Regular readers of this blog will know how much of time and space I have dedicated in the past to feminism and social ills. They will also know that for some reason, my feminist rants have decreased in intensity and frequency over the past year. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that my blogging frequency has itself decreased over the past year. But, there is something more. I don’t feel like writing about feminism any more. One reason is that I do not want this blog, and by extension me, to be stereotyped in any way: feminist, right-wing, technical, random. It is not so much a deliberate refusal as a natural manifestation of my rather diverse set of interests. The second reason, albeit to a much lesser extent, is that I see no change. I seemed to have exhausted my energies in talking about all that is wrong with the world. Until now. I have no idea why I am so disturbed by the current state of affairs, but I am. Several factors come into play.
The results of the recent census are less than reassuring. They only add to our human development woes by confirming what we already knew. With a sex ratio of 914 females to every 1000 males, the sex ratio is negative. The female foetus, and subsequently the girl child, is biologically more resistant to illness and hence more capable of surviving hostilities. But not even this protection offered by nature makes the child capable of combating infanticide and sex-selective abortions. What can an unborn child do if the mother and her family are determined not to allow her to be born? Every indicator of human development shows that the female is worse off in India than her male counterpart: education, life expectancy, health…name it, and the men have it better. If you add to this concerns and indicators specific to the female gender like maternal mortality, you have a rather dismal picture.
However, the census is not the only reason I feel the need to talk now. Mom has been watching a Hindi soap dubbed into Tamil (disgusting, I know!) on Vijay TV. It is, to put it mildly, absolutely infuriating. The story of a young woman engaged to be married to the only son of wealthy parents. So far, so good. But every single scene and every single situation in the soap rankles by sensitivities. First, the girl is barely 20. She considers it her good fortune to have found a good groom so early in life and to be allowed to complete her education. And here, I was thinking we had stepped out of the 12th Century! And my grouse does not end with this soap alone. Every single soap I know on television, Hindi, Tamil or other plays to the same gallery. Young woman, married and has kid, abusive in-laws, drunken husband, struggling to complete education and resigned to fate….aaargh! Alternatively, the girl is happy and content with her husband, the car, the kids and the in-laws and has no life so to speak! Either way, all these stories revolve around marriage as the ultimate goal in life, rather than real happiness! And in case you didn’t realize, what they really want to convey is that the only way you can really be happy if you’re a woman is to get married and stay married to the right man! Give me a break! Are we really in the 21st Century?
Not that I am against marriage or relationships, or that I think these things are irrelevant to happiness. I do believe that relationships (of whatever kind: friendships, marriage, family et. al) are important to happiness, but do not believe that my life’s ambition should be to find the right man and get married. It is the focus on marriage to the exclusion of all else that I object to, as to the glorification of suffering. Why is it considered a feminine virtue to suffer in silence when subjected to all kinds of torture? And really, why is every soap I know so regressive in nature? Why does a woman have to be an all-forgiving, all-accepting person?
And finally, the obsession I see all around with having a male child. I grew up in a family of girls, and never in all these 28 years of my existence has anyone ever made me wonder why I was born female. Girls are pampered and cherished by practically every member of my extended family. This is perhaps why this obsession with having a boy is so alien to me. Friends, colleagues and so many other people I know want a male child, despite having a daughter, sometimes two. What’s the deal there? I’ll never get it!
I really think we need to stop telling our daughters that Sita is the epitome of Indian womanhood. We need to stop drilling into their heads that they will never be happy unless they have a man in their lives, no matter how much of a bastard, pardon my language, he really is! And also stop telling them they need to have boys to continue the family name! But, as I said earlier, some things will take a long time changing. I only hope my generation steps out from these societal confines and dares to think differently. I hope.