Sharing an email. How do you react in similar situations? Do you attempt to convey that you disagree? Would you argue? If yes, then do you manage to convey why you disagree? Do you ignore, or pretend to agree or get into heated arguments?
Just wondering how do most people react to something that seems obvious to them but something that many others don’t seem to be able to see.
I’m girl in my early twenties, raised by very liberal parents. I took it upon myself as a task to develop myself thoughtful, considerate and non-judgmental as I possibly could. I honestly never really realized how much gender inequality existed in our society until I started to notice the atmosphere around me – the girls in school, in college, the way people when they were talking about girls. Let me just share few examples with you.
For starters, I knew this girl in school (say A) who would proudly boast about her dad’s position and family wealth, and their nice big house. One day when our very close friend was leaving the country we had a get together at her house. A good time was being had, but ‘A’ showed up rather late. When asked why she was late – her dad never let her out of the house to meet friends and gave her an earful for wanting to come here, she was only allowed here because a close friend was leaving – that too with younger brother in tow. That was when I knew I she may have had a lot in terms of ‘status’, but she had close to nothing in terms of freedom. The thing that got to me most was – why is everyone so okay with it? How is it that they pretended this was and okay and acceptable?
I know another girl who left Grade 11 to return to India to get married. All was cute and lovely for a while after she married. While I kept my judgment to myself quite a few girls made it a point to congratulate her, tell her God had surely blessed her, how cute the couple looked, and how gorgeous her wedding dress was. A year later she got divorced. Now she’s continuing her studies.
However the one that really opened my eyes something that happened very recently. The father of a friend of mine recently passed away. The family is survived by my friend, his brother, mother and his younger sister. As my friends came to hear of the news, they all showed signs of feeling sorry and having pity – but all unanimously (and disappointingly) ended their statements the same way – ‘Oh so he has a younger sister huh? Oh so he now has to work for her marriage’ *understanding tone of voice* *concerned, caring look*. While I silently nodded outside inside I was aghast. Honestly the first time I heard it, it took a while for me to understand they were actually serious. Note that sister (the liability who needs to be married off) is doing her MBA. Also, that they are upper middle class. Note from the four people who made this statement all were ‘NRIs’. By this I’m not emphasizing ‘NRI’ here, what I am emphasizing is that this mentality prevails among social class that has supposedly settled into a more ‘developed’ society. Two from them are girls – one of the tem is currently pursuing her Masters degree, she’s amongst the brightest in class. The other is the so-called ‘modern’ Indian girl. She drinks, she smokes, she parties. The other two were brothers but with vastly differing personalities. Yet both had the same reaction to the personal ‘burden’ he now had to carry. Also note that one of the brother’s has worked and studied in the UK for more than 5 yrs and considers himself ‘modern’. I rarely have anything to say when I hear such things, because I never expect these things to be said in today’s world by people from my generation.
There are countless examples – a man responding to a woman in my office who just said her younger sister got engaged ‘Oh, so now your Dad can finally relax!’ (this was said inspite of there being an unmarried boy too in the house). Some guy friends who are either married or in serious relationships find it quite okay to make jokes or share stories of times they argued/ outwitted the girl’s parents openly in front of our circle, while the girls would never retaliate in the same way, they just keep quite. Guys who make jokes on dark or ‘black’ girls. And it goes on and on. There’s a lot more to say, but it’s pointless.
My question is, what do you do? What do you say when the majority thinks this way and anything you say to counter them will just get you looks of bewilderment in return, or blank responses of ‘but that’s our culture’, or ‘you’re trying to be too western’. How do you convince the majority that a culture that is misogynist and expects it’s people to follow strictly defined gender roles is one that needs to undergo some change at least? Especially when you’re often the only person in the group who seems to think differently.
I’m sorry this email is really long. But sometimes it feels like no one really gets it. Everyone is comfortable under the ‘traditional’ umbrella, and no one really gets why the system is unjust. I’m writing this because I know that you, IHM are one of the few people can understand my point. I also want to ask you – do you ever come across such things in social situations? And how do you tackle it?
Apologies again for the long email. I know many of your readers often email you about genuine problems, while mine is just a rant. Thanks anyway for listening.
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