I am privileged to be part of a few male-dominated WhatsApp groups. Not just any group, mind you! These are groups of serious knowledge bank and money machines (me? Theory of exception should explain!). In the middle of all the money and knowledge discussion, arrives a meme, which shows woman in poor light. Nagging wife, girlfriend who is a drain on a man’s money, bad driver, vain and so on and so forth.
Now we all know that both men and women have their faults? Could you tell me how many memes or messages that you see in the social media that show a man in poor light? I would say 1:50 (was going to say 1:100). Now me being-the-bull-in-a-China-shop me, won’t let it slip in the barrage of “meaningful” messages, and raise an objection. And when I do that, I am told that I lack sense of humour, that I have forgotten how to laugh and too uptight.
If you are in my circle and/or reading this, I don’t need to remind you history and reality. Women had to fight for education, employment, voting rights, opinion and oh, even for an honourable existence. The reality remains that a girl child is fighting inequality even before she is born. If she is ever born, has to deal with molestation, eve-teasing, objectifying, inequality at work place both in terms of pay and growth opportunity. “Just married yaar, can’t hire / promote – may soon be in her family way” – sounds familiar? Inclusive much? We also have to deal with what nature and centuries of conditioning have bestowed on us- mother, nurturer, natural caregivers (no less!) and in newer terminology – homemaker.
Whether the laundry gets done daily or thrice a week to Can peanut butter sandwich pass of as a healthy snack for your toddler to Whether to cut wages of an irregular house help or indulge, for you need her to Explaining to the husband (for the 100th time) a hand towel, dishtowel and a swab have different purposes in the kitchen - she does more than her fair share. At home, she is both the traffic cop and a school bus driver – at the same time.
Most men (be it father, brother or husband) think a woman has a lot on her plate (not more than him though, mind you!) and it’s best she remains happy where she is and with what she is good at. Women break the first glass ceiling at home and get out and pursue what they want to. Most women take this up as an additional challenge and responsibility and don’t shirk their “homely” duties.
Now that I, as a woman managed to get into a man’s (working) world and crept into “professional” groups, I should learn to guffaw at discriminating jokes – even if the joke is on me? Is that what you are saying, my male friend? Now you want to induct me into your “locker-room”? If I insist I will retain my feminism along with the equality I earned, I am told that after all the opportunities that I have been “given” I still am defensive; that feminism is a fad and over-rated and ugly.
When I object to jokes that border on sexism and gender stereotype, I get questioned. I am sharing some of the oft-asked questions and my answers:
- Where is your sense of humour? I am saving it for a joke. I am not about to giggle if you objectify my clan and calling it a joke doesn’t make sexism more acceptable
- Did I create that meme? I say, then why perpetuate it?
- Why are you so defensive? Are you a victim of sexism? I say, yes and no. I am married to a man who respects and loves me in equal measure but the society has gender issues that affect me and we (you and I) need to fight it
- I am a decent man. I respect women. How could you call me a sexist? I know you are a decent man; otherwise I wont have a conversation with you. However your sense of superiority and the need to throw your masculinity at me amount to sexism. If you don’t fight sexism and objectification, then too you’re a sexist, even if a passive one. I am sorry, my friend, that’s just how it is!
- Aren’t there jokes on Sardars? I ask, did I say racism is better than sexism?
We need feminism. Women have to fight tough battles – may not be the women in your lives but there are millions out there who are fighting for a mere peaceful and dignified existence (equality comes much later). Feminism is the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of equality of sexes (dictionary meaning) and we are far from equal. Don’t look at the privileged class – then my feminism may look misplaced. Look at society at large.