In this age where gender doesn’t remain confined by social boundaries in the bubbling economy, sometimes there are stances taken by both genders which need introspection.
About a year ago I went on a trip to Varanasi with two of my friends. It happened that when we were returning from the Viswanath Temple area inside the BHU Campus, a guy rode a bike and pulled near a girl who was on scooty, and both started talking.
As we approached near, we could figure it out that there discussion wasn’t a pleasant one. Suddenly we saw the guy trying to grab the key of her scooty and seeing so, we stopped there. He noticed us, we gave a stern look back at him, and he said a few more words to the girl and rode away. She too left and we felt like we had done a noble deed. Now, that was me last year!
Two days back, I asked one of my friends, who is currently studying in one of the best NIT’s to share some of his friend’s CVs, who had secured off campus job. As his department has a strong female footing, out of five CVs he sent, three were of his female friends. Needless to say, their CVs were better written than the male counterparts, and did help me in conceptualising mine.
Now, as I was scanning through the CVs, I found that each of the girls had mentioned one point in the personality section, and that was “Strong and Independent Woman”
Wondering why I mentioned these two situations and what connections do they have? Well, when I reached home from Varanasi and said the whole incident to my cousin sister, she did appreciate our decision, but told something that changed my perspective completely. She said, “It is quite possible that maybe the girl is leaving him without giving any reason. It is also possible that he was trying to claim what his basic instinct’s suggested, was rightfully his, but being a resident of civilised world, one can’t be allowed to use threat, force or violence to make the deaf hear, isn’t it?”
“Off course, and that’s why I am glad to have been present there.”
“Because what you three did is not an act to be proud of or to show the feminine gender, ‘look! we are your saviour’, but is a matter to ponder on why it took you three to handle the situation?”
“I don’t get your point?”
“Well, couldn’t she handle it herself?”
“I guess no!”
“OK, then tell me why are you people happy that you saved her from the trouble when you already know that she couldn’t? The reason I am saying so is, if the society already knows that we women need assistance at such times; then shouldn’t the society teach each boy from the beginning to help a girl when they find one in such situations, as their duty!”
“Of course it does, and we boys are always taught to leave the seat for you people, when in bus, train, metro or anywhere!”
“OK, just tell me one thing, if you helped aunt (my mother) lift the heavy bag, would you come and tell me about it and say that I am glad that I helped her today, I don’t know how she would have managed otherwise?”
This time she just killed it! I didn’t know what to reply and said, “I hope more, if more people would have been there, they would have been by our side too.”
“Well, you might feel like I am being an complete idiot, by saying things like this because, in our society whenever a girl asks for help, everyone comes to rescue. I accept that men don’t have this kind of privilege, and especially when he has an argument with a girl.”
She smiled at me and said, “When you see a man crying for his ex, as far as I know for most of other men, he is a joke!”
“Yea, kind of, but close ones do understand our feelings.”
“Now, a girl can go in public slap the person who ditched her and cry out loud and even file a case against him, and still be very assured that she wouldn’t be mocked off!”
“Of course, but what are you suggesting now? That, the boy was maybe trying to get back on her and we should not have interfered?”
“I think, the grabbing of key on his part was wrong. Had I been there, irrespective of my gender, I would have approached them, and asked the boy to return the key but would not have threatened or abused the boy at one go. Nor would I have asked the girl what is the problem?
I do not trust any particular version of the story just because of the gender which is associated with it. If I would have felt that the boy was harassing the girl sexually, I would tell him to stop then and there, but if I felt that is was an argument between two persons who had a past acquaintance, I would only remind the boy that he can’t use force or violence to prove his point, and that if he is not in the correct headspace, he should talk to her latter when things cool down or maybe forgive and forget her.
I would have asked the girl also if she can at least give a minimum respect to the person with whom she had a relation, by giving him ears, but if she didn’t heed, I would have asked her to leave. I feel if two persons have been in a relationship, then either the boy too has the same right to ask and get heard off, as the girl or else, both don’t have either of the rights on one another. As we expect a guy to move on after a break-up, do expect a girl to move on too.”
She took a small pause and continued, “You know being a girl, I understand that the society needs to teach the girls now onwards that they are humans and so are boys, so stop using gender for seats in bus, train, metro and even colleges. Stop expecting that it is your right to cry out for help for each and every small thing just because you are a girl. Stop styreotyping men too. And the most important thing, stop publishing the ‘I-am-an-independent-strong-woman’ philosophy each and every time you want to show the world that you hold the key to your life.”
“Do we see men saying things like I am a strong and independent man?”
“Why don’t we? Because for us there is a set notion that when one is born as a man one is by default strong and off course independent. Now, it is quite possible that he wanted to pursue his hobby of singing, but then he has to earn a good salary so his independence is sacrificed. It is also possible that his wife is having an extra-marital affair and he is silent because the only legal remedy is divorce, and he can’t afford to lose his kids. Whatever may be the case, we will acknowledge him as independent.”
“Now, just answer me one simple thing, what do you think when I say I am an independent and strong girl?”
“I guess that means you can earn for yourself. You can take your own decisions and maybe chose your life-partner wisely!”
“If I have education well enough for applying to any position, but still I chose to be a housewife, and go for an arranged marriage, then by your definition I am dependent and weak! Is that a fare judgement Sir?”
“It’s my education that makes me independent of someone’s help to take decisions, and when I say I chose being a housewife, I definitely mean it is my choice. I guess that shows that I am in control of my life, and if I choose it for my love or on my husband’s request, then also it is my choice. If I regret about it later, then also I can’t say that I was weak at that time.”
She gulped down some water and continued, “Look, for me every woman is uniquely strong and independent. Be it the ones in construction job, or in agricultural field. She can be amongst those toiling in government owned classrooms, who could have easily gone for corporate jobs but choose teaching.
She can be the girl who smokes and drinks or can even be it the one who is vegetarian just as her family tradition demands, in spite of being circled by bunch of non-vegetarian girls and guys. Independent and strong women can be in saree, or in skirt and still be a very good housewife. She is the girl who didn’t choose a guy for his wealth or even that girl who clearly states that the key to her heart is through her wallet.
And last thing, being independent and strong doesn’t mean that they need to lose those inborn feminine traits all together, or teach each and every man in her life, how independent she is, but rather have the guts to protest against injustice and also handle problems in a logical manner.”
“The day she learns to handle the boy in a way where it doesn’t require others help, that girl will be truly strong. And the day, every man comes to assist two persons in the middle of an argument without putting forward stereotypical gender identities, men become truly independent. And the day both the gender doesn’t think that their act of helping each other requires recognition, both become truly strong and truly independent!”
I have always known my cousin as a good student, but that day my respect for her grew a bit more. Now, as far as these girls (whose CV I used as a reference,) are concerned, I feel it’s time to request them to have a broader prospect and accommodate that fact that with education, self-decision making capacity and ability to asses others, every Indian girl is strong, every Indian girl is independent.
It doesn’t require that your perception of strength and independence is correct and other’s perception is wrong. Hence, there is no need to mention what you are because your independence and strength is purely your personal perception that you don’t need to flaunt off. You might feel that it’s a trivial issue which need not be critically thought of, because in a CV, one can put forward whatever she thinks her personality is.
I do accept the fact that what goes inside the CV is perfectly your personal choice, but just imagine if boys start writing things like ‘I am a strong and independent man’ won’t that catch your attention. It would because there is a set notion that being a man, it is evident that he is independent. So, why are we trapped in a notion that women usually aren’t?