10 Minute Read
In the last few years the concept of “Women Empowerment” has been thrown around considerably; whether in politicians’ speeches or citizens’ rallies. India, along with the vast majority of countries, is far from set goals of women empowerment while the common perception of gender equality being close, remains. This is partly due to misunderstandings, bad decisions and an important fallacy in our pursuit of said equality. Listed below are some of those:
1.The meaning of “empowerment”
Empowerment, by almost every definition, means “to allow to take control”. This implies that by using the word empower we are not accepting women’s birthrights but, by “empowering” them, are merely allowing them. We, and by we I mean everybody on this earth, do not hold the, almost godly, privilege of controlling peoples’ rights and neither we. There are clearly many human rights violations which happen to women, like domestic violence and many others, but do not “empower” women. Fight for their right, make them aware of their rights but do not place yourself on a pedestal by calling it empowerment. This may be called a small problem as one may say people have the best intentions when they call for “empowerment” but the word is merely a representation of the mindset India has adopted to tackle the issue.
2.Effects on Men
Whether it was intentional or not, prevalence of male bashing or similar mindsets is undeniable, with most publications gender bashing rather than criminal bashing. For example, the Vogue #StartWithTheBoys seems to bash an entire gender and accuse them of being criminals. This issue does not appear on the surface but is exists just below. This mindset also brings about the idea that men are never the victims, and thus make waste of several issues which unfold before men. For Example: Domestic Violence against men has not one documented case since it is not recognized by our law *. India has several cases and if compared with the rest of the world as a potential number, The Guardian reports 40% of domestic violence cases are registered acts of violence against men. Be it not always initiated by women, men stay in a state of denial and are mocked whenever they reach out. Even if they do eventually report the incident, no cases are made. Men need to understand that they too can be victims and should not be blamed as a gender, but if guilty, as individuals.
* “The Protection of women from domestic violence act, 2005” is the only domestic violence act in India and does not apply to Men.
3. Start Young
Focus should be to make gender a non-taboo and encouraged discussion at home and at school. Gender perceptions, or the understanding of the characteristics of the gender, are shaped largely at school and separating boys and girls during classes and making or encouraging them play different sports definitely doesn’t help. At home the classic stereotypes of girls like dolls and boys like cars, like blue and pink, run rampant as we only continue to escalate the already ridiculously polar perceptions of what is masculine and feminine. We cannot expect an individual decision if every outlet, media or people, tells boys they prefer cars to dolls. Before children realize there are more options, they are already hooked onto the toys and lifestyle, interest, and choices. We need to stray away from gender stereotypes by disrupting our own flawed perception of them and eradicating them at a grass-root level. We should give birth to individuals, not physical manifestations of gender stereotyping.
Policies to “empower” women have also been beyond abysmal. There have been implementations (Like the Domestic Violence Helpline) which never work because they cater to an entire state on 1 device and call it a “helpline”. While in some cases they don’t work, in the others their working is worse than not. For Example: The bus rule of having a women only seat center. In an overcrowded bus, seats can and are often left empty because of this rule, making it an example of overcompensating in a way that does not make sense. Policies have failed in their intentions and sometimes lead to bigger problems; sometimes even the best intentions don’t bring about the best if they aren’t thought through enough.
5.The Oppression Olympics
We are living in the midst of “Oppression Olympics”. I use this term to describe how by bashing other genders or showing biases, we rank our gender higher only to realize that the movement is downward or at best lateral. There is no growth by competition on this issue and the sooner we realize that empowering individuals regardless of gender, sex, race and sexuality is the only upward movement, will we ever achieve our goals of gender equality. I know that this is not an easy, possibly impossible, task but just the realization is a big step. Move beyond the men or women or transgender or people of any gender get it better and move towards a harmonious victory and make our lives get better. If there lacks a basic amenity or right for a gender, let’s contest that and get out of this oppression.
6.The Big Picture
A world where people of all genders suffer equally is not an “empowered” world. We must tackle specific problems, make gender neutral laws and start breaking gender stereotypes. We must keep this big picture in our mind at all times. We must ingrain the big picture into our brains and our five senses. It must be embedded so deep that it hangs at the tip of everybody’s’ tongue, at the back of everybody’s mind; until it screams from the buried ashes of everybody’s’ actions, for we must live in a world of gender equality, something people of every gender should definitely agree upon.