While the entire world is raving about feminism and gender inequality, there are smaller incidents that occur in our daily lives that lead us to lose faith in the sensibility of the human mind. Discrimination and crimes against women in India have caused a huge hue and cry, especially in the last two years – after the Nirbhaya gang rape case in Delhi in 2012 and further with the Shakti Mills rape case in Mumbai in 2013.
These incidents caused national furore and media frenzy, driving people to take up the cause on social media in probably the most sincere public agitation movement of the millennium in our country. From this sprung a spew of feminism movements, such as Buzzfeed’s ‘Why India needs Feminism?‘, which took birth but unfortunately, died down on social media soon after.
A lot of us may think the problem lies with the gender we were born in. However, it’s simply not that biological. Inequality has got nothing to do with your lack of the Y chromosome. Instead, it is entirely dependent on how your mind works. More than anything else, if we as women perceive ourselves to be weaker and thus unequal members in society, we are in a huge part, dictating how society ought to treat us in return.
Unfortunately, we have succumbed to the image of powerlessness that we have been taught to accept as part of being female. We don’t question it; instead however, we train ourselves to deal with it. It is a shame that even before learning about sex education, a girl in India would have to be taught self-defense. Before she begins to understand sex completely, she is instructed against wearing revealing clothes and to get home before dark.
In another extreme, this inherent tendency to be defensive in every situation has caused a lot of women to doubt every intention of a man, no matter how sincere. The overused and over-exaggerated term ‘Chivalry is Dead’ has made it difficult for us to accept that a man trying to help out is doing so out of goodwill and courtesy. For instance, a recent incident in Pune shows how a man, offering his seat to a lady in a bus, got slapped by her. (Original retelling below)
By Prathamesh Dalvi (Originally posted on Quora)
I would like to share a small incident:
I was travelling in a really crowded city bus in Pune (India). Fortunately, I had a seat. All the city buses in Pune have 50% seats reserved for women. The left side of the bus (which is reserved for women) was completely occupied (by women of course). The bus approached the SNDT Women’s College stop (Karve Road) and few girls got in. I noticed that one of girls was carrying a huge bag and she couldn’t even stand properly. Since, I was travelling light I offered her my seat.
She stared weirdly at me for a moment and shouted, “Kay re? Line marto ka majhyavar?” [Translation: Kyun re? Line maar raha hai kya? (Are you hitting on me?)]
I was a bit embarrassed and replied politely, “No. I saw your huge bag and that’s why I offered you the seat.”
By then the other passengers had started staring at me and giving dirty looks.
She shouted back, “Don’t try to act smart. I know what you meant.”
A few other female passengers (who were sitting) shouted something like, “Aren’t you ashamed of yourself?”
Then the girl slapped me! I WAS SLAPPED FOR OFFERING THE GIRL A SEAT!
I just can’t express how embarrassing that was. I wanted to argue back, but I knew that, with the female passengers ganging up on me (along with a few male passengers as well) and no one supporting me (the guy next to me didn’t utter a word), I stood no chance. I sat there silently for the next 10 min, with a burning red cheek and quietly alighted the bus when my destination arrived. That day I decided, I am never going to offer a seat to a women unless she is really old and literally can’t stand or handicapped.
This might be a very rare incident, but I totally agree with Kavita Rasam. I have seen women ‘exploit’ the reservations they get. You can’t do anything you want just because you are a woman. Similarly, just because someone is a male, doesn’t mean that he is at fault every time. Our view of looking at men/women must change.
In the above detailed incident, the man did a very decent thing by offering his seat to a over-burdened girl. In return, instead of the appreciation he deserved, he was slapped. Although that was certainly not the right thing to do, the girl may have been brought up in an environment that forced her to think and act in that manner.
On the other side of things, we do currently live in such a place and time that it just isn’t wise to trust as much as we wished we could. A recent short-film released by Vogue India, starring actress Alia Bhatt and addressing female security, went viral over the internet. In the film (below), an extremely attractive young woman is getting home late in the middle of night when her car breaks down. A gang of boys in a nearby vehicle soon pass by, keeping an eye on her. In that moment and the immediate events that follow, almost every viewer would have prejudged a terrible course for the encounter, which ironically, turns out to not be the case. The film only detailed a world we wish we could live in, but not the one we are in right now.
These are just a few instances, among many others. Both of them glaringly point out to one thing and that is, no matter how many Facebook posts or Tweets we put up, our minds are still not ready to accept the ideal state of equality. Be it men or women, we have become so accepting and ignorant, that even though we join these small feminism movements that cause volatile ripples on social media, when it comes to reality, we can’t tell right from wrong.
As we have seen, a lot of how we perceive ourselves is extremely dependent on our very mindset. The human mind might be ultimately powerful, but as Hopkins puts it, it is also a death trap. Till we get to the roots and start accepting the equality we deserve, no feminist movement is going to bring out any change. That being said, the kind of content generated on women and feminism today, is definitely helping us change our minds and hone them towards acceptance. It’s a start, but there’s definitely still a long way to go.