Friday, February 12, 2016

"Women Empowerment", "Gender Equality" and stressed Indian "WorkingWomen"..

I recently read the results of a survey that showed that women in India are more stressed than the women in any other country. The percentage of women who consider themselves stressed in India was reported around 87%, as compared to 17% in US which is the country with maximum percentage of working women. I understand that the universality of these surveys can be questioned, but still the results can't be assumed to be wrong in entirety. This led to a series of thoughts in my mind, which I am blurting out here. I understand that science has dedicated branches, like psychology and sociology etc., to study shifting mindsets of people and society at large. However, I would like to put forward my views based on my knowledge and life experience.

Today, in any corner of India, we can hear educated people talk about "Women Empowerment" and "Gender Equality". Being educated myself, I completely support these concepts. But like any other make-shift idea, like Adhaar or the universal identity program launched by Indian govt., I believe that these ideas need to be carefully understood before actually adopting or implementing them.

We have been taught in our schools, how in ancient times Indian women were oppressed and were subject to the social rituals like "Sati Pratha" (the act of cremating a live lady along with her husband if latter died) or "Parda" (women hiding their face while meeting people or not meeting people at all). These oppressive rituals and practices went away with time, but still women were not given a major say in social activities or decisions, not even in sensitive things like family planning.
In the traditional household setup, men would go out in the morning and then spend the whole day trying to earn resources to sustain family, while women would spend the whole day cleaning the house, cooking up meals, and serving the children. Men only would plan the future of the family based on their limited awareness of the outside world, limited because they would have seen world only in the perspective of their work. With growing kids and increasing size of family, men would get occupied in the struggle to earn more resources, while women would continue to do the same old household work. Eventually the disparity in terms of the awareness, between men and women grew so much that women were reduced to the meager followers of what men demanded them to do. This resulted in a shift of center of power towards men, which first resulted in corruption of mind and then the debacle of the society.

With the gradual growth of education and awareness, an intellectual class grew in India which developed a progressive thinking. People started realizing how women could play a better and a more important role in the prosperity the family. They realized that if women were aware, they could actually run the entire family by planning an efficient use of the resources earned by men. This could result in a proper balance of power - men earn resources and other essentials, women plan and spend those resources to sustain life and make it more beautiful. With this balance of power, women could hold a position equally important to that of men in the social world. And that's how the terms "Women Empowerment" and "Gender Equality" came up. With this history behind these two concepts, I feel that these ideas have been either misunderstood or not understood at all by majority of the Indian women.

As per my observation, majority of the modern women would describe these terms as below:
  • Women Empowerment - To enable women to work and earn money, and thus have a say in family or society.
  • Gender Equality - To enable women to work and earn as much money as men can, to have the same importance and respect as men.
They consider talking about household as demeaning their education. They will never talk about the "balance" of life. They associate social "importance" to "money" and "social relevance" to "the capability to earn money". I can understand that in old times, importance and social relevance were associated to money. But I also understand that the people who did this faulty association were uneducated and unaware. We can't claim that we are educated, and deserve to be "empowered" and "equal", if we still hold such faulty associations true in our minds.
I can understand that with men busy outside and women busy only in household, the flower of life could not blossom, but it was still watered and alive. Now, with the misunderstood concept of "working women", both men and women are busy earning money and the house is locked up. Like the house, children are also ignored. Because of lack of parental guidance in formative years, they end up either being ignorant or getting carried away by the exciting and misguiding external influences. With parents fighting the world and children mired in ignorance, the flower of life dies.
There are certain biological facts that we cant change. For e.g. men cant give birth, they cant feed or raise a new born. Labor pain and motherhood are the biggest responsibilities of women, in which men can provide extreme moral support but they cannot play a major role even if they want to. With these biological facts, we need to understand that "work" or "job" is also a big responsibility which demands extreme commitment. So if women want to work, they have to mentally and physically train themselves to be able to handle both these responsibilities. Without the physical and mental preparation, if women take up these tasks, they'll not be able to maintain the balance of life and will fall. They can't just focus on "work" and ignore the "house" or "family", and vice-versa. They can blame men for not being cooperative, but they need to understand that it's the lack of their mental preparation that they could not garner support from men or family. And I don't think that educated Indian men have such corrupt minds that they don't want to help their better-halves in achieving what they want.
We need to realize that we were born to live, not to earn money and importance. When we live, and when we get educated, we develop a thought of how we want to further live. Life looks beautiful only if we are able to live it the way we want to live it. Money is just one of the means to attain the beauty of life. We forget that "money" is not important, the "beauty of life" is.
With our education and intellect, we need to define what our "life" is and how we want to live it. There's no harm in being selfish and pursuing higher career goals, but then we should not be impacted or stressed by what society throws at us. We can opt for pursuing a high profile career and not allow to get forced into a socially demanding ways of living. But if we can't ignore the social aspect, we need to understand that we need to  maintain the balance between "work", "house" and 'family" to sustain life. And to maintain that balance, if we have to compromise with our "job", we should not think that we are loosing our "power" or "position" in the society.
To take an example from my personal life, my mother is a post-graduate from a reputed college, and a housewife. If I try to recapture from the time of my consciousness, had she not focused only and only on my father, my sister and me, all of us would have never been able to attain the stable and healthy life that we are living now. She put in all her education and intellect in "beautifying" our family, and our home. She is "empowered" to take any decisions, be it property or any other major spending, and has saved a substantial household budget from and for family expenses. While I cherish my father's guidance on how to deal with the practicalities of life, I "equally" cherish my mother's guidance on moralities and proper ways of domestic living. And that's what brings respect to her and to our entire family.
Like I said in my last post, life is a jigsaw with work, family and self as its various pieces. Working women should try to look at the various pieces of the picture of their life, and hold the pieces together to maintain the beauty of their life. If they do so, they'll feel the harmony and no "stress" between all aspects of life..