that core of strength that comes with feminity and in this purpose, what they need, to begin with, is the support and respect of other women.  Women, to begin with, have to start looking at feminity as a strength rather than as a weakness, a drawback or something to be ashamed of.

Here are two quotes that quite aptly express my feelings :
“I do not wish them (women) to have power over men ; but over themselves.”
         Mary Wollstonecraft , A Vindication of the Rights of Woman

“Dignity does not consist in possessing honors, but in the consciousness that we deserve them.” -     Aristotle

1 voice(s) said so:

Shobana said...

This is one place where I cannot see eye to eye with the MIL. It is her opinion that women need to be "slaves" to men because the man brings in the money. I have told her many times that I would rather starve to death than take that stance in my life. We have had many arguments about this and 11yrs after marriage our relationship has died only because of this pathetic outlook of life.