On gender equalism

A few people raised objections to certain words in the last post (A nation of bitches), since they felt they were sexist in nature and they generally show women in poor light. I actually have been churning the thoughts about this post for a while, so I think now would be a good time to tell you what my thoughts on "feminism" are, and where I stand generally over the issue. It took me a rather long pause of mental churning to come up with this post - honestly it has helped me verbalize a lot of what I have personally believed in and acted upon for a long time. And oh, before you continue with the post (and might I warn you, I already know this is going to be a long post), please remember that this is just what I think and what my impressions are. I may be wrong, but I'd appreciate a healthy debate over a vituperous firestorm.

First of all, let me tell you what I understand of the word feminism. I believe it stands for not treating women as second class human beings.This includes respecting their opinion, acknowledging* their equal intellectual status, and also not taking advantage of the physical disparities between the genders to physically assault or otherwise intimidate women through the sheer advantage of physical force. This part I agree with, wholeheartedly. Somewhere down the line, however, I think we have moved into the mindset that it is only men who are capable of exploiting the difference between the sexes to cause hurt. And for some extreme radicals, I think it has also moved into a general hatred for men. I'd call this "militant feminism". And it is this second part that I disagree with. Because I don't think it's fair: it is a two-way street and there are examples of the worst of the kind on either side of the fence. Women can make life a living hell for men as well. And certainly more for someone who has trusted them and been emotionally vulnerable to them. But beyond pointing fingers, not everything a feminist (as I understand) would object to or point out as a symbol of male oppression is so in my book. However many personal proofs you might have had of men being pigs (and I too personally have), there are gentlemen in the world as well. And the biggest objection I have is to the word "feminism" itself - why only feminism? Why not gender equalism?
*[Update - I had used the phrase "giving them" here instead of the now rectified "recognizing their". My apologies to all who read the earlier version of this post - I meant acknowledging/recognizing. It cannot ever be given by men because it was never ours in the first place.]

And so we move into the politically incorrect statements: men and women are not equal, and I'm not even thinking of the physical differences here. I am talking about emotional and psychological differences that affect our behaviour all the time. Yes I do think that women approach any situation much differently than men do, they have a different perspective* and approach to a lot of things in life. They are more co-operative, socially responsible and more sensitive than men. Relationships, mutual bonding and civil connections matter a lot more to them. And they revel in the comfort of being surrounded by loved ones, sharing feelings and emotions.
*[Update - the phrase here was "(and for the lack of a better word) emotional"... which someone rightly pointed out to me was self-contradictory to the meaning and direction of the post. I can't find a word here that should fit the bill of what I want to say, but yes emotional is definitely not it.]

And this is where things start getting interesting - how does a relationship work, then, in the whole perspective? I think a woman needs to look up to her man, literally. Maybe its just the male ego talking, but the difference of heights does start the whole process of being "impressed", provided you are not a guy ogling at her breasts at the time. (And no, that is not a prerequisite). As a guy I'm looking to find someone I can care about and someone who makes me feel loved and wanted: someone to believe in me and trust me. It feels good as a man to have someone asking for my opinion about something, knowing that it will matter. So in the fairytale of romance, as a man, it does feel good to have been the one proposing and winning my bride over. As a man it does feel good to pleasantly surprise her time to time, or to do something brave (or perhaps equally headstrong) among my peers in front of her - it is tough to explain why a really stupid challenge becomes a do-or-die ego battle for us.* And this is nowhere degrading to the woman: I'd say, in fact, far from it. I believe women love to have "their man" do a lot of this stuff... taking charge, comforting them when they're down in a well for no apparent reason, bringing flowers or cards and chocolates. It reaffirms at every step that yes the man cares deeply enough to do these things, and the occasional assertive order from the guy tends to abstract the need to think and worry about things in life. It feels good to have someone else in charge telling you what exactly needs to be done to keep things going right, especially from someone you trust, doesn't it?
*[Update - there was a statement here that read "So yes the onus of proposing, taking charge of a relationship and generally taking a lot of decisions and guiding it anywhere does fall on the man - it rather comes naturally to us.". I don't think it is right, or at least does not convey what I mean to say here. I have modified the sentence now to read "So in the fairytale ... battle for us". And I have deliberately avoided saying that the man ought to be the one guiding a relationship - what I wrote earlier is wrong. Perhaps as a man just want to have my way from time to time, without imposing myself.]

Something else needs to be clarified, here, though: when does the assertive command become an imposition on your independence? I've seen it happen myself. My aunt was answering some question from a lot of us relatives visiting her place and her husband had also started talking at the same time. He turned towards her and uttered a sharp rebuke, "Why do you need to answer the question when I'm already speaking?". I saw her smile fade away instantaneously and the embarrassment evident on her face. I couldn't protest, being a kid in the midst of adults, but I think my mother or some other sister of hers had gone and talked to her about this. That is exactly where the matter of trust and endearing control takes a turn for the vulgar. Love should stop being trusted as love when it becomes a manner of manipulative and subjugative control.

How about chivalry, then? Doesn't that go against the tenet of gender equalism, judging by the fact that holding open a door is precipitated by neither physical incapability of women or the concept of man-in-charge? Simply put, it is an act of love; or rather a token of love and respect even for a lady I do not know at a random bookstore. Again, this isn't degrading in any manner: it simply feels good to be doing this for her. The simple smile or the genuine thank you makes it worth doing this gesture. Part of it might be a social norm or a custom from the Victorian era (holding a door open, seriously?), but part of it is also good manners. So yes, gentlemen, please hold open the door for the lady, and let her get into the car first, and close the door after her. And ladies, no, it is by no means an attempt to show you as weaklings - it is just what it is - holding open a door to make one less thing for you to do in the whole of your long day of little invisible chores that keep the rest of us sane.

A word about common vocabulary here would be befitting, I suppose. Some words simply propagate stereotypes, I agree. So Richa, while I could not think of a better word than "effeminate" in the last post, and although I explained myself as such, in hindsight I think I put a tacit nod to the concept of women being defenseless weaklings by just using that term there. Yes, if no other word fit the sentence, I should probably have chosen a different sentence. Each joke , for that matter, going around your email forwards about guys or girls is eventually reinforcing or making us laugh at a stereotype. And I do genuinely laugh at them: after reading them you realize that yes indeed these are true, and yes one can accept the difference and share a joke about this without taking insult. I knew a girl once who we used to call by her pet name. When I met her as an adult once and addressed her such, she almost growled in reply asking me to utter her full name, adding later on that men have reduced women to mere objects by not even uttering their full names. See, that is where you are on the other side of the line dividing the good and the bad of feminism in my understanding, and I certainly wish to walk the plank carefully. Having said that, yes, some terms are offensive in what they base the implication on, whether it be 'effeminate' or 'manly woman'.

And finally, what of surname changes and staying home, quitting your job and stuff like that just because you got married? Let me talk of the second one first. whoever is married to me will never hear from me, "There is no need to keep doing your office job now... quit it and take care of the kids at home". See, the point of freedom and gender equalism is just this: for the person to take a decision like this by herself, and do what she wishes to do with both our best interests in mind. My mother has been a working mother for all of my life, and that hasn't affected the way me or my siblings have grown up in any way. I'm in fact proud to call her the super-mom, the one who showed us that it is indeed possible to pull off such a daunting task so magnificently. I'd rather encourage my wife to continue with her studies, continue her job, or stay at home... whichever suits her best. And if she chooses the last option, I would know that it is a huge sacrifice, and an act of love. And what about the surname change? I'm not a stickler for it, but it would make me feel very happy to see an invitation card to someone else's wedding or family ceremony that comes addressed to "Mr. and Mrs. Chatterjee". It would make me feel like I have a family, and that she is a part of it, she belongs there. Never a prerequisite, but always welcome.

To conclude, then, the reasons I dislike the term "feminism" and do not consider myself a feminist, per se, is the fact that I don't agree with everything what I think I am supposed to agree with when I sign up for the camp. Mr Muthalik asking women to not to go a pub because it would spoil Indian culture? Fuck you! Mr. Sarkozy banning the burkha from public places in France? Again, stupid and oppressive. Let one decide for herself whether she should go to a pub or not, wear her burkha or not, stay at home or not, or for that matter marry or not. Let the man do what he considers good without imposing himself and his opinion on the woman, and let the woman do her own version of good by simply caring for someone she loves, in whatever way she deems fit. Let there be equality of the genders.

Comments

  1. We always forget that any "ism" becomes political ultimately.

    To me the whole issue of Equality is all about the mindset of people. When the mind fails to accept equality, no amount of political correctness will work or even begin to have a positive effect. Rather we will see more and more inequality as a result. The more you try and enforce equality the bigger the danger of discrimination. Communism is a great example of enforced equality gone wrong.

    The only hope is to open our eyes to a spiritual wisdom that makes people think in a mature and understanding manner naturally, rather than having to enforce rules against them.

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  2. Somehow, I don't entirely agree with your understanding of feminism or gender equalism - whatever it is!
    Though the post was full of fascinating insights into man-woman relationship, a few of them bluntly preached a lot of flawed gender stereotypes

    - "Yes I do think that women approach any situation much differently than men do, they have a different (and for the lack of a better word) emotional approach to a lot of things in life." Emotional approach - is it? Well, here, the use of the word 'emotional' definitely sounds as something in sharp opposition to the thought that women do also have a 'rational' approach towards things! ('Rationality' is not just men's prerogative, simply as men are also emotional being but ya, they can't be as expressive as women mainly because of the social pressure to conform to the gender stereotypes). If you are a gender equalist in true sense of the term, your selection of the expression 'emotional approach' can't anyhow be justified here, as your use of the word 'effeminate' in your last post couldn't also be rationalized by 'lack of a better word'!

    - "I think a woman needs to look up to her man, literally." : If a woman looks up to her man, at the same time she also expects that - apart from just taking ‘sane’ decisions, her man would also help her play an equally significant role in the decision-making process!

    - Your thoughts about chivalry and men holding open the door for women : Well, both men and women, however strong they are as individuals, like to feel that they are being taken care of! Now, where do they derive this sense of care from, might differ in men and women! If the source of this feeling for a woman can be - a man holding the door open for her, for a man this source can be - his lady asking for his opinion in every matters of life! So, it isn't women alone, but both men n women who need these trivial yet vital expressions of love and care!

    There are thousands of examples where women are more chivalrous than men! (The fact that each and every woman on earth LIVE with the society-imposed 'threat of rape' is in itself enough chivalrous.)

    - The ‘surname change’ issue: Well, there’s no doubt that it sounds like ‘a family’ if the husband and the wife share a common surname and I don’t see any point in them using different surnames. Now, why women should adopt her husband’s surname instead of convincing her hubby to take up her’s, is because - women don’t want to protest against patriarchal norms just for the sake of doing it but rather, women know that there are larger (than a mere surname) issues of equality on earth that they need to struggle for! But on the whole, I don’t agree with the concept of ‘surnames’ at all! There’s no need of using any surname for anybody (neither man nor woman or the ‘third gendered person’ need to use it) since ‘surname’ represents – your religion (but we say that we are ‘SECULAR’ don’t we?), - your caste (we oppose casteism – don’t we?), - if not your hubby’s but at least your daddy’s family name – not your mom’s (but we say that we are 'gender-equalists' – don’t we?). A first name is required for the basic identification of an individual but the surname is an unnecessary annexure! And now, without having a surname, if you are utterly confused that you belong to which family… ‘hahahahahaha’ at you! :D

    Just FYI, post-modern and post-structural feminisms try venturing beyond the mere barriers of any ‘ism’s!

    Long post - long comment!! ;)

    -Your Fellow Gender-Equalist.

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  3. First, grammar. The word "vituperous" did not turn up any results on dictionary.com. I found "Vituperrious", though. (I did not know the meaning, so had to look it up. :-) )
    Also, the sentence, "But beyond pointing fingers, not everything a feminist (as I understand) would object to or point out as a symbol of male oppression isn't so in my book." should read "...not everything a feminist (as I understand) would object to or point out as a symbol of male oppression is so in my book."

    Now, "feminism", according to www.dictionary.reference.com, means "the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men."

    I noticed the word "doctrine" here. So I looked up the website again and found "doctrine: a particular principle, position, or policy taught or advocated, as of a religion or government".

    Policy, religion, government... I cannot help but agree with Hari.... any "ism" is does become political. Feminism definitely does.

    If you believe that "it stands for not treating women as second class human beings", then you smack of the thought that it is up to men not to treat women as such. If that, according to you, includes "giving them equal intellectual status", then I disagree. There is nothing to "give" to them. If so far women have not been included in the more important decision makings of society, that is because of combined factors of ignorance on the part of women, a patriarchal society and masculine tendency to dominate. If now, women in India and other countries are more active, independent and whatnot, that is because they have decided to take what is theirs by right. Not because men are giving it to them. There has been a paradigm shift, perspectives have changed, an awakening has taken effect. That is what Swami Vivekananda said would happen. It was only a matter of time.

    So yes, it's good to think the good thoughts, giving them equal status in all things and all, but only part of it is good in effect. The rest of it goes into making the masculine ego feel better. Which, I admit, is an essential requirement, too, if we are to have a gender-equal society.

    Oh, and, your post, it seems to me, is on "Feminism", and what you think about it. It's not on gender equalism.... you have not suggested any measures on achieveing gender equalism,as Mr (or is that Ms/Mrs?) Anonymous
    has in that beautiful comment.


    Anonymous, wow. That is one of the best comments I have ever read on a blog! Do you have a blog of your own? Please guide us there! If you don't, open one and then guide us there! :-)

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  5. Thought provoking post Sudipta as you must have guessed by responses you have gotten so far. And like all the commentators above, I am also uncomfortable with few points you made here:

    -You said: "It feels good as a man to have someone asking for my opinion about something, knowing that it will matter. So yes the onus of proposing, taking charge of a relationship and generally taking a lot of decisions and guiding it anywhere does fall on the man - it rather comes naturally to us."

    I can tell you that as a woman it feels good if someone asks for my opinion about something, knowing that it will matter. This statement negates your discussion of gender-equality completely. And then you say that onus of decision-making and taking initiative comes naturally to man, which very bluntly implies that woman can't be as good a manager as a man. I am sure you didn't mean that.

    If you want to talk about gender-equality then stop treating woman like a woman, but treat them as an individual with their own strengths and weaknesses just like you are an individual with your own strengths and weaknesses. Let's not categorize anything as man or woman "qualities" then. Relationship works because you, as an individual, is compatible with other individual, and not because you as a man guides the relationship and the woman follows it. That's not gender-equality.

    - You said: "It feels good to have someone else in charge telling you what exactly needs to be done to keep things going right, especially from someone you trust, doesn't it?"

    Will it feel good if you are on the other side? That is, if someone else is making the "right" decision for you? Will you like it? I am sure as an adult you will resent it too. I know there are a lot of woman who are raised that way, and hence, like someone else to make their decision. But then, they haven't been allowed to develop as an individual by their families and the society. How can you expect an "equal" relationship with them anyway?

    - Chivalry: I consider chivalry as part of "good manners". Or may be I am simply hypocritical when it comes to chivalry but I do expect man to hold the doors open for me. It simply shows good grooming and am usually impressed by it..

    - Effeminate: I agree and hence I made the comment on your last post. I am glad you thought about it.. :)

    - Staying home and quitting job: Again I agree completely. It must be her decision as she is the one who would need to fulfill the obligations required of her at home and at work..

    - As for surname, you said: "but it would make me feel very happy to see an invitation card to someone else's wedding or family ceremony that comes addressed to "Mr. and Mrs. Chatterjee". It would make me feel like I have a family, and that she is a part of it, she belongs there."

    I agree that you would feel like a part of family, but then why not change your surname to hers? At least, offer to do so. What happened to so called "Gender-equality" here? :)

    - Let there be equality of genders: Females in almost all the societies are the ones who are expected to make sacrifices. So when you talk about equality of genders, you inadvertently talk about feminism. Or do you really want to give more rights and power to male gender in this patriarchal society?

    I know commentators before me have made similar points but somehow I needed to put these in my words...

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  6. Hari, very important and relevant point, I'd say... something I hadn't thought about in the context. Yes ideally I wouldn't want any of these ism-s to exist and rather have the singular human moral judegment at each step decide what is the right action. But we're not there, and the 'ism'-s in whatever form try to collectively identify a mindset that can be the basis of a common ground for like-minded people.

    Anonymous, well first of all thank you for posting the comment rfom the email you had sent to me. Lets look at the things one by one:

    About the word 'emotional' in trying to describe the approach commonly attributed to women, yes I agree it has negative connotations and isn't appropriate, especially in a post preaching gender equalism. It has since been rectified. You also mentioned during our discussion that the word 'humanist' would perhaps be a better fit. I think it sort of fits the bill, but since I don't have a clear definition of the word I'd steer clear of that one. But yes... it will be perhaps the most apt word I know till now that tells exactly what I wish to convey in that sentence.

    Oh yes of course I expect a man in any relationship to consider his partner's opinion with full gravity and attention. In my home, however much I might look up to my dad, if I have something relevant and important to say in a matter, my opinion is heeded and debated about as an equal.

    About chivalry, the word typically is ascribed to the conduct expected of gentlemen, having its origins from the medieval knights (yup, I checked the dictionary :) ). About the way you interpret chivalry in this context: yes of course women are more socially responsible in general and so a lot of things you do in everyday life can be counted as chivalry. Whether women are more chivalrous than men is off topic, I'd say, since the point of the post is not to point fingers or to keep scores. Trivial expressions of love and care? Yes, we need those, every one of us! But whether one is "expected" to hold open a door and therefore does it to save face or one does it out of his/her own volition is what makes the difference. And about your last point regarding living with the 'threat of rape' daily as proof of chivalry, I'd debate that, since I do not see a connection.

    The surname change - this one literally is one of the best new ideas to be posted on my blog in the comment space. Yes, I hadn't thought about it this way or the basic redundance of the surname itself.

    Post-modern feminism... well, some other day some other discussion, perhaps. Long post, long comment - yes of course that is the purpose of a post like this! To know your thoughts and match them up against mine! Welcome to the blog, btw :)

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  7. Arunava, I'm making a first-time exception on the blog by almost replying to each comment separately... hope you don't mind. :)

    About the grammar: actually the word 'vituperation' exists... look up its meaning and you'll get what I meant. Damn the English language... vituperous should be a word! "Is" and "isn't" - well it is "is" now. :) Thank you for the corrections!

    Any doctrine of "ism"-s is indeed a stepping stone into the mire of political battle pools (like I've mentioned in my reply to Hari above). But I'd rather have an "ism" in the world and subscribe to or debate about it rather than leave everything to human judgement. Yes so say someone who fights a poll election puts forward feminism (or for the sake of the debate, gender equalism) as one of the first priorities and something he/she follows as an ideal. Lets ride that horse for a while then! Lets see what good comes out of it! I don't wish to say anywhere that it isn't good: but yes power will corrupt eventually. Maybe today, maybe tomorrow, but in the world we live in there will be an ism for a long long time to come, and we might as well have our red and green flags ready for those.

    About the word "giving" - thank you for pointing that out! I unfortunately have gone against one of the principles I hold dear: that you cannot give anyone any right in an equal social space: it is and has always been theirs! The fact that a group has tried its best to deny another of the same is a different matter, and yes it needs to be fought. I'm actually unhappy with myself for letting that slip through my pen: will correct it pronto.

    The post has slipped into debating my understanding of feminism, you're correct, and less of gender equalism. But I'd rather let the title be thus, instead of calling it feminism. Like I mentioned in the post itself, why just feminism?

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  8. Richa, yes your comments are always welcome. So yes, the first statement you point out to is wrong, I agree, and not what I meant to say. I meant letting someone tell you all the time what you should be doing is not a healthy relationship. This includes hen-picked husbands and their fire-breathing wives, as well as dominating control freak husbands and the wife who has to live in fear of him. Yes respecting the individual and not treating them like a second class human being: that is the core of my view on gender equality. It is wrong to say that it is just the man guiding the relationship: but yes my male ego likes to believe that I have a big say in it. I'll rectify that part of the post.

    However, I disagree with is about there being no man-like or womanly qualities. There are, every inch of the way! Its not a mutually exclusive domain where each quality must absolutely belong to a man or to a woman, but excessive manifestation of any of them in anyone tends to highlight what is missing. So, why not have an example of what I am talking about here? Think preferences of colors or perspectives about what qualifies as a good dress for a person. Think shyness or blunt testosterone. Think motherly attitudes and care and plain callousness and irresponsibility in the name of being cool. We are not psychologically the same, and certain qualities that we possess form the basis of why we qualify for certain roles better than others. Again, I am not saying that a man cannot take care of an infant the same way her mother can: I am saying that some mental traits give women an advantage over men for a few tasks, and vice versa.

    About someone taking a decision for you.. sometimes it is good, yes! At home, I've had my mother decide for me what socks to wear to school one day, or my father telling me to come home by 8:00 pm. I trusted their decisions and rulings completely, and I would still do something "just because my mother asked me to". That is reason enough for me. Of course, I do not sacrifice my own judgement for this. Given a set of choices, the one I pick will be affected by someone I trust. So yes, whether my new car should look red or black: my wife's or girlfriend's opinion will matter to me. Whether to spend a vacation in California or travel to Florida, yes her opinion will matter. And I will ask for an opinion every now and then: I don't want an echo box for a wife... I want a mature individual whose words carry enough weight for me. I will resent it as soon as it becomes an imposition, or as soon as it goes against my own judgement of right and wrong.

    Chivalry: no you're not hypocritical... that is what I have been trying to explain in the post. That gender equalism and chivalry are not opposed to one another as ideas. Perhaps some definition of "feminism" is, and that is what I'm trying to steer clear of here. Glad to see in some parts of your comment that we agree as well :)

    The surname change: I cannot answer it any better than the comment posted by Anonymous up above.

    Some parts of the post are biased, I know, since that is the male ego talking. I cannot justify anything in the name of the ego, but I simply wish to state what I find easier to believe in and act upon. Putting more power in the hands of men and reversing the wheels of time? Are you mad? Nope, definitely not something I want. And I'll add to this. I would say that the change of attitude and tolerance is seeping in. I perhaps represent a fading generation of men where the beliefs are changing but some remnants of the patriarchical view remain over the intellectual acceptance of gender equality. Maybe my children will be able to work on these principles better, since I know for a fact that my views on this don't always agree with what my dad thinks.

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  9. Sudipta, the biggest problem with any "ism" in my opinion, is that you get fixed to a collective group of ideas without being able to discriminate some of the ideas from the others and reject or accept them on their own merits. Ideas become over-simplified and lose their granularity (if you can get my meaning). Every unrelated issue tends to be viewed with respect to the base doctrine without proper perspective.

    Therefore people who accept any -ism tend to become fixed and rigid in their acceptance or rejection of anything outside of that doctrine. That is giving up your individual discrimination and becoming a part of the collective sheep-like attitude.

    I understand that society needs to debate a lot of issues. But issues tend to get clumped into -isms and then the debate becomes rather more meaningless as too many unrelated issues get lumped together and discussed as though they are interconnected.

    To me, equalism itself, as you have written has no meaning without a very specific context. What is the context of the gender equalism? Social, political, corporate, familial or public? Within social context, is it in the workplace, home, public space etc? Within the political sphere, what level are we looking at? Within the family sphere, there are several layers of relationships we need to look into: e.g. woman as a mother, as a wife, as a daughter, daughter in law etc. The sheer enormity of the issues boggles the mind.

    Every issue needs to be focussed before we start general debates, because general debates tend to go around in circles.

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  10. I would like to answer some of the questions put forth by Hari in his last comment.

    Gender-equalism, as I understand it, spans a host of contexts. Then there are some contexts where it does not apply.

    In the social context, it would mean not denying a woman the right to do some work because the
    men and some women think it's not a woman's job. Indeed, socially, it would mean letting go of
    the very notion of "a woman's job" or "a man's job". It would mean a man accepting as easily the role of a weakling in some teamwork which involves physical effort, if his female team-member does it better, as it is the other way around today. It would also mean not allowing a young woman standing last in a 25-strong queue oustide an ATM office to have it easy and enter the ATM cube after having waited just 10 minutes. But would that mean abolishing the Ladies' counter at railway stations in India? No, because due to "the physical disparity among men and women", as Sudipta rightly points out, they wouldn't be able to withstand the pushes-and-shoves of a men's queue. You cannot discount the differences of physical and rational/emotional capabilities nature has made between the two sexes. Gender equalism would strive to account for them while being just to both men and women. It would mean not looking at a single girl frolicking amongst a group of boys as a whore. It would mean the legal courts and law itself not looking at the female spouse in a case of divorce or child custody favourably by default. It would mean striving towards a society where a woman can walk down a deserted street at night as free from the fear of rape as a man can, and with as much fear of being robbed of her valuables as a man can. (Am I not contradicting myself here? If a woman is fearful of being robbed of her valuables, she would be fearful of being raped first, wouldn't she? Well yes, but what I wrote is what gender equalism would ideally aspire to. And that is
    where it crosses the realm of "granularity" it goes into the domain of the disputed "ism". But better an ideal to strive for than a supposedly non-realistic situation which, for that reason, does not merit an effort to achieve it, isn't it? Maybe, therefore, the "ism"s do serve a purpose.)

    I think gender-equalism would not apply at all in a political context. Don't be outraged, let me explain. Politics, like education, should always be determined by merit, not by gender, caste and sex. That we need a healthy dose of both masculine and feminine perspectives in the decisions of a government is true, but that cannot be done by reserving 50% of the seats for men, and the other 50% for women. If the social ideals of both sexes having an equal say in all matters insofar as they can have an equal say and both sexes respecting and giving weight to the opinion of the other is achieved, we will automatically have a balance of opinions and leaders coming from all
    genders. There is nothing political about that. In a gender-equal society, even a eunuch could
    become prime minister if the third-gendered individual were capable enough. But that again, would be the extremity of the "ism". Hence, the "ism".

    In the corporate/workplace context, gender equalism would strive to erode the notion of "she's my boss, so what, I know better than she", as also that of "women make better managers". However, if scientific evidence suggests that women indeed do make better managers, then gender equalism would accept that as true, in the same way as I accept as true the scientifically verified fact that sleeping with your head pointing northward affects your brain capacity due to the earth's polar effect
    interfering with your brain's convolutions.

    In the familial context, I think Sudipta has described the application of gender equalism in a family best in his post.

    I hope this goes some way in focusing the issue in different contexts. Of course, there are a host of other contexts to which gender equalism applies, which, I'm sure this continuing discussion will throw up.

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  11. I so love to argue, discuss, quarrel et al over this particular topic. So first of all I would like to thank you whole-heartedly for giving me a valid reason to bring up (once again) discussions of male-female tiffs with people I love to argue with. Of course, by saying this I do not mean to undermine the seriousness of this issue or this post in any way.

    But to get to some graver points..

    First of all you said that you disagree with the fact that it is only men who exploit the differences between the sexes. I absolutely agree with you. Men are dominated by women in a lot of cases. Though this happens more in married or committed couples and less in widespread public cases.
    But there is one more side to this. The differences between the sexes are exploited to a great extent by women themselves. Grand-mothers preferring grand-sons to grand-daughters are not at all unheard of. I personally know a lady who kept aside a substantial portion of the Sunday mutton-lunch for her grand-son to have at night too, while his younger cousin sister ate beside him at the same table without the extra addition. Even today we find mothers who send boys to school and girls to the kitchen to learn to cook for her future in-laws.

    About chivalry, I think that it is unnecessary to think of it a man-woman thing. I like it when a particular person opens the door for me. It makes me feel special and cared for. I also know that that is the only reason behind doing it. In fact I have seen many men give up seats for older people. There is no reason why that cannot be construed as chivalrous.

    But I would like to differ on the ground of leaving the job. You say you will not lay down any rule. Thats fine. Many others will take the same decision. Yet when we talk about gender equalism, the scenario changes a bit. You talk about leaving the decision to continue or leave the job to the woman who will have to do it. But do you consider the other option? Equalism will set in when we discuss the pros and cons of either partner leaving the job and then taking the best decision. But in reality the option to do or not do the job is given only to the woman. But if we start looking at it like that then happy families might be difficult to maintain, or maybe even come by.

    There are certain issues of which too much of a fuss is made. The problem, I think starts at a much more basic level.
    An uncle telling my mother that twenty-seven is decrepit and that I should be made to marry latest by twenty-four is male domination. My mother very strictly saying that it is not wise to be married before being independent is a protest at the very root.

    I had a "friend" in college. He was into making comments full of sexual innuendo at all his female friends. It did not take me long to realize that he got a kick out of the girls typically giggling in an embarrassed manner and saying "Tui na....dhut". So I started paying him back in his own coin, more often than not adding a penny or a pound more. He stopped doing it to me soon enough. But continued with my friends, who complained amongst themselves and said "ebabba lok-e ki bhabbe" whenever I asked them to answer back.
    So it depends a lot on how much you allow yourself to be put down. A person who does not protest against her own insult fearing the reaction of the society, is probably better of enduring a bit more of the degradation.

    Having said all these, I must say that even though I am all for female independence and progression, but I truly believe that if we start to divide every single aspect of life absolutely equally between a man and a woman , then peaceful co-existence would be very difficult to achieve.

    And Arunava, "The rest of it goes into making the masculine ego feel better. Which, I admit, is an essential requirement, too, if we are to have a gender-equal society." --- do you truly believe that a gender-equal society can be achieved only after the masculine ego has been stroked enough to make him feel extremely charitable and giving? :).

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  12. Sudipta, it's really big of you to accept that your ego drove you at some points, it simply shows that you are ready to learn and grow. You don't cling to the egoistic issues which is more important!

    I understand that people like to think about male and female qualities and emotions. However I don't necessarily agree with them. I believe we all are individuals and hence it's hard to generalize things like that. I know boys who are more emotional than me (honestly I am usually told to be "too much rational" by the guys) and girls who are tougher than boys (they play rugby). That's why I like the concept of andorgyny. No gender bias. But I love my dresses too much to be one! :)

    I guess I am too stubborn and independent to allow someone to take decision fo rme. It may be also due to my upbringing. My dad refused to take any decision for me and supported whatever decisions I made no matter how unorthodox they were. My life, my choices, my responsibilty and my consequences. :)

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  13. I would like to address one of the issues raised here by Ahona, the rest can entirely be answered by ‘people’ she ‘loves to argue with’! :)

    Grand moms preferring grandsons to granddaughters or the typical saas-bahu saga (the clash between mom-in-laws n daughter-in-laws):
    - Well, the concept that ‘women are women’s enemy’ is perhaps, one of the first fallacious notions that the age-old patriarchal society succeeded to indoctrinate us into! And the fact that ‘educated’ women like us often start believing in this notion (and thus, often unknowingly, fall into the patriarchal trap), is the most blatant evident to - how the society is still undaunted in its endeavor to intoxicate us with its patriarchal values, perhaps, in a more subtle manner than before! So, you might have met or experienced women who discriminate against women for their sexuality, but, rather than calling them ‘women’, let’s call them (including the college girls who couldn’t ‘pay him back in his own coin’), the ‘MALE-GAZED women' (women who have been conditioned to look through men’s eyes). If we really want to help women of the world to come out of this ‘male-gaze’ and once again unite with the spirit of ‘sisterhood’, let’s first start from within! If you see any woman who hates another woman (for her sexuality alone), let’s first empathize with her, sympathize her, realize the extent to which the ‘male-society’ has vitiated women’s values and then address the situation accordingly! Trust me, this would help.

    Again, economic independence (whether the woman is working in the organized sector or not; the weightage of her payslip) and even formal education (degrees) can help women to become self-dependent only to a certain extent! But to breakthrough the patriarchal wall (that has been built brick by brick, over the ages), what we need the most is ‘psychological emancipation’! I have personally experienced a woman of great intellectual caliber and one of the most well-known academicians of Gender Studies (ironical, isn’t it?), who was an extremely gender-biased person when it came to her personal beliefs! Her personal life reflected just the opposite of whatever she has been delivering in her international conferences and received applauds for. Whereas, I have also experienced a great spirit of ‘feminism’ (in the true sense of the term) in my grandmom, who couldn’t even finish her college and remained a home-maker throughout her life, bringing up her eight children! But we cannot even blame the great academician, since, now we know that she was also a mere victim of ‘male-gaze’, which, unlike most other patriarchal oppressions, is often invisible and hence, more dangerous in nature.

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  14. @ Anonymous,

    I absolutely agree that "women are women's enemy" is a fallacious notion. I believe that it is an individual who goes about causing difficulties for another individual, be it male or female. There is no gender issue involved

    there. And I also think that the clash between mother-in-law and daughters-in-law are somewhat doctored and very distasteful as well. My comment was not from that that point of view either.
    Your concept of the MALE-GAZED woman is something to think about. Yes, I agree that for people of the older generation this comes from being made to think along the lines of a patriarchal society; but again not for all of them, as you yourself said stating the example of your grandmom.
    But I don't think that a college students not protesting can be put down to her male-gazed attitude. These are the same women who talk about independence and freedom and making their views heard, but when they have to come out and take an active step, they start thinking about the "rightness" of answering back. They are very vocal about the injustice done to them in absense of that one particular person who did it. But they clam up when he comes into picture.

    Again, economic and educational independence are not always the only things which influence a persons view-point. How else do you justify a poor, uneducated, village girl calling of her marriage on D-day to protest against dowry while an educated, inedependent, big-city girl stands aside and lets her parents scramble money together to meet the unjustified demands of the boy and his family.

    But I really don't think that the international conference giving individual is a victim of the male-gaze. It is more a case of double standards. Like Hari said in the first comment, equalism cannot be achieved unless it comes from the mind. And this lady has had opportunities much more than an average individual to free her mind. But if male-gazedness and hypocrisy is ingrained in her, then no-one can shove equalism down her throat.

    All said and done, I really appreciate the way you have taken the effort to express your views on my comments. :)

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  15. Hari, I think Arunava answered the question better than I could have. Personally, on my part, I agree - I don't wish to sign up for any camp completely, since I wouldn't agree with all. This actually goes for a lot of things, including my belief in the words of Swami Vivekananda. There are a quaint few places where my views differ from his, but I still swear by his words and ideals for almost anything.

    Arunava, what can I say... well said! :)

    Ahona, giving someone a chance to argue, debate and quarrel over a topic that I raised? Ahh, always a pleasure! :)

    About the rest of the discussion you've had with Anonymous here, I think we all fundamentally agree on what should be the ideal case but we're arguing semantics here or rather the specifics of what is the right course of action given a situation. I appreciate the discussion going on, but I don't have much new to add to it right now. Oh btw, I don't completely agree with both of you either, but hey, its democracy! :)

    Richa, yeah but a little helping hand here and there is quite acceptable for me, especially if I solicit advice. About me being great and glorified for accepting my ego exists... heh, I always knew that! Also, this does not necessarily mean that the ego will not come into effect at certain times... "Perhaps as a man just want to have my way from time to time, without imposing myself" (from the modified post above). It's just me being me: part of the package.

    Anonymous, the "male gaze" concept, as I understand, refers to the step just before ogling, although the boundaries are blurred. You seem to mean the viewpoint that a biased male will have towards most gender issues by the phrase; which is okay, again, since I do not wish to fight over semantics (insert quote involving rose and Shakespeare here). :) But yes, of course, I agree and disagree with you in certain viewpoints... god bless democracy!

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  16. A very pertinent issue in today's world! My applause to Sudipta and all the commentators for a very balanced discussion on this otherwise inflammatory topic.

    Some of the points raised here are very thorny. For example the issue of changing surname or of staying at home to tend for the kids. Yes, seen in a purely rational light, equality exists only when the expectation is same for both sides. When the male is equally responsible to change surname or to stay at home.

    However I fear that in this case using pure logic takes us out of the context of our society and at some level sounds 'unreasonable'. What we consider as acceptable and reasonable, are ingrained in us from childhood. Every stay at home mom we see, every family with common surname, every romantic feel good movie or novel, at every step of our life we are given an idea of gender roles. Fortunately or unfortunately all these ideals are embedded in us at a very deep subconscious level, irrespective of gender. However much we raise a hue a cry about such issues, at the end of the day when we have to practice, it is very difficult to get out of the norm (ties to the - college girls not acting on the insults - comment by Ahona).

    That said, such things can definitely change with time. Here we are taking about time in terms of generations, not years. And these seemingly fringe ideas of one generation (like having no surnames) can become the norm of another. So having ideas that seem 'unreasonable' for our generation has their utility. However don't expect to see a great change within your own lifetime. Maybe your granddaughter will one day thank you for the voice that you raise. Expecting pure gender-equality as dictated by logic and disregarding the societal context of the time will only lead in dissapointment and frustration.

    I praise the original poster in being able to honestly put forth what he believes in. While many of us might say that we think stay at home dads are as (un)natural as stay at home mom's, how many of us would feel that way when we are actually in that situation? (includes all the ladies here :-) I feel being fully aware of one's feeling about these issues is being conscious of one's subconscious tendencies, which very few people can manage. (The last sentence can sound as oxymoron to many!)

    My own views about feminism? Now you started me thinking! Maybe I'll write up a post myself :-) All I would say now is that I agree almost entirely with the original post. My only caveat is illustrated by this made up example:

    We take the population of two cities, say Seattle and Austin. People from Seattle are expected to own umbrellas whereas the people from Austin are expected to own sun-screens. So far so good. Suppose we pair up people with one person from each city. If we assert that pairs are successful only if the Seattleite brings an umbrella and the Austinite brings a sun-screen, how many 'unsuccessful' pairs do you think we will have? Rather if you measure the success based on how well the pair can endure rain as well as sunshine, then the picture might look very different. Point being - just because a population behaves in a certain way in aggregate, does not mean we have that same expectation from each individual, specially when all things considered, it might not be that important.

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  17. Silcador, welcome onboard, first of all! :) And for all the praises, applauds etc. - I accept them wholeheartedly.

    You raise a pertinent point, actually, that logic alone cannot (and does not) dictate what practical decisions we make. I like your example of the Austin-ite and the Seattle-ite pairing up, but it depends on where they finally settle, doesn't it? The smart couple will adapt, even if they're posted in say Ohio where well, things are different.

    Will look forward to your own post on the topic.

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  18. Arunava,
    Thanks for appreciating my reflection on this article (in my first comment here). Sorry, I don’t have a blog of my own; though I went through your blog and its really very impressive. Keep it up! :)

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