Frailty is no longer a woman’s name.
Women are no longer confined to the needle, thread and ladle.
They have stormed male bastions and broken through the glass ceilings.
Speakers can utter such statements in international conferences with a robust conviction, but all this is only partially true.
The patriarchal mindset still continues, not only in rustic areas but also in urban areas. Even in supposedly progressive families in urban pockets, we have the male dictating terms, although he is no longer the only breadwinner.
The other day, I came across a woman coolie, heading towards me with a beaming countenance. Just as I was about to smile back at her, my smile vanished as I saw a man crinkling his nose at her, and saying, “How will she carry the luggage? She is, after all, only a woman.” The woman’s face fell. Shoulders stooped, she headed towards a bench and slumped on it. When I came and sat next to her, she flashed a sad smile my way and said, “Madam, I had a tough time being accepted into the male dominated coolie community, but now they respect me a lot, but the passengers are not confident of my strength.” She had just finished saying it, when a male coolie came up to her and said, “Didi, you carry this luggage. I have another passenger waiting.” Her smile was back.
In the present world, the woman, whom Plato called the physically inferior sex, dons many hats, exhibiting her multidimensionality with incredible élan. Yet, the male chauvinists refuse to accept her amazing diligence, some concede it reluctantly, with a stiff upper lip. Despite positive advertisements and women- centric movies, women are still to be empowered fully. The deeply entrenched patriarchal mindset will take a long time in going, because even the womenfolk accept it as an inevitable norm.
Women working as labourers are at the receiving end of abuse and exploitation, and they have no option but to take all this with a stoic silence, because they lack the wherewithal to raise their voices against this exploitation.
It is indeed a tragic irony that the narratives of women have been written by men, who have painted them as inferior beings. Why should words like misogyny be part of our vocabulary? Why indeed? Each one of us needs to celebrate her self- worth and applaud her triumphs.
She always was, the very embodiment of power, but how is it, that the man, the husband, still flaunts his ownership rights over her? “I will not allow my wife to work after marriage. I don’t want her money. I have enough money to look after the entire household.” Why should such statements be part of a would be husband’s vocabulary?
But pray, what about her self- worth? Her positive self -esteem?
On my morning walks, I often come across a very old woman in the joggers’ park, waddling on arthritic legs towards a particular spot in the park, where she sells bird fodder for a pittance. She is an incredible woman, but there is no one to sing paeans to her amazing resilience, alas! She is only doing her duty- of earning for her three wastrel sons and a bedridden husband. “I will work till my last breath, so what if my sons don’t provide for me! I will work till I have strength in my bones.” She maintains vigorously.
I know of a very brilliant girl, who was not allowed to work after marriage, although she was a very efficient doctor. Her chauvinistic husband did not want his ‘beautiful’ wife to work with men.
I don’t want to go into other aspects of women – empowerment – legal, constitutional or political, but firmly believe that unless, each one of us is sensitive to every woman’s self-esteem, there can be no gender equality, no woman – empowerment. The woman has still a long way to go before she can rise, in the words of Maya Angelou "into a daybreak that is wondrously clear". The entire world needs to join hands, and work towards the dawn of that wonder. The deep – rooted gender biases need to be yanked away once for all.
Unless the resilience of that octogenarian whom I meet on my morning walks, the spunky maid who scurries from house to house, after she has packed her kids’ tiffin - boxes and sent them off to school, the valiant coolie – woman and the courageous woman cab driver are applauded, no woman can be empowered.
Let us all become their cheering squad, and cheer them on, till all the negativities are purged, and even the naysayers yank away their entrenched biases and join the cheering squad.
The ripples are there, the sparks are there, but every time we see a valiant sun breaking through a cloud cover, another body of clouds sweeps over the bright rays of hope. I am left hoping, that these clouds carry those elusive raindrops that have the power to soothe an earth ablaze with misogyny.