Saturday, July 10, 2010

Equal? Are you sure?

Men and women are equal. This is what we hear everywhere nowadays. However, a strange suspicion keeps bothering me. Is it really true? Are we really equal?

There are stark proofs against this notion in most of the places I go to. My school is an all-girls Catholic school run by nuns. The teachers and the sisters in school are always emphasizing on how there is no difference in a boy and a girl, and how girls can do everything that boys can. But whenever anything serious has to be done, like signing a report card or writing an absent note, it is mandatory that the father does it.

If men and women were really equals, then why are there special seats kept aside for women in trains and buses? I am hardly someone very well versed in politics, but even with what little ideas I have, it has often been a wonder to me that special seats have to be reserved for women in the parliament. If there was equality between men and women, then I’m sure women would not need special bills to take their seats in the political Houses. 

Coming back to much more regular household matters, we see so few women drivers. Women usually need their fathers, boyfriends or husbands to take them to wherever they need to go, but we hardly ever see a man waiting for his girl to take him anywhere. Whenever I go to the market in this town, I find that the overwhelming majority there are men, doing the shopping. Of course, it might be that some of them are loving husbands helping their wives in running the household, but surely not all of them?

Even the movies we watch propagate this sense of inequality. Most Hindi movies have a very common storyline. Somewhere in the middle, the heroine gets into trouble, and her lover comes running to rescue her. He is the one who does the brainwork or the fighting, whichever is required, while she just gazes wide-eyed or emits tiny squeaks like a cornered rat. Now I am not a cinema buff, but most of the Bollywood movies I have watched follow this pattern. In fact I can think of only one or two movies in which the heroine behaves like anything better than a money plant growing on her lover’s shoulders. Ironically, these movies are old ones, those of Hema Malini and Rekha. Equality was not preached so loudly in those days as it is now, but things seemed to have been better then.

On a related note, girls seem to have made out a very twisted version of equality for themselves. Many girls I know love using swear words. When I tell them not to, their invariable reply is that, “When boys can do it, why can’t we?” According to these girls, it is their right to copy all the bad habits of the boys. The good things about boys can be left aside. They are too difficult to be copied, and would mean leaving behind much of the feminine crookedness and meanness.

In my opinion equality, while it is certainly a birthright of every citizen, should be used with much care, and never bent and remade to suit one’s own selfish wants. A nation where every citizen is considered basically equal regardless of their caste, creed or economic status outstrips all other nations in terms of progress.


Anonymous said...


A wonderful debate to write upon. But this is one topic which I suppose one can go on discussing endlessly without reaching any substantial conclusion. But its great to see youngsters like yourself taking active in issues outside your curriculum textbooks, that are both important and necessary. Looking forward to an interesting discussion here.


Shilpi said...

Good one, Pupu. Sadly enough - the more one sees the more one finds a gap amongst what is preached, what is practiced, and the sort of behaviour that most individuals engage in only because it is convenient...and sometimes the preachers aren't too sure of what exactly they are preaching or are only too sure of themselves...

Keeping in mind all your different observations, all I’ll say for the time being is that it’s important:
1. To observe the general behaviour in a society (as well as the exceptions); 2. To observe the sort of behaviour that is valued and in whom; 3. To understand the sort of values a society claims to uphold (and also to note the inevitable gap that exists between the claims and what is actually practiced), and does uphold; 4. To understand as best as one is able to - the 'why' of it; and 5. To see that addressing some parts while they require changes in the structure of societies, more parts of the problem require changes at the level of the individual….

Also: What we mean by equality and what we mean when we say that equality must be ensured is a very important question. And here you will notice that people have very different opinions - even when they agree that they are talking about 'equality of opportunity' or of 'equal treatment' and not of 'outcomes'.

Your post itself makes me wish we could talk face-to-face...but let this be for now…

Purnata Ghosal said...

Hello Urbi.

I couldn't help commenting on this post, having passed through various stages of disillusionment about this world and this age, particularly ever since I was of your age.

I too grew up in the protected environment of an all-girls' Catholic school and I got a blurred image about the society at present only when I left it to complete my plus-twos in a co-educational school.

I think there has been little progress in this field of "equality of the sexes". You have mentioned the Hema Malini and Rekha-starrer melodramatic films. But at least in those days there was no double standard. Girls were openly deemed as "inferior", individuals who should not come up to the front, but "assist" the men from behind.

Nowadays, equality is preached, talked about, but all that lies at the surface. The prejudices thrive, stronger than ever. A woman faces harassment while boarding on public transport, her family has to buy the couples' furniture during her marriage, and oh, of course, the woman must marry! She must take shelter under the patriarchal tree, crouching and bending, while beaming at the rest of the world and stating "Oh, my husbands' family didn't even ask for a single paisa for dowry!" Then there are some tutors who will ask a pretty girl to sit near them, so that they can "understand".

And, yes, there are girls who feel they need to be "boyish" in order to be equal. To cry is deemed "feminine". Why can't it just be seen as an expression of emotion? The famed "Bond-girl" at every James Bond movie is seen doing nothing other than romance the spy and sometimes do some karate with a female opponent. No wonder boys devour such rubbish. So what was eminent has changed to a subtext, all poorly covered by the excuse of progress.



Arijit said...

Dear Pupu,
This is a nice topic.
Yesterday on ESPN I was Watching the woman's u-20 world cup soccer.
Hmmmn.... I couldn't find a single supporter, playing the bhubujula or cheering for the teams except the staffs. The biggest question is:
Why such discrimination?
Take care, all the best.

Nishant Kamath said...

Hi Pupu,

You've raised a very interesting issue. Just the other day at the office my manager's assistant (a woman) was complaining that when she's taking people around in the office, the men in the group seldom step ahead and hold the door open for her. When I told her about equality, she asked me where all the chivalry and courtesy had gone. I didn't know what to say. Equality seems to be good at times and not so at others.

Best wishes

Urbi Chatterjee said...

Dear Nishantda,

It must indeed be rather muddling for men when women demand chivalry as well as equality at the same time.

Already, I can see so many confused females in my school. Nobody has asked the girls to walk behind men, and squeal and squirm every time they see a lizard! Very few girls (or women) insist upon equality when it comes to carrying heavy luggage. Few of my classmates have argued with their parents about why they should be considered "too young" to do a lot of things I do. I already know that as a rule females speak much more ill about other females than males do. Most of the superstitions that try to make girls inferior to boys are forced upon girls by their mothers and grandmothers, rather than their fathers and brothers. I have also been assured by my parents that no talented, energetic woman of strong character can be held back by gender discrimination. But a lot of women enjoy covering up their defects with that convenient excuse! I would like to see women fighting harder and complaining less.

Personally, I am still rather uncertain about whether I prefer equality or chivalry. Some age-old chivalrousness seems very pleasant, while being looked down upon does not. I suppose that it depends on the man concerned as much as the woman who is reacting to him.

Nishant Kamath said...

Hi Pupu,

I remember Sir jokingly saying once that he sometimes feels that men and women belong to different species altogether.
As to the issue of chivalry vs equality I feel that one should extend basic courtesies (for instance holding the door open, wishing etc.) to everyone. Hopefully women wouldn't mind if some men aren't chivalrous all the time.


Rajdeep said...

Dear Pupu,
Really serious topic here. Good to see you pondering at such a young age.
My personal opinion is that we should not think much about the word "equality" escept when we think of opportunities provided in society and basic amenities for citizens. No one is equal. Everyone and everything is different. The main issue is to give respect to that difference and a chance to grow the natural way.
About equality of boys and girls, I am not too sure. Why do we need to be termed as "equal"? Why can't we just be ourselves?
I am not sure about topics written about by John Gray that "Men are from Mars, and Women are from Venus". I remember reading an article that women and men communicate in fundamentally different ways and it has to do with the different ways that boys and girls are brought up in than anything else. To give a rather simplistic example, we associate boys with the color blue and girls with pink. What do you think?

Urbi Chatterjee said...

Dear Rajdeepda,
I am of one mind with you about this. There is nothing like being yourself. It is positively the best option. In fact, given the sort of boys (and girls) I see around me, I would rather not be equal to any of them! Maybe a lot does depend on the fact that boys and girls are brought up differently; most girls adore pink, while boys sneer at the mention of that colour. Maybe if these fundamental differences had not been created so very early in the children's lives, many of these questions of equality and rights would never have come up. Who knows, maybe someday, many many generations later, such divisions will lessen. We can but hope.

Vaishnavi said...

Dear Pupu,

I once heard two men muttering inside an airport shuttle (it was crammed full and there were a lot more women standing with hands full of luggage than men) that if women expect equality then they must expect to stand in crowded places just like men and 'deal'. Our world today has gotten a very convoluted sense of equality and rights and the more it is talked about the more twisted it seems to become - among both men and women. A nation such as the ideal one you have described with a touch of the old world chivalry would be so good don't you think? How much of it will even be realised? This country doesn't need hardcore suffragettes but strong women who can look at both sides of the coin with clear sight..