Disclaimer: I have nothing against men. 😁 I have been lucky enough to celebrate one of the finest gentlemen in my life in the form of my father, my husband, my brothers, my uncles, my friends.
I happened to see the movie Gunjan Saxena and it did touch a nerve. It felt like the movie was less about the journey of this girl and more about the character of her father, the man who silently won a battle without actually defeating anyone starting with his family first.
It is said that our strength and perspectives are quite influenced by our families, our upbringing precisely. This girl was raised in an environment which was devoid of any fears and was encouraged to open her wings from the very start of her life. The father’s character in the movie did not clip her wings neither did he mock or reject her views no matter how naive or wrong they might have been.
All he aimed was to find the reasoning behind every decision by his children through discussions and deliberations. The father’s character and choices were based on equality which was not only limited to his children (daughter and son) but even extended to his wife. In most movies, we’ve often seen a man as an encouraging father but he would seldom offer the same encouragement to his wife.
For those who haven’t seen the movie, allow me to elaborate the character further. This man portrayed as the father of Gunjan Saxena is a character who is a humble man and emits pure confidence in his belief of equality which is unaltered by the opinions of his relatives and even his own son. He chooses his battle very smartly and does not waste his energies on his way to his ultimate ‘victory’ which is allowing her daughter ‘to be’.
He does not indulge or even react to the most famous line in our families “Saamaj kya sochega” (What will society think?). His aim is clear and so is his means to achieve the same. His aim is ultimately setting his children free, with no preconceived notions or childhood indoctrination, with no baggage or judgements. The means revolve around instilling confidence and grit in his daughter and constantly reminding them to not settle for anything less than what is well earned and fair.
However acknowledging and deeply loving the character of her father, I am not ignorant of the challenges that Gunjan must have faced to make it in a not-so-women-friendly space. That her capabilities were tested merely through a ‘physiological attribute’ (fist fighting) reflects our mindset, no matter how much denial we like to live in. The capability of a man and woman, tested in terms of physical strength and power, is a patriarchal way of testing, demeaning, warning, and reminding her of her incapabilities, and thus, justified grounds of her inferiority. Physiological grounds have been one of the favourites of the patriarchy. I wish one’s strength and power are tested by the ability to bear and produce a child, by bleeding profusely for 12 times a year, by breastfeeding an infant etc. The physiological aspects are biological so we cannot debate it.. man or woman.
However, we should be more concerned about the choice, equality of opportunity and the capability. She can be an excellent coder, artist, homemaker, astronaut, chef, teacher, doctor, engineer, pilot, minister and still not be a fighter simply because she did not choose that. It is a choice. Everyone is not good at everything!
I hope most of us have the sanity to understand this and enrich our mindset as to undo our subconscious taming which instils fear in us when we realise that a woman pilot is flying our plane today or when we know that the surgery will be performed by a woman doctor or who mocks a woman karate instructor or is uncomfortable saluting to a woman officer.
We need to realise that this person is a professional pilot, qualified doctor, trained karate instructor or an officer who also happen to be a woman and not a lady pilot, lady doctor, lady instructor, lady officer.
When we add gender i.e. ‘women’ ahead of her qualification and her achievements, it is our ‘subconscious taming’ and we are not even fully aware of it.
Nevertheless, let’s start by practising equality and a little more compassion and empathy for women, for they are running on a not as smooth terrain as everyone else. Even though everyone has a common path, they just have little more obstacles to face, of being questioned more on her work capabilities, being doubted more of her value system (sanskar), being mocked more for standing out, judged more for her choices in life.