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What Happens When Women Don’t Stand Up For Other Women In A Patriarchal Society

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 By Urvashi Prasad:

When questioned about the comments made by a Member of Parliament from her political party, West Bengal’s Chief Minister Ms. Mamata Banerjee is reported to have snapped at the media saying What else do you want me to do, kill him? My response would be of course not. When we hesitate to mete out the severest punishment to people who commit rape and constantly debate about whether a particular incident of rape fulfills the criterion of “rarest of the rare”, then I suppose a few downright ludicrous remarks here and there hardly matter. But this is not an isolated incident of a woman (in this case no less than the Chief Minister of a state) not standing up for other women.

women against other women

In the political arena, making misogynistic comments and getting off the hook by simply apologizing thereafter is a routine occurrence. But what is most shocking is that women politicians (across party lines) do not take strong positions against men in their own parties. I was astonished when Ms. Jayanthi Nathrajan of the Congress Party argued vociferously on a television debate that a “private” reprimanding of her colleague Botsa Satyanarayana who had said that women should watch when they go out in response to the horrific gang rape in Delhi, was adequate. A public statement made by a political leader who has the potential to influence the masses should surely not be dealt with behind the closed doors of a party office, should it? Besides being a completely illogical argument, the fact that it was coming from a woman made it even more inexcusable. I am sure Ms. Nathrajan would not have reacted in a similar manner if a woman from her family had been involved in the incident.

For years on end, we heard seemingly helpless statements from Ms. Sheila Dixit, the former Chief Minister of Delhi, while girls and women in her city continued to be raped and murdered. In fact she participated in what appeared to be a clear case of political conspiracy to fly out the girl who bravely fought her assailants on the night of December 16, 2012 to Singapore at a stage when it was medically almost impossible to save her. If Ms. Dixit and her Government truly had noble intentions, they should have flown her out at an earlier stage during the course of her treatment when she was conscious and able to give statements to officials twice over. Instead, it appeared to be an action taken to ensure that the brave heart did not breathe her last on Indian soil or as a last ditch attempt to earn some brownie points with the public. Ms. Dixit made endless statements about how she also has daughters and can empathise with the plight of women but if her own daughter had met a similar fate on that night, would she have waited for several days for her condition to deteriorate before flying her out for life-saving treatment?

It is quite rare in our country for women to make it to influential positions. Our parliament has a poor 11% representation for women resulting in a ranking of 108 out of 188 countries in an analysis carried out by the Inter-Parliamentary Union. According to the World Economic Forum’s Corporate Gender Gap Report, 2010, India has the lowest percentage (23%) of women employees and even fewer who become senior executives or leaders of organizations. It is therefore imperative for women who do reach these positions to not only speak up for other women but also take appropriate action when required. It is important that they don’t act merely in self-interest but also lend a voice to millions of women who are not as fortunate as they are. This is especially the case because most women who reach these positions have themselves struggled with the regressive mind set at some stage in their lives. For instance, the Union Human Resource Development minister Ms. Smriti Irani recently made a statement that she was considered a burden when she was born. Despite this, if they cannot empathize with other women then can we really blame men for misogyny? Do women leaders who go around defending shameful statements made by their male counterparts have the right to subsequently comment on rape in a self-righteous manner?

This phenomenon is certainly not limited to the political or corporate world. In marriages, the most dreaded character is the mother-in-law. In fact, women have a pivotal role to play in the majority of dowry death and female foeticide cases. Of course some women simply have no option but to be complicit in these crimes because they themselves have been abused or have had patriarchy deeply inculcated in them but others do have the opportunity to resist and yet it appears they choose not to. A number of cases of daughters-in-law being burnt to death have happened in households where women are highly educated and affluent. A number of crimes against women are committed directly or indirectly by leaders of political parties, and yet women in the same parties choose to look the other way simply to preserve their own political ambitions. In the so called professional organizations, women leaders often prefer not to speak up for their competent female colleagues so that their personal career prospects are unharmed in a male dominated setting.

The reality is that women are as much a part of the patriarchal mind set as men. And it has little correlation with the level of education or socio-economic status. Of course men have no excuse to be disrespectful towards women but change is unlikely to happen until women themselves stop committing and ignoring injustice towards other women. Lip service has gone on for far too long. Women need to prove by their actions, be it in their domestic lives, in the political arena or in a corporate set-up, that they can treat other women with respect, dignity and fairness. If women cannot do so then they have little right to point fingers at men or complain when they themselves fall prey to the same mind set.

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  1. balayogi

    you have forgotten to mention what Sheila Diksit said once ” what/why girls were in the road at 11 p.m ” without bothering the affected girl was working in a call center and returning after duty but the pro congress media totally remained silent on this for reasons better known to them

  2. Aman

    I absolutely agree with you that most of the women do not stand for other woman , infact in may cases they themselves are the perpetrators of crime against women..In most of the cases it is women who believe that man are always superior to women and they want this same practices to bequeathed to the next generations…Forget about politicians , most of the restrictions on the liberty of women are imposed by the women of own family blood relations (special granny’s and aunts etc) on various aspects right from dressing to the other liberties as compared to man …While i support your views to call for woman unity..i am a bit skeptical on the sucess..Why??? To understand this you will have to turn the pages of our History/History of religion and religious texts. Why again is it important, because of a country obsessed by religion it is important to know where and how did this patriarchy came into existence and how was it binded to the religion and culture and how the intensity of patriarchy is so harshly felt in our country….And later how did the Communalists and hard core religiously orthodox people who call themselves as the gaurdians of the culture and religion used these as a word of God to make them perpetuating rules..

    Around 1000 BC when the first scripts of Rigvedas were supposed to be written ..(The Early Vedic Age or you may call Aryan age when aryans came to India) it was found that the status of women was much more liberal then the coming years , Woman had equal status with respect to man , They had complete rights to education…Child marraige was not allowed , Remarraige of Widows was allowed, women chose there own grooms ..Similarly the religion did not have a hard core caste system and every aspect of nature was workshipped as God..However in the Later Rigvedic age where there were more forms of Vedas written like the Yajurveda, the Pursharta (The rule of Chatur Varn and higher and lower casts) Arthveda etc, and in this Period the story of the status of the women was changed completely…Now the Women were not allowed to carry any religious proceedings nor were they allowed complete right of educations..In this phase Child marraige was allowed…In this age the various forms of marriage existed and few went to an extent were fathers used to give there daughters to priests as gifts to the existence of Dowry system..Widow marriade was not allowed ..All and all it looked as if the restriction phase had started ..Here it was the Brahmans who had the rights and authoritys to preach these Vedas and the rest of the public would follow….Now this comparison can easily show us that there was some sort of manipulation or change in version or u can say upgradation to erstwhile exisiting texts…And these texts formed the base of our culture and religion and most of the things written became rules and guidlines of a human beign considering it as word of GOD ..And a person who did not adhere to these rules(be it male or female) was either boycotted by the society or was threatened to get killed or was considered a threat to a religion as a whole….Who made the changes , why were there made are some things which cannot be said as there are no evidence of any data about what could have been the possibilities of such biasedness towards one gender…The political aspects to make one gender dominating or may be the majority of male been higher than that of women or the rules made by rulers that befited them could be a few of assumptions…..Now as i said earlier as our country is obsessed by religion …as they feel it is a word of GOD many of them fear to challenge the logic of the religion , as they feel that chalenging the logic is like challenging God …..And thus Even the highly educated people who believe in God still fall prey to such practices without considering the actual logic …Like even today if you ask a Brahman to marry his daughter/son to a shudra or lower caste he would say he would kill him/her or rather die instead of doing so …So despite the fact that there is lot of reforms done still such situation prevails ..This again is because of the interpretation done by some priests of the religious texts written in the past .

    Coming back to the theme of your article…Women or man in India almost 95% of them believe that there religion is true and it is formed to guide human beign in his her life and is a word of God…And because of the gender biasednedd of the vedic /religious inscriptions many have (even women) have accepted the fact that in this world male dominance would prevail and women would always be subordinate to male…That the role of women is confined to that of a house maker..And this is again a rule made by God .It is not just Vedas, In every other religion like Muslims and Christians there exists gender biasedness , and it can be said from the adam and eve theory of evolution of man where by despite the orders of god it was the women who got misguided by the SATAN who came in the form of serpent and made herself eat the fruit and feed it to Adam..And the life started with a curse to Adam and Eve with more of the sufferings written in the name of eve..The Fact of the matter is with this thought process in back of the mind many men and women feel that as due to westernization ( a result of british rule and foriegn education) today women have been spolit. They go out and work they have forgot there so called decency and forgot that they are still subordinate to men…They say women have forgot that it is by the rule of God that they have to be in there limits and not be an instigator to crime..Here due to this beliefs they start becoming lineant to men and start blaming women instead stating that the root cause of the issue is women and acts of women again …And thus due to these superstitious beliefs in religion the intensity of patriarcy is felt high because its the woman also are wanting to prohibite the exploitation of there so called religions and culture and abide by there religious rules so that they stay protrected …And if you talk about politicaians they have there bread and butter based on communalism and caste based politics..To expect them to rise against women would have you same ludicurous responses as mentioned in your article ..After all remember the vote bank which they need and remember …..And it is not just them many others including the oldies (specially women in your house) ask them on there defination on women liberation …i have personally experience this… although they may show liberal though… but in the end they would be the once who would show concerns on the way of dressing of todays genration(specially girls) and if a girl grows beyond the age of 21 and for them the test of a women is not on how she does well in exam but how she cooks well in the kitchen and follow discipline rules as regulation…
    So today apart from calling Woman to stand with each other there has to be a logical represntation on how injustice and gender baisedness prevails in the religion and religious activities…There should be reasoning that why only a male preist has the right to perform Aarties of various Gods and Godess and not women…They should reason why is it that a women is banned to do religious practices while in her MC’s where by it is GOD in the end who has given this to her..and so on..Such education would lead to some knowledge enlightment and would bring in support from all sectors and kill the steretyping of a women image..But for that every women need to show courage to fight not only against the society but also against there own beliefs induced in there blood in the form of religion.

  3. Somia Sharma

    Hi Urvashi !
    A well written article.
    Hope people think about it and be enlightened.

    A woman is woman’s greatest enemy. While the opposite should have been true and sometimes is. Let me start from my own house.

    I have been told to cover me up (i.e. not wear cut sleeves !!!!!), not to talk loud, not to have guy friends, not to laugh, not to go out, not to speak, not to breathe……( and all those ‘NOTS’ that i should not have). These are all the ‘not’s’ imposed on me not my mom but by my grannies and aunts.

    But I have a mind of my own, I speak, I laugh out loud, I have guy friends, I go for night-outs, I come home late and yes I wear cut-sleeves and shorts too. It would have not been possible had my mom been not that supportive and trusting. I have been given all the liberties as my brother. The rules of the house are same for all. My momma has always been a pillar of strength. Had it not been her I too would have been drowned in this bawdy world. 🙂

    Now back to the topic, these women see themselves as inferior to men. This is because they do not want other women to progress. It is the words of the influential women leaders that hurt the most, who anomalously keep supporting their party members and blame the victims. Had these words been said by the members of other parties, I am sure, Ms. Banerjee and Ms. Dixit would have taken this up in the parliament and made a hell out of it and would have supported the feminists and women activists and would have gone to the extent of asking for a CBI investigation. But in the process they forget what harm they are doing to the self-pride and psyche of the sufferers.

    Ladies, PLEASE it is you who would be blamed more for enveloping the criminals and not letting the mindset of the people change. Just for once do not tolerate this injustice and maltreatment of women. Stand up for them. Save them from antipathy. It might take you against your parties but towards humanity. And if you do not have the guts then take a backseat and DO NOT DARE TO INSULT THE SUFFERERS.

    1. Urvashi Prasad

      Hi Somia,

      I am so glad that this article resonates with you. Some people become defensive about these things but my point is not to demean men or women but instead make sure we all collectively get a wake up call and so something to uproot these age old traditions and so called culture. We cannot let crimes and injustice against women happen endlessly in our everyday lives and I know that these things take time to change but we have to make a start somewhere! Hats off to your mother…there are some women who are inspirations for us and then there are others who let us down.

      Thanks a lot once again for reading and appreciating.

  4. monistaf

    Thank you for this refreshing article on an often taboo subject. I could not agree with you more on most of the points you make. Violence, injustice and crimes against women is a serious issue and both, men and women are perpetrators. Yet, most feminists find it easier to blame all the problems on men without accepting any responsibility or accountability on their part. If you really want to address the problems, even though feminists might find it unnerving, it is time to acknowledge the truth that a good portion of women out there are part of the problem, along with a good portion of men. The lack of comments for this article does not surprise me, because, it does bruise a feminist’s ego to accept that women too are perpetrators of violence, injustice and crimes against other women (and men) and are equally responsible for preserving traditional gender roles that are unfavorable to women.

  5. Mousumi Mukherjee

    Totally agree with your analysis! In a deeply patriarchal society….”The reality is that women are as much a part of the patriarchal mind set as men. And it has little correlation with the level of education or socio-economic status.”

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