I’ve gone through life being confused about gender equality and women empowerment, often using the word interchangeably.
Until recently, I believed that empowering women would be the only way of achieving gender equality. I’ve come to realize I was wrong. Suppression of the womenfolk has made these terms synonymous but there is another side to the story which is often sidelined. Gender is something that should not be taken into consideration when it comes to rights, freedoms and opportunities, but unfortunately this is not the case. We constantly see discrimination, and participate in it ourselves, unknowingly.
Here forth I have taken the liberty of generalizing.
Generally, women in India are treated inferior to men, and face numerous challenges both from their families and the society. Problems range from something as small as not being able to wear the dress a woman likes because it is “too short” and attracts the wrong kind of attention, to almost inevitably being groped by disrespectful men in a crowded place, from not being able to study beyond a certain degree, to being married of to another family because “what will people say?”.
The question we have to ask ourselves here is, what gives men this idea that they can touch someone else intimately without their consent and get away with it? What makes families believe that after a certain age women are considered “un-marriageable”?
I believe it trickles down to the false sense of superiority that patriarchy awards the masculine gender. It all comes down to a sense of power, which in the Indian patriarchy lies with men.
Here I want to bring to light the flip side of the coin. Patriarchy, not only suppresses women, it also preys on men. The amount of pressure put on a man to be the “bread earner” is ridiculous. Until very recently, it was considered a man’s duty to maintain his parents after his marriage, a man had to dress a certain way and behave a certain way to be accepted by society.
This is where the concept of Gender Policing comes in, a concept which is very important for us in order to achieve clarity in understanding Gender Equality.
A lot of people think of gender policing as limiting the male and female gender to traditional gender roles, thus alienating the LGBT Community but I’d like to think of it as more. Gender policing is typically the imposition of traditional gender roles based on the perceived sex of the individual, where you see a woman is called a “dyke” or a “lesbian” for wearing her hair short and a man is called a “coward” for displaying emotions.
What I mean is, where for women (in India) it is fine to stay at home and play the role of the homemaker, a man who does the same is ostracized and frowned upon. What is this but the imposition of gender roles?
Thus I’d like to conclude by saying that gender equality is the OMISSION of gender completely from the equation! It is for all genders to be respected and be given the freedom that they deserve, which will ultimately result in a better world.
Arunima Dayanand is a student of Literature in English at Pandit Deendayal Petroleum University. She loves to read, write and hit the snooze button whenever she has the opportunity.
She loves cats. And dogs.
And when it rains cats and dogs.