A couple of days ago, I was invited for a social event where every one got an opportunity to introduce oneself and family. Following the western cultural practice of ladies first, the entire session of formal introductions was completed in a blink of the eye. When the turn of the men folk came, time seem to have dragged its feet to termination. The stark differences in the gender preamble made me wonder why a woman always had so little to say about herself, as if she had little or no individuality beyond the shadows of her gentleman partner. While some did mention their first names, majority seem to be content with a 'Mrs. So and so'; their names conveniently disappearing behind the male dominion status of their respective spouses. Throughout the night, I kept wondering why and how has this individuality crisis hit women beyond the boundaries of age, caste, status or even education. Most of these women hailed from respectable milieu, were well educated, successful in their fields, whether as a working women or even as home makers; yet they chose to sit like mannequins. Why could they not value their achievements or take pride in themselves as their counterparts could? Do, we women have so little to say about ourselves that it finally becomes irrelevant even to us as human beings?
It is said that it takes a woman to make a house a home. Adorning the assorted facets of relationships, whether as a daughter, a sister, a wife or a mother, a woman tries to develop her personality within the bonds of these numerous names with which she is addressed daily. Sadly, in playing these roles to the best of her ability, she has often lost her real self, her true identity being put on a backburner. From time immemorial, women have been subjugated to various atrocities, which have become a serious issue of debate with women groups across the world and have very often been scheduled in the feminist list of grievances. Despite India's growing technological dexterity, our social attitudes towards the fairer sex have still to wake up from its slumber. Female infanticide leading to decline in the sex ratio, the dowry issue and deaths related to it, the pressures of producing a male child (despite playing no role biologically in deciding the sex of a fetus) and the stigma attached to being childless or even a widow. Well it does not end there! There is a constant fear of security if one has no male figure to protect you. Paradoxically, it has made women more and more dependent on the very gender they fear. So, the very fact that one is born as a girl is enough for problems to search for your address.
The lack of, and in certain cases, the complete absence of gender equality in our own homes makes its visible appearance in our daily routine. Girls are taught different value systems than boys. Our personality develops under the shadows of a latent fear lurking behind us always. I am sure one is all too familiar with the typical `mom-isms' of 'sit properly, don't play boy's games, come home before dark, it's a girl's job, don't compare yourself with your brother'.you are different, your mother-in-law would not cater to your fancy demands' etc. The list could be endless. The segregation process commenced insentience. What is sad about this entire scenario is that it is we, as mothers, who instilled these fears in our daughters. May be the idea of their security takes prominence in our minds, but what it does to the psyche of a young girl is unimaginable. It has often led to the birth of an inferiority complex lasting us a lifetime. My mother did it to me, so I do it to my daughter; after all times are not safe enough for our gender. Instead of educating girls various ways to tackle tribulations, we are taught how to fear them, circumvent them and even compromise with them as providence. While restrictions are imposed on women 'to protect them from the outside world' statistics reveal that 90% cases of violence on women occur within the 'sacrosanct' confines of the household. Urban women are as much vulnerable to domestic violence as their rural counterparts. May be its time we found a better way to clench this issue if we wished to revolutionize the outlook of and towards woman in future. Trepidation of the unknown makes one insecure. Instilling self-confidence to embark upon any alien, unpredicted situation is the best way to counter that latent fear, making buoyancy the key ingredient that goes into making of a better personality. It's like a lioness that does not fear even the elephant, more than double its own size.
No matter how urbane we become, the issue of matrimony still commands the ritualistic outlook. 'Marriage is a sacred institution and it is driven like a cart with two wheels'..equal and together'. Everyone professes it but few follow. The secret of a good marriage is nothing but the least effort put in to make the maximum compromise. Which one of the spouses makes it may vary in individual cases. What does not vary is the advice rendered to all girls that whether you like it or not, there will always be this underlined desire to have a woman do more of these compromises than man; after all, he is the bread earning member of the family. The labor put in by a woman as a home maker has never been valued enough. In case a woman takes up a job, there could merely be two reasons for it. Either she has a financial problem at home or she has nothing to 'kill time'!! The logic of individual satisfaction or making worth of ones education are reasons echoed only by the feminists, therefore not for the homely kinds of woman. Moreover, even the state of affairs at work is not too gratifying for woman facing the 'glass ceiling effect' and of late a new theory of the 'glass cliff'. What's worse is the stigma attached to the stereo types that society conforms to in case of women. The typical 'sati savitri' kinds are the one which are always clad in saris and behave like the ones we see daily in the 'kyunki-type-soap operas'. The so called modern or the 'liberated' ones are those in fancy blouses, or better still, in western outfits, heavily made-up working women. The immediate preconceived notions for the latter kinds of women are that they pay less attention to the house chores including their children and husbands. The less said the better about those termed as social drinkers. Sadly, the same ideology is followed in every program on the electronic media. A woman is characterized more on the account of her looks than her thoughts. It's a case of beauty over brains. Women who have managed to succeed despite all odds are admired and envied enough to make page three tittle-tattle. The rest bravely face the onslaught daily on account of their apparel. It's a sad story indeed when girls are made to conform to a dress code to prove their decency or even save them from the attack of society, as is now being done in many colleges of India, making it hard to fight the stereotypes. Thus what cannot be cured must be endured!!
Living in man's world may require behavioral changes in a woman wherein she has to assert certain mannerisms to project her strength of character. However the same could be achieved without attire change or losing the placidness of being a woman. What is needed is to replace the 'ideal woman' concept with that of a 'complete woman'. Like every individual a woman needs to be strong to be complete. This strength need not come from becoming feminists and taking to the streets. It simply takes a little understanding of your rights, and asserting them when most needed. It's what I call a silent revolution. Liberation of a woman in terms of her personal development and through the exercise of her rights with gender equality is in essence the liberation of the society. The day we recognize the strength within us, we would discover our true identity beyond the frontiers of our immediate bonds.
So, the next time you take your morning cup of tea, devote a little thought to how best you could make a difference in your own life and that of your daughter, your female friend or colleague. It's an on-going struggle, the significance of which you have to appreciate if anything has to revolutionize for a woman in the man's world. Pledge your allegiance to your own gender and learn to celebrate the woman in you.