A regular day, a regular set of notifications, just an absurd number relating to a certain hashtag – #MeToo.
Now I don’t need to explain the background or anything. I’m just a young man who had a question – is it really that bad?
You see, it was hard enough for me to imagine that these many women had to face such abhorrent behaviour, but what really struck me was the fact that many people I knew personally, girls I share classes with.
But this wasn’t the only time when misogyny and sexism prevailed over common sense. For context, I’m an IITian, and two of my seniors – one a girl, and the other a guy – were speaking. She began to discuss how her grades had been fluctuating, when he says, “Tum kyu hi mehnat kar rahi ho, tumhaare liye koi aur kamaane waala hai (Why are you even trying so hard, someone else is going to earn for you).”
Let’s put a few pieces together. They both had similar ranks in JEE Advanced (IITJEE for the oblivious), both were doing equally well in college, but somehow, her gender determined whether or not she would be deemed capable of earning, despite being an IITian.
One might try disregarding this as an isolated case of sexism, but I see it every day. Everywhere. Not just in my college, but in other institutes of repute as well. Just a couple of weeks back, in DU’s prestigious Hindu College, for some event, the welcome sign said: “Yaha maal aur maal dono milta hai (Which in modern-day collegiate parlance translates to ‘You can find both weed and chicks here’.)”
Does this appal me? Yes. Does it raise important questions regarding how normal it is to compare women with weed? Undoubtedly. But does this disparage the credibility of the venerable institute? No. Why, you ask? Because clearly, our education system, while capable of manufacturing efficient workhorses, teaches them little about the workings of society. This holds true not just for the colleges I’ve mentioned here, but for people from all strata, schoolchildren, working adults, the elderly, everyone, and not just in our country, but the world over.
To cite a few examples, Uber’s scandals, Harvey Weinstein, among others. Something must be really flawed in our perception of the way things work.
Discussing the lacunae in society regarding this is an overdone topic, and given I’m male, I find it delusional to claim I even know what the real problems are. However, what I do know, that because of this rift, both sides are losing out. Most women stay wary of men, not because of the certainty that the person will harm her, but because she has suffered enough times to be careful. While on the other hand, because most men learn almost all they know about women (ironically) from men, because there were few avenues for other interaction, which makes it difficult for them to feel a sense of compassion, and the cycle of misogyny continues. The problem isn’t as profound in major cities, but I fathom you understand how this affects a larger part of the populace.
I personally believe that there does exist one solution. Clearly, it isn’t education. While the pinheaded ‘intellectuals’ of our country believe in imposing greater restrictions for greater safety, I assert confidently, and with a conviction of common sense, that the answer really is unbinding everyone ideologically.
Consider this scenario. A guy walks up to a girl and talks to her respectfully because he understands and respects her. The same for the opposite. Or when a guy speaks to a guy or a girl with a girl. This is the scenario we wish for, and precisely what we don’t have right now. In order to undo the Gordian knot of misunderstandings we have right now, we need to get people to understand each other. So we now have a partial solution to the question.
The answer I propose is not normalising genders or gender roles. It is a lot more wholesome. I want to normalise ideas. I want people to see each other for their ideological makeup, not solely for physical features. The one way, I personally believe we can achieve this, is by making everyone debate.
You must be chuckling on the inside. Here we have an optimistic, rather, wishful thinker, trying to change the world by the method employed by men trying to call their audiences a nation. But hear me out. I’ve been debating for a very long time now, and the one fact I can assert without the fear of contradiction is that it has helped me accommodate multiple ideas, maybe even contradictory ones together, and understand both of them. Agree with them, maybe not, but sure as hell think about them. And that is precisely what we need!
Once people start reading more, understanding more, and most importantly, discussing more, we will have achieved an intellectual utopia, one in which people can, and actually, do think. The truth is, it isn’t that people aren’t worried about issues, humans are inherently paranoid creatures. The actual issue is that they don’t identify it as a problem. As one of my female friends put it, “It’s almost a way of life. You just have to learn how to deal with it.” When people expand the ambit of their thought, it is only then that they truly realize that they are at fault. It is then that they will realize how the other person may have felt.
The stage holds no restrictions. Your gender does not matter, your status does not matter, what does matter is what you have to say. Sure, initially you will have jerks with abysmal thoughts, but with the continued impinging of common sense, one day, they shall yield. With time, when men and women start seeing each other’s problems and understand them, will it not be easier to break the existing mould?
Debates occur to most as an esoteric means for showing off but bear in mind, it need not be a very formal event. Four people in a park could have an amazing debate. Two musicians in a garage could too. A thousand people on a common facebook group invariably do, and it’s a lot of fun too!
I don’t mean to say that all issues can be solved through the means of a debate, but what I do firmly believe is that all issues stem from a lack of intellect, the kinds that can be gained through both experience and compassion, and if there exists even one manner through which they can be eliminated, why not exercise that option? Besides, #MeToo has shown one thing for certain, people do want to talk. It’s best we ride on that momentum and use it to the fullest.