Monday, July 30, 2012

Why this Guwahati - di?

This post has been picked as a "Tangy Tuesday Picks" by Blogadda.

The whole country is raving and ranting about how the kids on the street are getting more violent than before, how they turn into molesters or rapists at the drop of a hat. How being called 'sexy' is quite okay, and how we should be conditioning all our menfolk by having a few 'slutwalks'. The whole world and their aunt was stunned into awakening after an incident in Guwahati.

The next flurry of activity was everyone getting into the shock-relieving therapy of 'discover why'. Many theories, and among all the various ones that came out, the most reasonable seemed blame-the-parents.

We begin with the parents of the girls who dress provocatively, or the ones who dare to go into a bar at night. We then move on to the parents of the youngsters who were there that night, and then the others who displayed all the empathy of a door knob.

We all thought in our minds that the parents were either the 'broad-minded' buffoons that entertainment channels have so vibrantly shown, or they were the senseless village folk who by some mechanism, trained all their sons to be the modern equivalent of Genghis Khan.

Lets take a closer look. A closer look at how we unwittingly change the way a male child in our society thinks he is Gods answer to everything in the world.

It begins with the birth of a male in any of the households today - urban, rural, rich or poor. I have heard all kinds of smug remarks from the less acidic "Good, now the family is complete" to the more nauseous "You Lucky woman - you have only sons, no liabilities!" being said in various circles of extended family and friends,  to brand new mothers and fathers.

No - this is NOT rural India, and this is not uneducated, illiterate India either.

It then moves on to take subtle hints at regulating what good and bad behavior is - especially for the girl child. Example dialogues are slightly sexist "You should not leave things lying around.... you are a girl, and should be organized." to disgustingly sexist "Girls don't answer back to elders" - while, notice that its perfectly fine for the male progeny to do so. In fact, it is indulgently looked at lovingly, declaring how brave the child is. Not necessarily always by parents, or only by parents - the whole brain-dead society contributes.

In the case of a girl child, it is normal for the whole family to have a say in what she wears, where she goes, when she goes, when she is going to be back, and of course, who she goes with. Oh yes, I do hear you mumble something about your concern for her. I'd do the same too, when she steps out into what obviously is the jungle.  Just one look at the smiling Piggy Chops in an add, tells us that all of this is ok - this is how the world was meant to be. Why'd Piggy be so happy about the court martial is something I don't get, though.

My only question, why don't we do it with our sons? Aren't we unwittingly telling them that they are not accountable? Have we even for a moment thought, that these are the boys who then grow up to think women are meant to be indoors, cleaning and cooking, in domesticated avatars that have been glorified by Ekta Kapoor? Aren't we, at some level, agreeing that assumptions made by the molesters or rapists that 'she asked for it' is true?

Lets take a look at the ridiculous circus we call marriage in India. We bribe the mothers and the fathers and the sisters and the fourth cousin of the uncle of the groom; we also pay the groom in gratitude of his marrying our daughter - isn't that what you call Dowry? We imply here that its a huge favour they are doing us, by taking the daughter - a liability, off our hands. Even educated families. In urban India. Don't believe me? What about dialogues like "Do what you want in this house. Once you get married, your in-laws decide whether you work or not." Why? Do you decide what your son-in-law will do after marriage?

Or just go through the matrimonial columns in the paper. "Wanted : Fair, beautiful, homely girl for 30 year old man working in MNC." And this, by far is a regular requirement. Even young men I seem to encounter in office spaces, when discussing a future wife, say 'homely' is a requirement. Ask them what 'homely' means and they'll tell you "You know, the kinds who do not party too much, or the kind who do not have any boy friends." Prod a little more, and they'll give you definitions such as "The kinds who will be comfortable doing all the housework, even if they are working women."

But ask these dudes who they'd like to fall in love with, I can assure you the name that they come up with is not 'homely' at all! There is usually a mile long list of men who pine for the attention of that over-achiever woman in the office, but when marriage is on the cards, they know this is not who they'd be comfortable married to - and even if they were, the parents would reject them - coz' they are not 'homely' enough. That however, doesn't stop them from lusting after them.

It is not only our daughters that we harm in this social branding; do you really think the young minds of the males in our society is not flawed when we create such clear bias in their formative years? And what happens when a favoured child (favoured only due to the sheer coincidence that there was an extra appendage in his body) does not get any special treatment in the real world? And under all circumstances he would be pitted against someone he was brought up to believe is a second citizen - a woman. God forbid if the woman is able to perform better!

The joke is that most such male members in our skewed society actually believe that they are superior by virtue of their sex. They then look for excuses (let me assure you, we all know people like this) -
  • "The lady climbed up the ladder by sleeping around"
  • "The dame dresses like a slut so she deserves it"
  • "The wife/gf is popular with men so she must be a slut"
  • "The co-worker doesn't mind a few drinks so she must be 'easy'"
  • "If she earns more than me, she is not wife material" (this one was a shocker, but i actually heard it)
Where do we start? By throwing 'notional' equality out the window. And get into non-negotiation for the real sense of the word. Beginning with ensuring rules of the household are the same.
  • If the daughter cannot scream at elders, neither can the son.
  • If the son is tired after school / work/ games, common sense tells us that daughters / daughters-in law will also be so. So either we don't fuss around a son, or we fuss around both
  • If there is only one piece of the choicest dessert, split in two
  • Have meals sitting together - even if, as Mother fuss-a-lot, we like to hover around the table stuffing everyone's plates with food, realize that the son's expectation from a future wife would be the same. For a change, ask the son to serve a few bites or clear the plates. (Believe me, it does wonders to teach them dignity of labor - we learnt it in Hotel Management, and I am thankful for that)
  • Teach daughters and sons to fold clothes, iron them, stack them and hold them accountable for a missing sock. (Simple rule: since you fold them and stack them, you ought to know where that sock went). Not scream at mommy dearest for not tidying up the sock drawer. Ditto for the wet towel.
  • I like festivals - including Raksha Bandhan, for the colorful threads and the sweets. But never, never tell the daughters that you need the brother to protect her. Or the son that the sister (and all girls generally) need 'protection'
  • Never tell the son that 'all this is yours' ...... big mistake!
  • Remind the son often that in the world, the only thing they got free were their parents - they need to work for everything else - just as their female counterparts do too.
  • Remember also to never generalize women or men basis their clothes, language etc. Kids pick that up fast, and will most certainly form early biases.
That's all I could come up with - as my son grows older, maybe I get wiser too. Anyone has any more ideas? We could all do with them.


  1. Those were some very pragmatic pointers which ought to be implemented so that we can expect some change if not in the forseeable future then at the least in the next generation.

    I reckon our society will embrace no change in mindset unless we are rid off the - How does it affect me? Bug; that according to me is the root of all our problems.

    Cheers :)

    1. You know something, we are the rebellious generation - and yet, if you look at the average age of the Guwahati molesters, they are in their teens and tweens - thats whats scary. All these fancy talk points remain just that - and we teach the future generations the same thing.

  2. There were many in my family who thought that a girl who could handle her affairs while staying away from family and be completely independent lacked character.Every time this topic came up, my vehement protests lead to my poor mom being branded as someone who didn't know how to raise kids.. Fortunately my in-laws don't share these 'popular' beliefs and they were all praises for my mom. We blame others but the problem often lies closer to home. My granny still admonishes my mom everytime she asks my brother to do his share of chores in the house etc. She believes that will lead to him being a sissy..

    1. I know Chitra, this is a common factor. All moms think sons should be the brave macho guy we see in movies - which is so skewed!!!

  3. Thankfully we were all boys at home and we didn't have this issue at home. But once out in the world (hotel school included) we learned a lot. After all these years, I think "wisdom" is the answer to questions. The right thing - guys or girls... Equality in all matters... Consistency... Ruthlessly righteous with wisdom to do and say the right thing..

    1. Hi Stanley - didn't know you wrote so well. You should write more often, though!!
      Unfortunately not many have the righteousness nor the wisdom to chose the right thing!

  4. Amazing post... you have wonderfully summed up the appalling gender bias that exists in this country. Do read one of my recent posts on this topic. It makes me so, so angry to know what goes on in this coutnry!

    May I share a link to this post on my facebook page?

    1. Dear Ash, your article was so true!! How many guys have we seen who actually think a woman is his equal? And then we sing and dance about gender equality. Very nicley written post
      I am honored to think that you would like to share this post - please do!! Thank you

  5. I completely and totally agree with you about everything you've said. It's very important that parents do not make a distinction while raising girls and boys. But then again, it raises a question. Does everything boil down to upbringing? Do we only behave the way we were brainwashed since childhood? What about evolution?

    Example: My grandparents were raised at a time when women sat separately during their menstrual cycle. They did away with that when my mother was being raised. When I was being raised, a cycle was hardly seen as a barrier to anything at all. This did not come from upbringing, this came from a natural adaptation to changing environments.

    So what I'm saying is, no matter how they were brought up, aren't men and women supposed to think about adapting to changing times? Aren't we supposed to question age-old practices and do away with things that just aren't applicable anymore, no matter what we were taught?

    My husband was raised just the way you've described, as a male, privileged. Hardly required to do anything around the house. And yet, as a husband he is quite mature and understanding. At first it was weird for him that I didn't do everything like his mom did, but then I sat him down and explained to him that I was raised pretty much the same way that he was. He understood it beautifully and began to share household work along with me. As would any just, mature man who is willing to see reason. So tell me, is it the upbringing that's important, or the maturity of the person in question?

    What we probably need to question is, how mature are we on an average as a human race? Why is that only a rare few people are able to adapt, evolve, change? Why isn't everybody able to get over their animal instincts, or feelings of superiority/inferiority? Is it just a matter of time? What is it that needs to be done, to raise the level of human consciousness as a whole?

    Perhaps, if we stop hating the perpetrators and start finding answers to these questions, something can finally change...

    1. How true Sumitra - I have been thinking of that too. That brings me to another theory - even adaptability is a trait kids learn from parents - like patience and values. And with regards to societal evolution, it was always the parents who took the step. You had no barriers during your cycle because your parents made sure you did not. Another possibility - your husband would have been raised in a household where job descriptions were drawn out, but one where the female members were also heard out - which made him open to the change as well. Now imagine a situation where not only were JDs strictly followed, but also one where the woman was not even heard out - that would yield a different kind of man, don't you think?

  6. yes, yes, and yes!!! We cannot just throw ourselves on the floor yelling for change!! We need to be the change (am I quoting someone here?! :P)
    I make my sons do the laundry, folding, putting their dishes in the sink, if they make a mess, they clean it type housework! I'll have my DILs thank me later and no, I am NOT the maid of the house!!! Hopefully, the way that I behave and the way their father behaves towards me will have an impact on their views of women in general.

    On the whole, however, I feel we should teach empathy for other human beings! I acknowledge that to a certain extent, this needs to be taught....a child should understand that one of his/her greatest pleasures could be helping another person, no matter who!

    1. Mom(Aa), absolutely! We have to be the change, or else we'll be regressing into the yesteryears! The first thing one has to learn even as a child is the dignity of labor - and it begins with the mom. I know so many households (especially ones where there is no daughter) where the mother is constantly on her feet, with orders from the father and the sons, and the mother adores the whole thing, proclaiming "See? they can't be a second without me!!"

  7. Those are some really good points and I am glad that my son is on the right track. But I remember hearing things from my elders like anger is not good for girls, give water from kitchen to your bro and stuff. And for me actually that was the reason to put my son into this.

    1. Yes, I know what you mean .... seen the same things in my family too!

  8. Very,very relevant! Parents and relatives unwittingly pattern such behaviours into their children. How often have we heard a mother boast about a 10 year old son, "He is very hot tempered, just like his father." And the son feels that he has a right to throw his temper around. I have seen a child reaching out for a chocolate or pastry at a party and the parent announces, "Oh, he doesn't like sweets. He prefers hot and spicy food". And the child withdraws the hand and then overeats the pickle when dinner is served.

    "She is good in maths but weak in English". "She is a very quiet child. He is an out and out extrovert". The poor children desperately try to live up that that projected image. We should stop labeling. An introvert today may feel extroverted tomorrow. I may do badly in maths in this test but may get much better scores in the next one. Don't deny children this freedom to be 'processes'. Labeling makes them 'products'.

    1. How true Sir! Unconciously, but we do tend to label them - even if it is by our choice of gifts - a barbie for the girl and a cricket bat for the boy!! Thank you so much!

  9. wonderful post...we should teach our sons to respect women. No matter who she may be.

  10. hmhm... Pretty sharp. I think that sexual discrimination is pretty much rooted in our society not just Indian at that. yeah, each and every society has it's nuances but the idiosyncrasies remain the same.

    Well try answering these questions---

    ---If married people can have sex and unmarried people cannot, then “Is Marriage - a publicly punched license to have sex?”

    ---If women who are good to look & are sexy create the desire in men to molest them, then “Are men, such wimps that they don’t have any control over themselves?”

    ---If divorced women always finds it hard to get remarried than divorced men. Then “Does marriage tarnish women but leaves men alone pure?”

    when we take up this issue, we are fighting a monster that has slowly taken by it's humongous proportions by years and years of dust settling into pillars that nowadays - people presume holds the society together.

    Try reading this-

    good post.

    1. @Muthu ... thnaks for coming by. And yes, these questions are all ancillaries to the ones that have been addressed in the post. And your description of the 'monster' is quite apt. Shall read your post soon! Thanks