Women’s Day ! Wow ! Honestly, what celebrating days such as this means, I don’t understand..women’s day, father’s day, mother’s day and the list goes on. Does it mean that you can pay lip service to the person/s concerned on that particular day and carry on in your old, staid ways for the rest of the year? Would seem so. What not will we witness today? Long sermons, tall promises, host of demonstrations- some peaceful, some may be not so. And tomorrow we’ll be back to same old, same old.
A question that is often asked today is “what being a woman means to you?” Prima facie, it sounds like a fairly silly question. It means being myself. I mean I’ve not known anything else. So being a woman means being “me”. On more considered thought…what does it really mean? The question seems to evoke more questions than straight answers. When I woke up to the whole politics of “being a woman”, it became synonymous with being a firebrand Feminist. As a student of English literature, feminism, Simone de Beauvoir, Kate Millet, Eve Ensler made their entries and influences earlier in my life than they might have otherwise. Patriarchy,society,men became easy punching bags and not necessarily in that order. Being heard meant having an opinion on everything and that too a loud one. Holding your own, not becoming a door mat varied from the stubborn to verging on the downright rigid. From fiery speeches in crisp cotton sarees to equally fiery protests and demonstrations complete with breaking police barricades and facing the water cannon and lathi charge – been there, done it. Unknown to me I, and many around me had fallen into pitfalls that face any kind of activism – seeing everything through tinted glasses. Every non issue was an issue and many issues were blown out of proportion. Or to put it another way, making a mountain out of a mole hill and, in the process,often missing the mountains worth noticing.
Living at such an emotionally charged level can be quite draining. Even a strung bow needs to be relaxed. Luckily for me, I grew out of this bra burning feminist phase. Then came the lull ‘after’ the storm and now I think I’m somewhere near finding my balance. Men vs women; us vs them – where will this battle of the sexes take us? Is it, in fact, even a battle? Does “empowering” women mean taking something away from men? What, in any case, constitutes ‘empowerment’? Are there any blanket solutions and universal answers? Can I impose my modern day cosmopolitan thoughts and sensibilities on women from entirely different background and socio-economic strata?
As a society, I often think we are living on clichés. Not so long ago I witnessed a glass of cold drink being thrown on a boy by a girl at a Mc Donald outlet, who it turns out was his classmate. The boy’s crime? Asking the girl out for coffee in full view of all their friends. The last time I checked, that was not a crime. Assuming she was not interested, did she have any right to humiliate him? A simple and straight no would have sufficed and been in line with the boy’s forthright approach. But we are a sexually repressed society – straight approach doesn’t work. The instinctive reaction of the bystanders was to assume the boy was at fault and almost lynch him. What happened to our sense of perspective and fairness? Is it fair for us to assume that always men are at fault without even looking into the matter?
Yes women deserve respect. So does every human being. Do women treat the men they come across, from the labourer on the road to the milk delivery boy, with as much respect as they demand? I’m afraid not. By behaving thus we ourselves set the standards of behaviour for these men who in turn will treat their wives and other people similarly. Preaching is one thing, practicing in daily life quite another.
Power, of any kind, corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. What started out as simple division of labour with women taking care of the household and men of the outside work, eventually led to subjugation of women. Do we want to rectify this wrong by making the pendulum swing to the other extreme? When and how will the swinging pendulum find its centre? Is it not as wrong for a woman to misuse her power, be it sexual, social or legal as it is for a man to misuse his? In this dog eat dog world, how many show the responsibility that comes with power? Not many I’m afraid.
Today if anyone asks me what being a woman means to me, my answer is simple- it means being human. Is this the kind of thought that Salman Khan had in mind when he founded his “Being Human” foundation? Looking at his asinine movies, one is not likely to think so but people are capable of profundity (and stupidity) beyond what is apparent. Even if he didn’t, it’s about time that we started focussing on being human rather than being a woman or a man. How do we propose to empower women in any case without the support of the other half of the population? For every Asaram who shot off his mouth with comments that don’t even merit attention let alone a protest, there were thousands of men on the roads demanding justice for a woman they didn’t even know. If this is not being human, I don’t know what is. This women’s day we ought to celebrate not only every woman in our life but every man in our life as well for it is only together that we can build a better world for us human beings.