In our conversations, experiences, in newspapers, on TV screens, and everywhere around us, we encounter sexism. Men, in most cases, are the perpetrators of such violations, with women being on the receiving end. Women, despite being almost half of the world’s population, still feel unequal, discriminated against and neglected. This is not a story of a single isolated remote corner of the world. This is the story of women everywhere, every day, cutting across every stratum of society.
Recently, a French friend, who came to visit India, confessed that she had to lie about office work to be allowed to travel with her friends. So, if you think the situation is very optimistic in the West, this is a myth has been shattered after someone like Donald Trump became the President of the USA.
Sexism or gender discrimination can affect any gender, but here we are talking about prejudice against girls and women. Establishing one gender above the other, and consequent violent repercussions have become so universal, that some women tend to normalise it. The structured gendered roles have become an unspoken rule of law, which have sustained and institutionalised this discrimination.
The institutionalisation of gender roles is validated by socio-political institutions governed by men and further endorsed by the media. Under the influence of patriarchy, some women are unable to realise their own potential. Some women see men as superior and beyond criticism. Generation after generation, women carry forward the guilt of being unworthy and justify the oppression by self-criticism and denial. Despite constituting almost half of the world’s population, sexism and misogyny against women have been sustained successfully for thousands of years. It is beyond doubt that men are the perpetrators of patriarchy. But it is also true that this setup has also been nourished and perpetuated by some women.
While talking about layoffs in my office, I remarked, “Who knows, I may be the next one to leave.” A female colleague of mine was quick to respond, “You are too beautiful to be removed from this office.” Feeling hurt, I corrected her and said, “I have been hired based on my qualification and my experience and my job profile doesn’t include selling my body and face.” How often in our conversations, we knowingly or unknowingly pull each other down. Even some women look forward to body shaming their colleagues, mocking their dressing sense, speculating on other women’s married life. Slowly and steadily, they shape our thoughts, beliefs and get ingrained in our minds, dissolve in our blood, leaving a lasting effect that is difficult to erase.
We have unknowingly used humiliation, approval, admiration, inclusion, etc. to sustain sexism. Over time sexism is internalised. Running towards an unrealistic image, women compete for the male gaze and aspire to fit into an artificial mode. It often leads to mental stress, loss of time, money, energy and a lower self-esteem.
Many women have internalised a patriarchal ecosystem that survives on being under confident, soft spoken, unopinionated, domesticated and believe that they need to be protected. In case you think that it holds true only for poor and illiterate women, it is not true. This is also very relevant for many women who endorse sexism in hideous ways. Haven’t you encountered many working women, who flaunt their earnings, but do not mind fasting for their men’s long life or changing their names after marriage, or are dictated by the men of the house?
Women have been mocked, harassed and victimised in every possible way you can ever imagine. We all know and share that apathy together. Some women are quick to ridicule other women’s pain, but since karma is a bitch, you will sooner or later be confronted with a similar situation.
The moral of the story is that we suffer. So if we do, why don’t we seek a collective solution for it. Gossiping and spreading rumours about fellow women should be a big ‘no’. After all, we are all on the same team, and when has a team won when the teammates are divided. Appreciate and be inspired by successful women. Our gender should bind us together to foster an alliance.
I still clearly remember how my cousin had accused me of trying to steal her husband, just on the pretext that he was dropping me back to my place because it was a little late at night. That too on his insistence. I never asked to be dropped. Such stereotypical opinion about other women is indeed the worst form of betrayal. So, next time you join someone in calling a woman names like ‘whore’, ‘slut’, ‘bitch’, ‘whack’, pause a little and think.
Developing solidarity requires an acknowledgement of the damage caused by practices of internalised sexism. It is said that unless you become conscious of yourself, the outside evils can’t be won over. Compassion and commitment to collaboration can only liberate women and empower them. Love and be loved, because when we work together we are a force to be reckoned with.