What Gurugram should know about feminism: Empowerment begins at home
Teach your boys how to treat girls. Raise your daughters so strong that they will not need a man’s help.Updated: Jun 05, 2018 07:53 IST
When I moved from the US to Gurugram, I was excited that I will be able to finally hire help. We found a fabulous cook. In the first few days, he made the best ‘stuffed karela’ I had ever tasted. I mentioned how much I loved it and insisted he repeated it the next day.
With a lot of concern, he asked “Did Sir like it too?”. I said, “Sir never ate Karela.” He immediately recommended another dish.
Little did I realise then, that I had just encountered a subtle sexist reaction to my compliment. The feminist that I am, it upsets me.
In a moment of introspection, I took a closer look at myself and my reactions to a few situations in life. There have been times when I have made choices or decisions that do not necessarily follow a feminist approach.
Deepa Narayan, in her book Chup, says the educated women in India may be feminists but they still have bad feminist habits. So, mere education and awareness cannot help us break out of this social conditioning.
I will be stirring up the hornet’s nest by citing how Sonam Kapoor, a vocal feminist herself, ended up changing her last name after her marriage. It is definitely her prerogative, however, I am just happy that I am not alone in defending this ‘personal decision’.
So what really can help us break out of this social conditioning? Consciously practising feminism in our everyday life.
For starters, don’t we notice that our drivers are entitled to a day’s off every week? Their Diwali bonus is usually one month’s salary. But the poor lady help, who spends all day slogging at our home, is not entitled to a weekly off. And, er Diwali bonus is usually a household item that looks great but is definitely less than half of the salary she draws.
I also fear that sometimes we ignore the bigger picture and trivialise the concept of feminism. In the name of feminism and empowerment, the city witnesses many ‘tamashas’ such as beauty contests, women’s day sale, etc. Let’s face it, feminism may or may not have made enough impact on the society, it has been effectively used and exploited by media houses to sell brands.
Feminism is about raising your voice for equality. Let us face a few facts. According to a survey, every third woman in India suffers sexual and physical violence at home. Women in India earn 25% less than men. The number of women in active workforce is dwindling in India. Gender bias exists and is a huge issue. Addressing these problems are just some of the ways to ensure equality.
Feminism has to start at our home. Household chores and childcare should be justifiably distributed between the wife and husband. Sensitise kids about this. Teach your boys how to treat girls. And raise your daughters so strong that they will not need a man’s help.
Man or woman, we have a responsibility to break the silence and become advocates for feminism. Do not hesitate to raise an objection to a misogynistic joke, be it on social media channels or in person. Be the firm ‘warrior of change’.
As I write this, I tell myself, I don’t want this to become another piece of rhetoric. Feminism may face resistance and create unease at home or at work, and I agree a tightrope walk is required. I once heard a conference speaker advise the women delegates that they definitely stood to gain from feminism. But the truth is both men and women will benefit from this arrangement. It is not a battle of sexes. It should be the common goal for all.
Last month, Stacey Cunningham was appointed the first woman president of NYSE. For the first time in 226 years, the largest stock exchange in the world has a woman president.
There is a ray of hope. Change is happening and it is for real.
(Neela Kaushik started a Facebook community called GurgaonMoms in 2011 to create a local support network for mothers in the city. Today, it has more than 25,000 members who also meet outside the virtual world to exchange ideas on matters ranging from parenting to careers. Kaushik grew up in Chennai and later moved to Gurugram with her husband and a son. She is an advocate of women’s rights.)