I still remember that one incident at my high school when my teacher was interpreting the popular Nepali poem “Manushi” with his all time high commanding pitch. It was really exhilarating, for the author had raised voice against the dominating patriarchy that has been prevailing in every nook and corner of our society.
In due course of discussion, the teacher asked us to give any example where we think there’s been discrimination against women in any terms. All went silent then. I did want to answer badly but couldn’t raise my hand because I was not confident in my answer. Seeing that silence among the young 11 graders, he felt a bit uncomfortable (I guess) as he fixed his cap. Then he closed the book and began to write something on the board without speaking a word.
The fire inside me was not stopping.It was because I always liked to keep the interaction going on in this particular topic.The poem was related to the need of gender equality. And it was the fault of my personality since my childhood that I felt humiliated in myself if I was not able to answer my teacher in the class.
Time was running fast and I had to say something, because that was the last day of the chapter. As he reached in the middle of the board while writing some notes, I collected my grips of courage and broke the ice by clearing my throat.
It sounded loud in that silence and everyone’s eye was on me. No sooner, the teacher also turned to me and asked’ “Yes, Radha.What’s the matter?”
I replied, clearing my throat for the second time,” Sir, I would like to give my views on your question.”
His eyes grew big and bright for a second.He clenched his chin and asked,” Why did you take such time? Anyways! Speak up.”
I said,” Sir, people greet the judges in court saying “Srimaan”, the chairperson saying “Sabhapati”. Why doesn’t it change? What if the person in that position was a woman? Isn’t it awkward to greet them too by the same name?”
Everyone laughed. I certainly knew it was coming. No wonder my teacher also laughed out loud. The whole class burst out so loud that even our DI peeked at the glass in the door to see what was happening.
After a minute, with a gesture of ordering silence, my teacher said to me,” Oh dear! What a childlike thought you have. If not these words, then what should we call? ‘Srimati’? ‘Sabhapatni’? Wouldn’t it be awkward rather?”
My friends laughed again.
The teacher stopped me right away. “Look! I know you might have got revolutionary thoughts through this poem because you’re a girl. But this type of feminism does not work. It would work only if you earn equal or even more than your future husband.”
I couldn’t speak a word in reply. All my courage from my heart rolled over as red spots at my cheeks and my nose. I thought I was badly humiliated at that time, through my own deeds. I contemplated that incident the whole day. Even I could not talk directly to my teacher from that day on. Time passed away and now, I’ve learnt to speak up. I’ve learnt that being financially independent or having equal pay does not merely restore the equality between male and female. While growing up, I found many people, especially women, who think that small things (which we generally overlook) have been silently igniting the male dominance and patriarchy in our society as a result of which females who can not speak up are more often mistreated and dominated.
I am aware that you might already have been revolting against my thought inside, since the definition of feminism itself has been a controversial phenomenon these days and some are abusing the essence of it too for their vested interest. However, the main essence of feminism which I believe is not “female fighting against male” but “female fighting against patriarchy”. It is about the belief that both male and female are humans in common. And feminism has not been a priority for women only. Since the 19th century, men have also taken part in significant cultural and political responses to feminism within each "wave" of the movement (not in our country though). So, more than from a feminist view, I think one must see the world from humanistic approach if one really wants to see the society and the world without gender disparity. And no need to mention that some remarkable efforts have been made to make them feel equal, or to reduce the disparity among them either in words or through the actions. I am not here to address the political and other legal aspects that have promised to secure the welfare of women and their dignity. I am actually going to stress out some simple things one can do as a human to convey the message of equality between all the genders. And I believe that one small effort, if done collectively by all would create a big shift in the current setting and would help women to be confident and to live their life with dignity and respect. So, here are some things you could do even if you deter feminism, whether you’re a ,male or a female or any other because these things make you more human.
- You do not bother in male doing household chores
I feel lucky in this regard since my father and my brothers do not refrain from sharing the household chores. However, I find some of my (male) neighbors who do not even think of helping the female in their family. Still chlid rearing has been assigned to women only, which our society silently accepts. Isn’t it inhumane? It goes beyond extreme in the feasts and festivals, where women even do not have time to get ready to put tika on dashain while their husbands and brothers are busy celebrating their holiday, trying their luck in cards. If you at least care for your family, then why not share the work? Well, a wise person has said- "Charity begins at home".
2. You keep other women first in the “Mahila seat” in public vehicles
I have travelled at least for 4 hours daily by bus on a normal basis in my college days. As a result, I’ve unknowingly developed a habit of observing and studying people in public vehicles. Not once or twice, rather many times I have seen live debates of people on “Mahila Seat”. Many people do not care what it’s for and just sit down even when there are some needy nearby. So, I do not usually jump in as soon as I get on the bus. I’ve seen some young lads encroaching the seats of a pregnant lady and some girls in their sweet sixteen avoiding to leave the “Mahila seat” for a poor old aama. When I could speak up, I didn’t. When I did, they didn’t listen. So, I’m pouring out here. So that whoever is reading this would not repeat the same mistake I did. I want you to speak up for the rights of women (deserving women). Being a female, it is your right for that seat but do you really need that before others? Please think about that whenever you’re in a public vehicle. And this applies to all the reserved seats, not only “Mahila seat”.
3. You try to avoid sexist languages in writing
According to Cambridge Dictionary, Sexist language is the language which excludes one sex or the other, or which suggests that one sex is superior to the other. Sexist language unnecessarily identifies gender. It can take several forms: a pronoun that denotes a single sex when the information being conveyed pertains equally to either or both sexes. Some people just use the word “HE” while addressing the third person as if “She” has disappeared from the earth! Well, I have a solution for it. How about avoiding these sexist languages? Ever seen somewhere written S/he or He/she? Well I’ve seen it many times and was amazed when these types of writings came from male authors. And I couldn’t say to my teacher back then that there are some words that can replace those sexist salutations. One can use “Chairperson” instead of “Chairman”; “Sabha Adhyakshya” instead of “Sanbhapati” and many others corrected words that do not unnecessarily separate women and men. I too like to use “Dear Hiring Committee” or “Dear Recruitment Manager” instead of using “Dear Sir/Madam” while writing the email for the job application.
You can learn more to avoid these languages through this link
4. You do not set back in taking the lead
Last week, I watched “The Crown” series on Netflix. Even the Queen was not fully trusted upon leading the country England because she was crowned at a young age, and above all, she was a woman. As Wikipedia suggests, traditionally, femininity in females has been often expressed as being soft hearted, delicate, coy and kind. On the other hand, masculinity in male is often expressed as being aggressive, strong, courageous and more of a leader. Well on one hand women are dominated by their male counterparts, on the other hand they are dominated by their own thoughts. The thought that women are inferior in leading has engulfed their minds (mostly the ones from rural areas) that some of them take it as a sin either in going to school,to work or to take decisions of the house. I have a huge respect for all those women heading their home whose husbands are spoilt and to all those single mothers who have been playing the role of both parents. At least, they have the courage to lead their family. And I also admire those ladies who are taking the leading roles in their profession, business, politics, and other domains because they believed in themselves. Well what would have happenned if Anuradha Koirala had remained silent in girl's traficking? What if Mira Rai had not taken the first step to run? Setting back with self doubt in leading is nothing but a sure way to sabotage oneself. Self Confidence is the must thing you should have if you want to prosper like any other people. As So girls, if you are bypassing being a team captain or a project leader in your college; or even starting your new venture just because of your self doubt, I bet you can do no more. And I bet, 33% reservation would have its meaning only when more and more capable women enter in the forum of leadership. Who knows? I might even get to 50% in the future!
5. You understand or at least try to respect male emotions
All the things I’ve described above would go in vain if we neglect men and just think about women only. It is true that many women have been suppressed, but we’ve failed to notice that there are some men who are also the victims. Just because society has embraced the common notion- “Men must be strong”, “Men should not cry”, “Masculinity defines men”, some men do not retaliate against the mistreat just because of the fear of humiliation. So for the sake of those, and for the sake of humanity, women must respect and try to understand what their counterparts feel or think. Letting go of all the stereotypes and empathizing each other’s situation can make men and women respect each other.
In the end, I would like to say that women are not just the creatures behind the four walls or child bearing machines. And men on the other hands are not only the breadwinners. If we develop a sense of respect and understanding between them, their collective effort would bring miracles in every family, society, country and the whole world. In the name of feminism, exploiting its main essence of equity and equality to fulfill one’s selfish interests is a big NO. I hope that every parent would teach their children to live with equal dignity and equal role in their life, irrespective of the gender they belong to.
(Disclaimer: This is my personal view on feminism and the way forward. I’m not putting a moral pressure on you to do these things. However, I hope you all would take a step in treating men and women equally. I would try to write about LGBTQ as well if I get some recommendations. However, please do not hesitate to give your valuable comments or suggestions so that I could post more blogs in the days to come.)