We are talking about half the world’s population. That is 3.5 billion people. As most of the world is democratic at least for the name’s sake, 3.5 billion is not an insignificant number. Yet, this half of the world’s population does not rule the world most of the time. In spite of the numbers, this half of the population does not have a say in the most crucial decisions of the world. And, despite the numbers, this half of the population is oppressed, objectified and controlled in most parts of the world. We are talking about women and the politics of being women.
Why is it that women are not adequately represented in the administration of the world? Reasons are many- cultural, religious, social, and economic. But in this author’s opinion, each of these reasons are very political, and are based on clear ideologies subtly engraved into our subconscious minds from time immemorial. We call this separation and differential treatment as gender bias. Gender is a sociocultural construct that distinguishes the female from the male, while sex is the biological difference. We are not even talking about the sexes other than female and male, because in most cultures of the world, they don’t find a place even to exist.
Talking about these things is talking politics. Politics- not only in the sense of administration of a nation, but in the sense of decisions affecting many people. There are many reasons why women are not in this kind of ‘politics’. Some of those are very well known, while some are not. Let us have a look at some of these reasons.
- It is a Patriarchal World
Patriarchy is defined by Wikipedia as “a social system in which males hold primary power, predominate in roles of political leadership, moral authority, social privilege and control of property. In the domain of the family, fathers or father-figures hold authority over women and children.” This definition captures almost all the important aspects of a male-dominated society where women, children and elderly are on the margins of importance. These ‘man-made’ decisions include those about women’s education, marriage, children, finance and health. What is notable in this is the absolute marginalization of women’s agency as persons. In a patriarchal society, woman cannot decide about their career, job or education, whether to get married or not, at what age to get married, or how many children she should have. She doesn’t get the authority to decide about the future of her children, or her own property.
- The Psychological Argument
A few centuries ago, even the most educated people in the West used to think of empowered women as ‘temptresses’ and ‘witches’. In the heartlands of India, in our villages, we see women being tortured, raped, paraded naked and murdered for acting suspicious! Isn’t it still fashionable to believe that women are psychologically less equipped than men? If you think this is a myth, listen to the conversations around you. You might hear people say, “Oh, she is a woman. What does she know!”. When you need money, do you ask your father or mother?
- The Physical Argument
This is an interesting argument. Men consider themselves superior to women because women are physically weaker than them! This is like feeding vegetables to a tiger for years and making fun of it for being a vegetarian! Women are constitutionally different from men because of biological reasons. Men may be stronger and muscular today because of conditioning for centuries. Women have sacrificed a lot of adventures for being mothers and homemakers. A woman is much stronger than men in terms of stress and conflict management. This is reflected in the dramatic increase in the number of CEOs and team leads in multi-national-companies all over the world.
- The Glorious Mother Figure Argument
Mother is the centre of the world. Being a mother is glorious. Mothers sit at home and take care of children. Mothers are peace makers. Women are mothers. So they should sit at home and should not make any trouble! How do you like that argument? Every culture has such an argument making the rounds. Glorification of motherhood has gone over the new media. You see it in the large scale commodification of Mother’s Day. But do you see a proportional growth in respect for women? We don’t need to glorify mothers. They are glorious. What we need is respect, healthy attitude and appreciation for what they are.
- The Fool’s Argument (when nothing else works)
When nothing else works to keep women in check, some lame argument/actions come up. Some men beat women up when they can’t break them logically in an argument! Some command them to shut up. Some resort to more violent means. But the point is, when men fail to exercise control over women, it leads to their frustration and destruction of self-esteem. This is because the popular image of man as ‘controller of women’, that the one who has no control over women is the ‘macho-man’.
What needs to be done?
Getting educated is the first step. Brigham Young says, “You educate a man; you educate a man. You educate a woman; you educate a generation”. This is true in all its senses. An educated woman can bring changes to her family and the society around her. The thought that women are less capable than men is inscribed deep in our minds because of generations of conditioning. We need conscious updating to make ourselves an egalitarian society. Educated women can teach their children that men and women are equal, but with different roles in the society. Some of these roles- mostly biological- are not exchangeable, but most are. Men need to be men, just as women need to be women. It is not in crossing the borders that life becomes beautiful, but in being oneself. Let us then teach each other to be respectful to our own selves, to each other and to nature.
Disclaimer: The image used here is for representational purposes only.
Read More: Education and Women