A rare sight to be seen in Nagaland is a woman legislator. 1977 being the most ‘recent’ time since Nagaland has had a woman legislator, Ms. Raina M Shaiza as MP to the Lok Sabha, this raises larger questions on gender roles and stereotyping that women all over the world continue to face even in the 21st century.
Why Pink for Women?
I recall an incident when a friend of mine had an interview in Lumami the following morning. It was already late in the evening when she got the information, and not wanting to miss the chance, she decided to leave right away. However, the taxi she got on had no female passengers, and so her father starkly refused to let her go because he was concerned for her safety. That day she missed a job opportunity because of her gender.
The question of inequality repeats itself over and over. Writings on equality are overly done. But is a change visible? Disappointingly, No! Equality is but a nominal existence today, nothing more or nothing less. This has created room for discrimination based on race, ethnicity, social standing, and economy. And no wonder, discrimination based on gender is still prevalent in 2018. The so-called ‘second sex’ is still a victim of this subjugation.
Discrimination is what every woman is so familiar with, for she faced it yesterday, today, but hopefully not tomorrow. It takes her enormous courage to travel from her home to workplace, which most men won’t understand. In fact, most don’t even realize how challenging the commute can be. Catcalls, unwanted physical contact, it’s akin to a jungle out there. It’s more common than we may think. There are many instances where it’s often considered fine for a man to move about freely without being time-bound.
Alas! It is not the same for women. Judgmental glares are shot their way if women are seen outdoors after say 7pm, even if they are returning from a church choir practice session. I questioned this mentality and they responded, “It’s for her safety.” I felt the response is ridiculous. If you are so concerned about her safety, why not you create a ‘Safer World’ for your women? I asked, but never got a response. A woman questioning the norms of a patriarchal society? Yes, it was a case of ‘Great Expectations’ yet again.
In these attempts of the elders to be protective towards female members of the family, the woman is restrained, a fact that goes unnoticed. We fail to see that the disadvantages outweigh the supposed ‘advantages’ of having women lead a constrained life. They make women feel inferior by imbibing that thought in them and infusing it in every part of them. Were our brothers offered chaperones when they stepped out of the house? I believe not. Then why the extra warnings for the daughters even to this day? This is because we have created an insensitive and insecure world for them. We have taught them they are weak, and must be rescued by a prince.
No religion, society, or nation is free from this discrimination against women. This mindset, I believe, is rooted in the very fabric of the social structure. We are yet to have a female Pope. Hindu women are yet to be allowed to attend funerals. Muslim women are yet to be allowed inside a mosque. The moment the biological human reaches the earth, we begin to infuse distinctions and create stereotypes – the girly pink for her and the manly blue for him. Even colours have not been spared. As daughters grow up, they are thoroughly taught to play the role of a woman. Stating an instance, I know a couple who are both doctors and earn alike. But the moment they reach home, the wife does all the domestic chores so as to be appreciated as ‘wife-material’.
Across the world, we have instances where women are meted out inhuman treatment just because she gave birth to a daughter. A couple of months back I was astonished to read a news report in The Hinduwhich said a man in UP’s Azamgarh killed his wife because she gave birth to a baby girl. Was it her choice? No! But it is sad to see so many people including the educated individuals with such regressive attitudes. So then, should our educational system be challenging enough to address these issues? I once asked a male student why he thought that women are included among the weaker sections of society. At the drop of a hat, he replied, “Because they do not have muscles like men”. I don’t blame him for having this view. I realised that he is just another victim of our society’s ‘gender stereotype’. It’s not muscles that make or unmake a man, it’s far beyond that. Needless to say, men are no less a victim of this stereotyping. The world has created such a set-up where their masculine superior conception overrules the humanity that should override their consciousness. No human being is born ‘superior’ or ‘inferior’. It’s all social construction, which can be done away if we choose to. If a woman is weak that’s because the world made her so. If she is insecure it’s because she has been made to feel so. Each day every woman lives with dreams and hopes of being treated at par with men. This hope can be visualised when the men start viewing them as equals. For this to happen, the women should first make an effort to unchain themselves from the bond of this stereotypical mindset to which they are victims as well.
If we need a change, it’s definitely not too late. Let’s choose today to take positive steps. Iceland proudly calls itself the first country to legalise equal pay for all genders. Is our society, our people, our country going to follow suit to proudly call ourselves a ‘Gender Equal Society’? That remains an unanswered question in the minds of every daughter, and let’s not forget the sons who are victims of this stereotyping.
Degree of Thought is a weekly community column initiated by Tetso College in partnership with The Morung Express. Degree of Thought will delve into the social, cultural, political and educational issues around us. The views expressed here do not reflect the opinion of the institution. Tetso College is a NAAC Accredited UGC recognised Commerce and Arts College. The editors are Dr Hewasa Lorin, Tatongkala Pongen, Seyiesilie Vupru, Vikono Krose and Kvulo Lorin. Portrait photographer: Rhilo Mero. For feedback or comments please email:firstname.lastname@example.org.