What is the importance of women in society? Those creatures that must be seen but not heard, who must use public space only if they have a reason and not loiter on whim? Those creatures whose fights for rights too are determined by men by the mere addition of a voice in support or ignoring? What is the importance of these people who cannot count on their own parents when in trouble nor a government which does enjoy talking like it cares?
Women are not usually considered terribly important. Even when we speak of their rights, there is a patronizing air that speaks of “society” (read “men”) that should rein in its natural tendencies to accommodate these vulnerable creatures that cannot defend themselves from harm and thus must depend on “our” sense of honor. Increasingly this has started grating on my nerves.
Who died and made men the gold standard that decides what strength is and what must be aspired to in the name of equality? The more we make a showcase out of women’s vulnerability, the easier it gets to discount their value beyond lip service.
What is strength anyway? Is it merely the ability to exert a specific force for a specific action? Is it the capacity to exert such a force? Is it the resilience that demonstrates far more strength bulk for bulk?
We accept women as the weaker sex. Yet working women not just work like men, but they routinely wake up earlier to accommodate household chores. At the end of a hard day, they have the endurance to still belt out a meal and smile for the occasional guest. And we aren’t merely talking about office going women. The vast majority of women employed in India spend their days doing hard physical labour. In many parts of the country, over half the labour working in fields can be women. Domestic work is mostly done by women. If it is for another, they get paid for it, if it is for their own home, they don’t get paid for it. Looking at the physical differences between man and woman, women perform far more work body size for body size than men.
Over and over research shows that women’s incomes go largely into the running o the home and perishables while men invest more in assets. At the end of the day, a woman remains poor and without a residence in her name in comparison with a man. Yet, it is male entrepreneurs who more often break under the stress of odds and commit suicide. Village after village in Maharashtra’s Vidarbha has widows of farmers who commit suicides who not only inherit his impossible battles in addition to the earlier responsibilities, but also become easy prey for sexual predators. And they toil on.
Women bear the brunt of frustrations of a difficult world that their husbands face whether as anger or alcoholism, even as they endure in the very same world.
What rights are men going to grant women who fight far worse odds and still have resilience to take on more?
A male dominated government is not stupid to make special schemes for women. If it hopes to develop the country, the money must go in the hands of the person improving the conditions. A woman with an income means a well fed child. An educated woman means a better income, better planned families, awareness of health, a hope of greater ability for the next generation. A woman allowed access to engage economically with the world improves the living standard for many.
Few who comment on the poverty of Muslims realize the impact of the difference between a single income home and a double income home or a woman who is allowed greater reach enriching those around her as well. Because it wouldn’t be politically correct to name the women of a community busy pretending they don’t exist.
It is no coincidence that Maharashtra, with the highest GDP in the country has women stepping into public space and challenging the orthodoxy and pushing boundaries in education, equality and public presence since over a century ago.
What is the importance of women in society? Who are we pandering to by pretending that women are these incapable creatures who need special favors to keep them safe so that we can feel good about ourselves? Whose egos are we pandering to?
In my view, women are the backbone. The rugged tractor taking on the heavy work allowing for the world to run come what the weather. Women have temperaments that allow for social resilience to overcome brittle discord.
High time women realized that their value is not in a look. It is in the role they shoulder and no one can take it from them, because no one can replace them under that yoke. And I am not only speaking of traditional roles. The employability of graduates for office work is higher for women than men. And no, I’m not talking of the boobs, but tested ability.
It is time arguments for not harming women stopped tiptoeing around egos and spoke of the self-destruction of society with its artificial and unequal defaults. Women are not special beneficiaries of kindness. The chain may break at the weakest link, but then it breaks at the next weakest link and so on till all you have is crap metal. The rot is the violence. Women and children may succumb to it earlier, but it is our choice whether we want to see them as weaker victims who are inferior and need special consideration or we want to see them as important alarms of a deteriorating society and pay attention to find solutions before it spreads all over.
It isn’t like a man walking alone late at night will be safe in a place women aren’t safe. Whether for rape or a mugging. The rot is there.
No one is doing “women” any favors, unless “society” is confident of its survival without women.
Get that straight.