Word count: 1237 | Estimated time to read entry: 12 min
A few days ago, I was quite irked to notice the status message of one of my acquaintances over GTalk which went something like: “Women have to achieve twice as much as men to be considered capable. Thankfully, this is not very difficult.” Needless to say, the avower of such a message was a woman. (Thankfully, this is not very difficult to guess 😉 )
Even before I upturn a bottle of vinegar on the rest of this entry, let me inform the reader that I strongly detest debates on topics like – ‘women are better than men’ or ‘boys are less/more intelligent than girls’ etc. It is not that I don’t have any opinions on such topics nor am I overly enthusiastic to exhibit diplomacy and please both sides but purely because of the haplessness of such discussions. I am certainly not neutral; I just have a third opinion outside of the two that are being argued upon and hence this entry.
I came in contact with a few Women’s Rights Activists when I was a freelance features writer for The New Indian Express while working on an article that criticized some of the popular soaps being aired on TV. During this, I noticed that the WRAs not only waged a war for all of woman-kind’s rights but an alternate war over women who wore lipstick and skimpy clothes, on screen or otherwise, thereby stereotyping women. And in this battle they wanted ‘my help!’ in spreading the message. This notion of a warring faction internally at war with itself by seeking the help of one of the members of its ‘arch enemy’ didn’t make much sense to me. (And the very thought of women in lipstick and skimpy clothes disarms me, so what the hell do I wage a war with against them! 😛 )
When I joined TAPMI, there were a few outspoken ‘Women are Superior’ types in the class. During the debate sessions, I made a mental note of the most vociferous few who relentlessly argued on the topic, punctuating their opinions with a Indra Nooyi here and a Condoleezza Rice there. A few days later, we all had to take a bus on our way to the beach (for TAPMIans – QOTB) and as I had expected, these vociferous few were the ones who requested some of the guys to stand up to give them a seat! The arguments were left behind in the class and when it was time to display ‘equality’ by rubbing shoulders with us and bearing the rough ride of the journey by standing all the way, they chose to take the easy way out. One of the vociferous few asked me where my chivalry had gone, expecting me to offer her my seat. Instead, I pointed out that I was an ally of hers in her battle for equality; she has never spoken to me ever since but continues to be equally vociferous on the topic.
Another fallout of this battle is its effect on the English language. Writers like me have to be over-cautious to avoid the trap of ‘sexist language’ and make provisions for both sexes while citing opinions applicable to all of mankind humankind. (S)He has to take extreme precautions to avoid hurting the sentiments of her/his readers. This, combined with the fact that 90% of the editors of publications I have worked for have been women, makes it a lethal combination. One inadvertent male pronoun is enough to spill a gallon of edit ink on the write-up; two such and the groundnut seller’s stock of packing paper immediately increases.
But in my not-so-humble opinion, the very usage of such words denotes a sexist mindset. The deliberate reference to either sex by splitting the pronoun with a slash indicates that the writer discriminates between the two sexes and that very act, by definition, is sexist! A writer who has used a harmlessly generic ‘him’ might have the benign intention of involving every human being on earth but by mandating a split pronoun, a notion of sexism is actually forced. So with a lofty motive to actually end sexist language, it was in fact created. Very similar to the warring faction at war with itself and the vociferous few who turn tail when it comes to implementing the examples of their own classroom rhetoric, this is yet another self-contradicting aftermath of the ‘battle for equality’.
Anyone who doesn’t conform to the tenets of ‘Women are Equal’ movement is labeled MCP – Male Chauvinistic Pigs, by its confused followers. Here is one such reference on this blog targeted at me 😉 Such a reference reminds me of the movie ‘Taal’ in which Anil Kapoor proclaims in malicious glee, “Agar khud ko uncha dikhana hai, to doosron ko neecha dikhao…cut him down!” (Translation: If you want to show yourself as superior, show that others are inferior). If men appear as ‘excessively self-loving and greedy’ stereotypes to women, why can’t it be accepted and taken at face value? After all, men too stereotype women as ‘excessively conceited and forever nagging’ but none have so far coined a term, let’s say, FCB – Female Conceited Bitc**s, have we? 😉 😛
Unfortunately, one can’t claim to be equal by copy-pasting sentences from the internet as ones GTalk status message nor can battles be won by debates in classrooms or in mindlessly modifying pronouns. I wonder if any woman has protested against the rule that the first 3 seats in government run buses are reserved for women. Has any woman ever thought of forfeiting the quota reserved for women in all the government offices including the parliament? Preferential treatment is given only to those who are ‘considered’ weak and incapable to rise by themselves. In that case, reservations and quota are the first things women should fight against in their battle for equality because that is exactly what is to be defeated – the notion. I find it strange that many of the women are up in arms regarding the quota given to OBCs and SC/STs but are quite fine with the reservations and quota meant for women!
But as I said, I am neither for women fighting to eradicate this notion and be considered equal nor for men trying to counter react to this argument. I feel that men and women can never be equal and in so saying, I am not undermining the worth of either over the other.
Striving for equality only means that one has to sacrifice ones individuality to match the standards set by someone else. It is perhaps as ridiculous as the title of this blog entry because to create a perfectly scenic landscape, Nature chose to make the grass green and the sky blue. It would be quite a sight if all the grass were to turn blue in order to be ‘equal’ to the sky! And he enjoys the scene best who decides to accept the grass for its verdure in the same terms as the sky for its azure.
PS: For people, both men and women, who have missed the point altogether, I suggest you read this article I wrote for a management magazine on how feminine standards are a necessity to transform modern day corporate life and business mechanisms. (The magazine closed shop a few months afterwards but I swear my writings had nothing to do with it! 😛 )