I was talking to a friend of mine in medical school who was telling me that because he had so much work, he had to decline an invitation to a conference in Dhaka, Bangladesh, from a Nobel Laureate. I told him how Dhaka might not have been the safest place to go, given the recent occurrences, and he replied, “Don’t give in Abhinove. Giving in does not help any of us.” I was then telling him that I was simply happy that he wouldn’t be hurt and that I wasn’t giving in to acts of terror or fear. But this conversation, coupled with the recent happenings and Facebook posts, really makes me wonder.
We’re probably not a society that gives in to terrorism, at least not as much as we give in to sexism, across all spheres and societal strata. Another friend of mine just started college and her parents have decided that this is the right time to get her a pepper spray. We’re a society that fails to recognise women for what they are and can be, so much so that gender divisions are so deep in our education, culture and basically our immediate and not-so-immediate environments. Double standards parallel our narrow mindsets and yet, we talk about how we’re the fastest growing economy or how our ancient culture was so profound. And that’s just it, right? We probably overlook everyday casual sexism more than we even give in to it. It’s so common place, that it feels right in our society, from seating arrangements in schools to movies and pop culture. We’re inherently a society that is taught not to question anything, from traditions and practices to career choices and that has made it enormously hard for us to question the existing patriarchy, or sometimes even acknowledge it. Words like feminism and gender fluidity don’t mean anything apart from ‘Westernisation‘ or ‘opposing Indian culture. ‘And all this, from a person who probably has no idea what all of this feels like. I’ve never had the necessity to look behind my shoulder on the road or think of responses to catcallers but the idea that this happens to people, far more than I ever imagined, makes me sick.
Our choices are restricted to the kind of movies we watch, the books we read, the music we listen to and the clothes we want to wear (maybe not even that). The concept of choices in relationships, education, parenthood or just any kind of personal choices is non-existent because of the inherent framework of ‘the places that people have in the society’. We talk about women empowerment in the army or in the entertainment industry but we do not want to talk about going out to work every day. We talk about how America might have its first woman President or how women need more representation in Indian politics but some of us are still uncomfortable with women driving. We still have double standards when it comes to marriage and we still think of working women as having part time jobs, besides motherhood.
We’re a society that can be accused of many things but a majority of those exist because we lie to ourselves, living in denial of the fact that we are inherently messed up. We do not try to see the long-term consequences of a practically non-existent sex education or a perpetually sexist education system because we simply resort to blaming the woman whenever something crops up. We are frustrated by Salman Khan’s comments on rape but we never talk about any of this at home, or in school; arguably the most important places to have this discussion. And by living under this ‘taboo’ we’re just living in denial. We may never solve the problems that plague our society, we may never come close. But if we never acknowledge the problem and how ubiquitous it is, we’re simply giving in.