Once upon a time, there was a girl, Sweta. She used to live in a small village located in the Buxa district of Assam. She aspired to become a successful pilot. However, after completing primary education, she engaged in household chores in order to help her mother due to social conditioning. Subsequently, she was restricted from completing higher education to support her family. She had to walk with her mother to collect wood from the nearby forest. Additionally, she used to share work in cooking food, washing clothes, cleaning home, etc.
Similarly, there was a boy, Shubham living in a small village located in the Malkangiri district of Odisha. He was good at playing cricket. Like Sweta, he was also aspiring to become a successful cricketer. However, the expectation of family was different from Shubham. Due to family expectations, he was demanded to go to Kota, a district in Rajasthan, to prepare for IIT JEE. After a few months, he was not able to cope with his parent’s expectations. Consequently, the family came to know the bad news that Shubham had ended himself in a small room in the city, Kota.
What do we infer from the above two stories? – In the first story, Sweta is restricted from pursuing higher education. It restricted her from becoming a successful pilot. As former M.D. of IMF, Christian Lagarde in her study claimed that equal representation of men and women in the workforce would increase India’s GDP by 27%. Therefore, the discipline of restriction on women not only compromised Sweta’s personal growth but also India at large. Similarly, discipline with respect to the expectations of Shubham’s parents has not only destroyed one human capital in the face of Shubham but also missed a prospective cricketer. Therefore, both disciplines were equally harmful.
However, these two stories raise some serious questions – How are these two disciplines harmful from the Individual to the national level? How is it harmful to our society? Why do such disciplines exist? What is the current status of these two disciplines? What should be done to overcome it?
“Restrictions” on girls and “Demands” from boys are two disciplines that play a key role in influencing girls and boys respectively. It happens sometimes knowingly and unknowingly. Sometimes, parents know that these two disciplines are harmful. Still, they practice it in the name of “necessity” and “lack of resources”. It can be explained by the Knower-doer split propounded by Swami Dayananda Saraswati. Here, parents are divided into an ‘ideal’ knower who values one course of action and the ‘actual’ doer who does something else.
Similarly, in some places, it is socially inherent based on stereotypes. These two disciplines have been socially conditioned over a period of time. Even today, works are functionally differentiated in the society. For example, it is assumed that the ‘field of engineering’ is for men while the ‘field of medicine’ is for women. Household work should be done by women and the male counterpart is the breadwinner of the family. Therefore, using these two disciplines, such narratives have been socially constructed unknowingly. Due to a lack of verification of old customs, it is still practiced.
Consequently, we see reflection of these two disciplines – “Restrictions” on girls and “Demands” from boys in different spheres of life. Starting from family, it translated to the national level. In the family, it is often perceived that ‘women are caring and nurturing’. On the basis of this perceived notion, there is a division of labor in our society where women are restricted to caring for and raising children and male counterpart is demanded to become ultimate breadwinner.
Due to this, women are restricted from participating vis-a-vis men. Both are equally harmful because due to restricting women from participating in economic affairs, the economy would be adversely affected. On the same line, putting demands on boys make them arrogant and ignorant at home. Subsequently, it translates into the subjugation of women and the dominance of patriarchy at home. Therefore, these two disciplines are equally harmful.
Similarly, in society, it is assumed that women are emotional rather than rational. Due to such assumptions, women are restricted from participating in political affairs. Consequently, women i.e., half of the human race are merely represented by 14% in the Indian parliament currently as per data revealed by CSDS. It shows the glass ceiling effect that restricts women’s growth. On the other hand, male counterpart is demanded to take leadership role irrespective of the fact that they want to be a leader or not.
Therefore, restricting women’s growth is not good for India’s growth. According to Swami Vivekananda, ‘All nations have attained greatness by paying proper respect to women. Those nations which do not respect women have never become great. On the same line, we are missing the quality of women’s leadership. For instance, A study by Chandan Jha claims that women’s leadership around the world has been more peaceful and less corrupt. At the same time, demanding leadership from a male counterpart is equally harmful because he could have performed better in some other arenas.
Apart from this, in the national sphere world has witnessed the restriction of women in the armed forces. For instance, in India, merely 3-4% of women are in the armed forces. They are restricted to the notion of “safety” and “health” concerns. Due to this, we miss completeness in security management. On the contrary, boys are expected to be in the armed forces. Services in the armed forces are masculinized with the help of social media. Similarly, in corporate offices at the national level, girls are restricted to pink-collar jobs, and boys are expected to be in top leadership.
In both cases, it is harmful to the nation. For example, due to this, neither the armed forces nor the corporate world became gender inclusive in the workplace. It inherently puts a cap on young girls who are budding in this world. Therefore, it creates a case of gender stereotypes from the beginning. Similarly, it provides undue advantages to boys in the armed forces to show themselves “stronger”. It creates a gap in gender. Subsequently, it hampers India’s ranking in the Global Gender Index that is published every year by the World Economic Forum.
But it raises a serious question, why do we witness such cases of gender stereotypes where girls are weighed down by restriction and boys with demands? Why do we see these two disciplines not only in India but around the world?
Throughout history, such narratives have been theorized from the beginning itself. For instance, in ancient works, Aristotle, a Greek philosopher in his ‘Theory of Citizenship’, excluded women from becoming a citizen. According to him, women didn’t have time to participate in city affairs. He had restricted them to household chores. At the same time, he demanded males to take responsibility for managing city affairs. Therefore, it became a part of the popular narrative in ancient Greece. Since some thinkers called Aristotle as father of political philosophy and his work as a reflection of Western political thought, it became mainstream thought.
However, it is also believed that such dual disciplines – “restrictions” and “demands” – were the product of a patriarchal values system. For example, Benazir Bhutto in her book “The Daughter of the East” says that largely religious texts are not gender-neutral because women’s representation was missing at the time of writing these texts. Therefore, restrictions and demands interplay together. Due to putting restrictions on women, a void is created. That void was occupied with the “demands” weighed down by society from the boys.
Apart from these, such values start germinating from the home itself. For example, some parents used to call their son as “sher beta” and such words are missing for boys. Therefore, it becomes common sense that women do “weaker” things and men do “stronger” things. Such reflections are also seen in Cinema and TV serials. It socializes the budding children in the same set narrative. For example, in a movie, it is shown that whenever Villein kidnaps an actress, its actor is demanded to rescue and the actress won’t even try to fight to get out of the problem.
Along with this, religious philosophies and the notion of caste domesticate women. For example, during the mensuration period, women were restricted from using the kitchen. Because there are some justifications on the basis of “purity” and “pollution”. Also, some feminists claim that the growth of industries restricted women to the house because the male counterpart going to the office needs assistance from making lunch to washing clothes. Since women are limited to home, it is demanded by males to spend more time in their respective companies.
However, there is a story of the other way around. In the post-modern world, restrictions on women are decreasing. At the same time, demands from the male part are also narrowing over the period of time. For example, last year Supreme Court of India allowed women to join the armed forces. Now, India is increasing women’s intake. If we look at the world, nearly 30% forces in Israel’s defense forces are women. It shows that the effect of these two disciplines is decreasing.
Similarly, in the family, the narrative has been changing. Now people also call their daughter as “Jhansi ki rani”. It becomes possible because of the example set by Rani Laxmibai of Jhansi. Apart from this, the government of India has motivated women to participate in politics. For example, India has provided constitutional status to the Panchayati Raj through the 73rd and 74th constitutional amendments. It provides 33% reservation to women. But some states like Bihar and Haryana have provided 50% reservation to women. As the restrictions from women decrease, demands from males would also decrease.
There is a need to take responsibility for all stakeholders in the process of narrowing these two disciplines. At the individual level, we need to adhere to the words of Bhagwat Geeta that suggest us to walk the talk i.e., do what you say. Similarly, society should reduce restrictions on women and demands from males. In this process, there is a need for attitudinal changes. On the same line, the government at the national level should bring schemes that are gender-neutral.
Therefore, there is a need to fight against these two disciplines in other to achieve gender gender-neutral society. It would also help in achieving SDG-5 i.e., reducing gender inequality. Dr. Ambedkar has rightly said that the degree of women’s progress achieved reveals the progress of a society more accurately. Thus, an equitable, inclusive, and gender-neutral society is the need of the hour.
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