The #Metoo movement hit India a few months back, with many brave and courageous women putting themselves out there. Result, unsurprisingly most of the accused men are back to work, with no repercussions while the women are being shamed and given no work.
Why unsurprising, well because at the end of the day we do live in a patriarchal society where the boys are brought up with the notion that they are privileged and their actions will have no consequences. And as a society we prove it to them that yes there are no consequences to what they do, irrespective of how badly they have damaged another life. Forget consequences, there is no remorse either, as can be seen in the defamation cases against the victims, and so called apologies on social media. The apologies are so convoluted that one has to sit with a dictionary to figure out if a ‘Sorry’ has even been mentioned. And we cannot blame just the accused, it is the whole society as such since it is us who are taking them back to work, accepting the cases which are filed, excusing them saying they have a family to support and have to earn their livelihood.
This deeply affected me in ways I cannot explain, so in an attempt to figure out from where does this sense of privilege come or as a society how are we so forgiving to the male species, over the last few months I started observing conversations around me in my everyday life. I was shocked to realise how our everyday conversations are so sexist and pro the male gender and as a society we are geared towards the male. It does not matter if you are a feminist or not, but we as a society, men and women both have excuses for the men we know and are sexist in our daily language. It was shocking because I believe myself to belong and move around in circles who are pretty out there in terms of exposure, education, and modernity.
Couple of bits and pieces of conversations/statements which I came across,
- A parent, especially the mother talking about issues between their son and daughter in law or any other couple, the blame is generally on the daughter in law. It is not that they don’t realise that the son may also be in the wrong, but that is generally excused by saying, “He is like that only’ or “We all know his personality is such, she should understand” or “He is a guy, what else can you expect from him”. The moment such statements are made, they have excused their son or any other guy whom they are referring to and put 100% blame on the female.
I ask – Why can’t she be like that only, why can’t her personality be such that maybe he can look at the situation from her point of view.
- A common statement I have come across so often, “My son has changed after marriage, he was not like this before”.
I ask – If your son is old enough to get married he is old enough to make his own decisions. If nothing else have faith in your own upbringing. Do you realise that living intimately with another person involves give and take, so obviously there will be changes in both not because of marriage alone but also due to external factors as your son matures.
- A common statement when a woman starts work after marriage and kids, “Why do you need to work, your husband earns enough”, “ Why do you want to get into all this work jhamela, enjoy your husband’s money”, “As a hobby it is ok, but don’t get so involved that you neglect the home and kids.” And not just men but plenty of womenfolk who give this advice.
I ask – Why because I guess women cannot be ambitious enough to wanting a profession of their own, irrespective and independent of her husband’s earnings.
- Two women discussing a couple in the neighbourhood, “Aare I saw him buying vegetables and taking care of the kids, she is so lucky na”, “You know, she goes to office everyday while her husband works from home, and is at home when the kids come from school. What kind of a mother is she?”, “She is so busy with work, that she has no idea what happens at home, what is there in the kitchen or what needs to be bought, her husband takes care of these things, weird isn’t it?”
I ask – Have you ever thought that your husbands are also lucky since you are taking care of the home and kids? Or the fact that marriage and kids involve two individuals and so both share responsibility?
- In a discussion between friends at home or work, “I allow my wife all the freedom, there is totally equality in our household”. “What women empowerment talk, everywhere I see women are empowered, see my wife, her friends and my cousins they all go and do what they wish , I have never said anything”
I ask – Don’t you think the word allow just created an oxymoron in your sentence. And maybe just maybe the world is bigger than the 5 women you just quoted.
- In a recent large scale religious gathering that I attended, there were “pretty dressed women volunteers” giving aartis to the huge gathering while a male volunteer was guiding her where to go next.
I ask – In the 10 or 12 such pairs, why not one pair where it was reverse?
- Interviews of different kinds, this one I have been personally asked many a times since I have started my own set up, “ How do you manage work, home and kids since a start up requires great commitment” , “ Are you sure you are looking at making a profession out of this and its not just a hobby”, “ What does your husband do?”
I ask – I will manage the same way as the male candidates sitting outside. Oh sorry!! you wouldn’t know since you forgot to ask them.
- Many accelerators, incubation cells, group meetings or senior people who act as mentors, “We provide a safe space for women”, “It is better for you to have me as a mentor as it will add value to your profile since you are a woman and the sole founder of your company’.
I ask – What does safe space in reality mean and what kind of value will that guy add who has not even taken the time to understand what my business is all about.
I can go on and on, the list is endless. And these are statements used in their everyday conversation by educated, well-travelled and moneyed people who consider themselves unorthodox and modern. They would sneer if we called them ‘patriarchal’. Since I started consciously observing, I realised how common sexism is in our daily life. It all starts from acts and words like these which we have normalised as a society and this is what the young boys and girls around us are observe and internalise.
Time has come for each one of us to call out every time someone says these kinds of statements, else in a passive way we are encouraging the elitist and privileged attitude which boys grow up with.
Would love for you to add on to the statements and the acts in this list, so that we become consciously aware and start calling them out. Make people realise what they are saying because most of us don’t even know when we are being sexist and contributing to the patriarchal attitude of the society or the samaj as we call it. I have started calling out people around me, have you?