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SRISUVRO

SONGSOPTOK THE WRITERS BLOG | 3/10/2015 |





In today’s modern societies, women in almost all countries are relegated to the second class. Because the societies all across the world are male dominated, holding the key for ruling everywhere – starting at home, and going on to the society, the state, the constitution. Women have to fight for their rights within the boundaries imposed by men. They are obliged to respect these constraints in their daily lives, in their thoughts and movements, often at the cost of their own self respect. So most women are not able to live as they wish – they have to live within the boundaries imposed by men. And still we celebrate International Women’s day every year - in this same context. But a fundamental question remains – has this annual celebration had any effects at all on women’s’ lives?

A lot of people will assert that in the modern society most women ‘enjoy’ ‘enough freedom’. There is something worth thinking about in this statement – the words ‘enough’ and ‘enjoy’. ‘Enough’ does not signify total or complete – which signifies that women do not enjoy total freedom. Why is their freedom not total? Because this is the freedom that has been granted to them by the patriarchal societies – carefully measured and regulated. The second word that makes us ponder is ‘enjoy’ – women ‘enjoy’ the freedom, it is not their entitlement. The liberal, broadminded society is letting them ‘enjoy’ their freedom, like a child ‘enjoys’ a sweet occasionally. This sums up the mentality of the male dominated society. This is the overall attitude of our modern day society about International Women’s Day as well. And this is the stumbling block of women’s liberation movement as well.

Women are still second class citizens in the male dominated world. Once in a while we do see a woman at some summit of power, as a head of the state, for instance, but they too have to function within the confines of the systems defined and dictated by men. The feminist movements take place within that same contour. If ever progressive women’s thoughts and actions step out of those boundaries, the entire society rises up as one to conserve its basic tenets. Women are obliged to tailor their liberty and their freedom, at home and outside it, according to the diktats of the patriarchal societies.

The male dominance starts in our own homes, at a very early stage. The patriarchal system fashions the meaning and concept of women’s freedom, both for men and women. The child perceives the difference in the level of freedom of its parents at a very early stage. These differences take stronger root in the conscious and subconscious mind of the child as it grows up. Over time, it becomes practically impossible to shed these beliefs and convictions. They guide our thoughts & actions in every sphere of life – at personal, professional or societal levels. This is true for both men & women. From a very early age we start treating women as the weaker sex. A son must protect his mother, a father his daughter, a brother his sister, a husband his wife. This is what gives rise to a subconscious sense of pity and supremacy towards women in general. These are not conscious feelings, not at the beginning, but they do guide our thoughts and decisions, important or unimportant, and slowly lays the foundations of male supremacy. This is how the idea of a ‘second sex’ takes root, subliminal at first, and slowly becoming part of the conscious thought system.

In fact, in our personal lives, the amount of freedom we give to our mothers, wives daughter or sisters is determined by how much we love them. So the fundamental boundaries of freedom for women are defined by the men they love – fathers, husbands, sons, brothers. This is where the idea of women’s freedom faces the first obstacle. We tend to forget that the apparent freedom of women is actually defined by men. So do women fighting for women’s rights. It is unfortunate because the concept of women’s freedom is undermined by her own family, though the process is subtle and not always evident. Except in homes where male dominance is totally obvious, where women have no freedom to speak of. But even in so called progressive families women’s personal freedom and liberty are controlled by the males.

In all the different strata of our society women are systematically distanced from the decision making process because of their second class status – they are hardly ever given the opportunity to lead. Even when we do give them the chance, we crow about our own magnanimity in granting freedom of action to women, as if it were an act of kindness, all the while sharpening our wits for establishing male superiority as soon as the opportunity presents itself. If the sharpening tools fail, we become depressed and this inevitably leads to antagonism towards women, to misogyny. In the beginning we don’t even realize this. When we do, it is too late. Our self confidence starts crumbling, and at a personal level we try to crush the feeling by crushing the second sex.

It can be argued that religion, the founding stone of all power systems, is a main factor for discrimination against women. That is why women are treated as an inferior sex in all religions. That is where women’s freedom movements should start. It is debatable whether religion is becoming less important with the progress of the modern society. What is evident, however, is the fact that with the declining importance of religion, the forms of male domination are changing every day, penetrating all levels of political and social system like a tree spreading its roots – unseen to the naked eye. Women have to face these hurdles everywhere in the modern society.

This tendency of male domination is deep rooted. Our present education system is not geared to deal with this. So we need to start there – that is the only way to destroy these poisonous roots. Women will have to take this responsibility with total confidence. The education system defined by men will not be able to achieve this. The patriarchal system will have to be challenged directly by women’s liberation; if not, the present system can never be uprooted. This seems impossible, and hence unrealistic. This is where women’s movements today fail. Women’s freedom needs to be defined by women themselves, from their own perspective, and not within the contours of the patriarchal system. Otherwise women’s freedom will never become a reality, and will be confined to scholarly papers or empty declarations on public platforms and not be effective at any level of the society.

Women’s rights movements should be built on two basic premises – self confidence and strength of women and the determination to refuse male domination everywhere. The male dominated society will fight it with all its might because if unless woman is relegated to subservience, the whole patriarchal system will simply collapse. When resistance is strong, the movement needs to become stronger.

Self reliance can only come from self confidence that comes from self retrospection and experience. From this point of view, women are often a few steps ahead of their men. Now if women can actually build on these ‘few steps’, on a daily basis, without depending on the males, it can prepare the background for the power struggle. Let us not forget that this is not a gender war – women would not fight men but the male dominated system. Without forgetting that each man is a product of the same system, and they have to be severed from the system as well.

The day the patriarchal system started glorifying women as mothers and successfully drugged their conscious minds, the independence and freedom of women took a back seat. The glory of motherhood permitted men to satisfy their carnal needs, creating, at the same time, the perfect conditions for dominating women.

Women became the objects of carnal desire and commodities in the male dominated societies. The woman is not able to come out of that boundary because of their own feelings and psychology. This is where women’s freedom movement will have to hit hard. Another powerful instrument designed by the patriarchy is the concept to ancestry – the glory and pride associated with the family line. Doesn’t the ancestral line originate in the woman who gives birth? Is her role in the family tree any less? But it is, in the present system. Woman has been relegated to an inferior status, preserved as a bonsai that is never allowed to grow, totally dominated by men. Women have to fight this unjust system. This is where the ties between nature and the human society been severed. The well being of the human society depends on reconstructing this link. And this self rescuing act has to be undertaken by the designated ‘second sex’ itself.

This idea of the second sex, firmly entrenched both in men & women, needs to be uprooted first in our own homes. Both men and women need to be free of this idea. Yet, in spite of the fervor of International Women’s Day all over the world, the freedom of women in our own homes does not seem to change even by an iota. It has no influence whatsoever on our minds, conscience or outlook on life. It has  no effect on the way we lives. So we need to analyze the relevance of Women’s Day in our own homes, in our own lives. The basic concept of this special day needs to be stripped of its outward celebrations & manifestations and used carefully to change our mindset. We have to remember that without that celebrating Women’s day has no meaning.

How can there be a radical change in our mindset? Once again, it will have to start in our own homes, from the earliest days of a child’s education. The equality in the status of both parents has to be demonstrated to the children – through mutual love, trust, respect and dependence. That will lay the foundations of equality. This is the only way to start the process of changing the mindset that will then spread to the entire society. Only then would Women’s Day attain its objectives.

So the freedom & independence of women can be attained by properly training the future generations. For that, we need to examine the fundamentals of independence & freedom of both men & women within the family structure. Women lost their freedom the day the society put the onus of the financial responsibility on men. In fact, the economic and financial powers of men served to diminish women’s independence to a large extent. Which is why fathers look for solvent young men for marrying off their daughters. The underlying assumption is that the man will go out to work and earn while the woman stays at home. And since it is impossible to survive without money, the bread earner of the family, the male, becomes all important. A lot of things have changed today with both men & women working and earning, but strangely, there has been little or no change in male domination.

There are two more explanatory factors. First of all, often the woman earns less than the man & the woman is over dependent on the man for all important decisions within the family. This naturally reduces the independence of women. Secondly, in many cases, the man totally refuses to recognize the rights of women, thanks to his upbringing and his stronger financial capacity. So unless this mindset changes, both for men & women, there would be no changes in any society.

So the personal freedom of women depends on financial independence and equality of freedom between partners. In our society it is therefore indispensable to start an awareness campaign on this issue. Only then Women’s Day will become relevant. We need to work for the betterment of condition of women at all levels of the society, with a special emphasis on educating and enlightening women themselves. Women need to understand that they need not depend on men for living their lives. If a man can take care of an entire family, so can a woman. In that case, they need not accept male supremacy in their lives. This self sufficiency is the key to the independence of women. The strong belief in their own capacities is what will make them win.

In this way, as women become stronger, the respect men have for them will become stronger too. This respect will inspire them to behave in a more egalitarian manner towards women in their personal lives. Which, over time, will spread to all levels of the society, will transcend the national boundaries and spread all across the globe. That will be the triumph of Women’s Day.

That light of freedom will need to be lit by each one of, in our own spheres. The day when parents bequeath this light of freedom and equality in their children will be the day when women’s independence will witness its real success. Maybe this will take a long time, but we have to start now, today, in our own personal spheres, giving the leadership to women, no longer considered as the Second Sex!


[TRANSLATED & EDITED BY APARAJITA SEN]


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