By Shambhavi Saxena:
In 2014, Indian Air Force Chief Arup Raha said women could never serve as fighter pilots because they were “not physically suited for flying fighter planes for long hours, especially when they are pregnant or have other health problems.” On October 24th 2015, the Ministry of Defence decided to induct women fighter pilot trainees. When MensXP, “a new age platform for the modern Indian man”, wrote about the decision as a “proud moment“, the magazine’s readers’ unguarded response is the furthest thing from pride you can possibly imagine. If you thought we were over and done with painful stereotypes of women as vain and airheaded, think again.
“[T]he selected women pilots will be all set to kick ass in the skies by June 2017,” wrote Shantanu Prasher for MensXP. But the ‘modern Indian man’ seems to have no faith at all! Taking to Facebook with these outrageous comments, they’ve exposed the exact attitudes that have kept women from the Air Force for the last half a century.
The mocking continues as one commenter suggests that there is no room for women’s representation and active participation, with a sneering use of double quotes.
This last comment reads: “How are women supposed to kill even two targets when they’re terrified of cockroaches?” Yes. Because women are biologically wired to be afraid of arthropods. And said arthropods are known to deploy sophisticated weaponry. Fear the roach militia.
As innocuous as these Facebook comments may seem, they actually point to a very toxic problem – this country still has a huge problem with its women. Even in a century when more and more women have access to opportunities, and possess skills and expertise, the idea that they ought to stay in the kitchen and make sandwiches persists. Unchallenged. Sometimes it’s the average Indian’s casual sexism that does more harm than say a regressive law – because it’s not something that can be repealed or questioned in a court of law. It’s the stuff we have to live with every day, like a weight pinning us into ‘our place’. And in a time when women are being inducted into the air force as fighter pilots, should we really be taking that sitting down?
Featured image source.