Sunday, March 13, 2011

Gender Equality needs no definition. It needs practice.

In the many discussions on gender diversity, women liberation, changing family system and the likes... we get to read a lot of effort on defining gender equality. In my last post that got published in Headlinesindia, I received similar comments and questions. Here is the list of a few comments and my answers against them.

"Just one question - what according to you is Gender Equality?"; "another point to ponder is - who defines gender equality for women...unfortunately it gets defined by men. this should change and probably is changing."

My answer to such arguments is "don't we understand equality? Is there really a need to define equality?" I would think that there is no need for us to define equality. Equality needs to be acknowledged and practiced. Gender Equality is simply "Equal respect & recognition in whatever one does irrespective of gender." There shouldn't be any aggression of any nature - physical or emotional between genders, taking advantage of the fact of being a male or a female, to win an argument or to make a decision.

Unfortunately men have played a dominant role for whatever reasons in forming certain social systems. It appears therefore to us that if women do what men have been doing, it would mean gender equality. That is not correct.

So you see double standards as harmful and wrong? Are u fine with women dreaming of careers just like everybody else? So when, under what circumstances are dreams of career not feasible , and for whom? For women? For anybody else also?

Of course, I am fine with women dreaming of careers. We've seen so many great career women and women freedom fighters. However, one should be very clear about two aspects of a dream:  'Why this dream?' & 'What will it take to achieve this dream?'

We want many different things in life. The need is to understand what is feasible and what would make one MOST happy. I am afraid that today, dream of a career for many women is enforced irrespective of whether they instinctively like it or not, overwhelming the homemaker instinct. It may be the omnipresent media thats making it easier for a small set of career women to influence the majority.

It is similar to feeling like making a movie or acting in one when you see a good movie or when you are among a bunch of filmmaker friends. In reality it is neither easy to make a movie nor easy to act in one. Even if it is not difficult, one may not enjoy the process of making a movie, which would be fraught with its own problems like poor work-life balance.

It is similar to parents forcing sons to be doctors and engineers because of social status conscience and peer pressure. After my 12th, the society had made me feel that if I don't get into an engineering college or a medical college, I am a failure. In hindsight, I am really happy for not becoming a doctor or an engineer.

So who decides all this? Who decides what their natural instinct is & what they want isn't natural? Just curious.

That is our conscience, which we need to make aware by keeping our eyes & ears open. Spending time to know oneself is the key. Perhaps the first rule of equality would be to have an atmosphere to decide for ourselves. We should never decide for others. But as elders, our effort should be to teach them and appraise them about the psychological decision engine that we possess in as much clarity as possible. We should teach our kids to spend time understanding themselves. We should make them understand that lot of times our decisions get influenced inadvertently by external forces and circumstances.

I understand that it is quite difficult because ultimately we are a human herd driven by our present culture, societal norms etc. It is very easy for us to get confused between instincts and imposed behavior.

My intrinsic belief is that the nature has made man and woman to complement each other. Conjugation of a man and a woman completes the cycle of life in terms of living and procreation. We have to understand that and respect each other for all the things that each of us are better at. 

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Happy Womens' Day to our Better Halfs

Being a woman perhaps is a terribly difficult task, since it consists principally in dealing with men. On this womens' day, let me appreciate all the women who have opted for being our better halfs.

'Better Half' as a term has always made me curious as a child. It was a beautiful word which meant self-less support, love and a well orchestrated team spirit to lead life. It was about taking the role of doing what one is good at.

My mother was a good cook and had a good sense of embroidery. So she took up kitchen management out of my father's life. With the kitchen, she took up the responsibility of the cleanliness of the house. As for her interests, my father had bought her a knitting machine and an embroidery machine. She is today known for her great embroidery and knitting skills.

My father, apart from being the provider and the primary earner, was a good teacher. He took the role of being the teacher of the house teaching us everything from school book education to good habits and civic sense.

It was a perfect balance of responsibility and authority over the family. There was a balance of the do's and dont's for each role in the family.

They were perfect Better Halfs, as they were performing the roles which they were better at.

Today, I see a dilution of this concept of 'Better-Half'. We are no longer as good as in the past, in dividing our responsibilities and authority in the family. We are confused about the roles that we are better at. Is the man better than the woman in providing for the house? Is the woman better in being a home-maker to instil values into the children? We are unsure of the do's and dont's in the family structure.

Modern thinking, education and consumerism is affecting our mindsets. For instance, we are unsure of the utility of education in being a home maker.

Gender equality is being confused with Role equality. Gender equality is not about the women getting to work and earn as the men do. Gender equality is not about women doing what the men traditionally used to do. Gender equality is not about women getting the acceptance to smoke and drink like the men.

Sometimes I get a feeling that women liberation is all about conforming to standards set by men for themselves. It is about women doing and excelling in what the men traditionally used to do.

Gender equality is not about conversions of role. Gender equality is about respecting gender equally without bias.

It is unfortunate that our society is going through this confused phase in the name of coping western lifestyles and attaining freedom of thought and action. It is slowly changing the meaning of the word 'Better Half' to simply mean 'Other Half'.

'Other Half' surely doesnt have the same charm to hold a family together. I want a Better Half in my life to help me lead a happy fulfilled life.

I want to sincerely show my respect and love to all the women who believes in being the better half and accept the role that they are better at.

A Happy Womens' Day to all of you!