I guess it’s in the rules, so here’s the image:
I’ve been tagged! Thanks for the kind words eep! This is eating into homework time but I think it’s important. I hope you like it…
Ah, the Indian woman. The dainty creature, clad in silk, walking gracefully as a cat with never a frown, never a word of complaint and never a sigh of disappointment. She is the the perfect mother, the ideal wife, the dutiful daughter, the miracle worker, the one whose prayers are always answered (think no further than Nirupa Roy). She is the ideal of the Rama Sena and the Shiv Sena and all the Senas of the Hindu Gods. But is she real?
The Indian woman. She is sold by her own family, bargained for, bought by rich Arabs looking for young wives, raped for amusement, raped for punishment, gang raped to preserve honour of the men, abused, beaten, burned for dowry, and shunned for sins she did not commit. She could be your maid. She could be that woman you see in the bus. The woman who sells flowers by the street, the woman who sweeps the streets, the woman who cleans your toilets, the woman who stitches your clothes, the woman who rents out her womb, the woman who works in the fields and sleeps hungry because there is no food left for her. She is the very real woman who has no voice.
The Indian woman. She is considered leased property by her parents (leased from her future husband and in-laws), the second-grade sibling by her brothers, and free labour by the mother-in-law. She is dismissed by her husband, taken for granted by her children. Her efforts go unnoticed and she never hears a word of appreciation. She is the eternal sufferer, the supreme sacrificer fulfilling endless expectations who never takes a moment for her own self. Ever silent, she knows what she endures but does not speak. She could be your mother, your aunt, your neighbour, or your cousin. She is everywhere around you. She could have been you in another life.
The Indian woman. She seems to have sacrificed saris for jeans and kurtis. She drives a two wheeler, works in a well paying job, and is second to no one. She stands for no discrimination. She expects equal rights at home and at work and is confident enough to disagree with her in-laws. She takes care of herself and remembers to take vitamins once in a while and to use sunscreen. She stands up for others when she can and knows only too well what could happen if she stops standing up for herself. She is me. And you. And all of us others who write well meaning blogs.
Who is the Indian woman? What does she want? What does she deserve? What is this so called Bhartiya Sabhyata? Where do women fit in? So much has been said on the subject that it’s no different from politicians’ rhetoric anymore. Yes, Eep, I agree. We should stop being bitchy to each other. Yes, Careless, I agree. The Mamta thing has been done to death. Yes, IHM, I agree with every new story you post that seems like the same old story all over again. The same story over and over again until we start to lose hope. But should we?
Just like almost everything else in urban India, feminism too now seems the cause of choice for armchair activists. Talking about it is a great first step but at some point, we have to ask ourselves where we go from here. That is what I’d like to see coming from this whole game of blog tag. Ideas about what we can do. Here are my two cents:
- Empower someone else. It could be a cousin, a neighbour, a friend’s friend. If you know of someone who needs help, help her. It could be domestic violence, dowry harrassment or general harrassment. A woman doesn’t have to take half the crap most put up with.
- Teach someone. It could be your maid, her daughter, the watchman’s kids, the children who live in the slum near your apartment complex, anyone. You could make a huge difference just by spending an hour everyday teaching someone basic reading and writing skills. It doesn’t involve any effort except being home for an hour. You could teach the child while her mother works.
- “Adopt” a child. Adoption is not for everyone. But many of us could surely afford to sponsor a child and ensure that she gets a decent education and nutrition and a shot at a better life.
- Volunteer at a local municipal school. My mother did this for a long time and she would help children with English or other basic skills. You can make a huge difference.
- Fight dowry. It might be a small step but many parents feel that a “bit of dowry” is a small price to pay for their daughter getting “settled”. It’s not a small price. It’s a huge indicator of things to come.
- Stand up against seemingly small things. When a manager leaned too close for comfort while trying to “help” me code, I complained. When a guy gets too close for comfort on a bus, I carry a safety pin for self defense.
- If you have a son, raise him to not think he’s doing you a favour when does his share around the house. Some day, a woman will thank you the way I thank my mother-in-law.
- Support a local shelter. Encourage them to give women some skills that will help them to be self sufficient.
- Fight sexist rituals and traditions. I might have been forced into touching my husband’s feet at the wedding but that’s not about to happen again (not that he wants it to, I hasten to add). My father-in-law’s the exact opposite of what tradition requires. His blessings always include the word “granddaughter” somewhere.
- Be nice to other women. It seems like a small thing but it’s not. My mother-in-law always tells people we’re friends. (Not that I’m like her daughter which is such an annoying thing to hear). My mother never “lectures” my sister-in-law. My sister-in-law and I seem to get along a whole lot better than my brother and I do!
As Freeze Dried said in a comment, there are some basic rights many of us take for granted that others are still fighting for. It’s time we all did our part. The Gulabi Gang is!