Though CEN.PK and PE-2 also have two different mating types, they decide not to discuss about gender, as they feel it is a strange belief introduced by the humans. Today being the international women’s day, they decide to come together and give an earnest salute to all the women on the planet who are alive now and also for all those unsung heroines, who had given their lives, hearts and souls, for their families.
In India, women have been repressed for many centuries. All the recent talk about women empowerment would only benefit the women who live in the cities, and who are independent and belong to the upper middle class. India recently banned a documentary by a British filmmaker. This documentary was about a girl who was brutally gang raped and then killed in New Delhi on 16 December 2012. It was a shameful and an extremely cowardly act by six men. In Mahabaratha, when Draupadi was disrobed, Krishna came to her rescue. In the modern world, a woman has to fend for herself. To be born as a woman is a sin in India and in many other places. Women give continuity to lives yet they live in squalor and misery.
Violence against women is common in many cultures. Women has no say in many societies. In modern societies, the violence takes cleverer and subtler attributes, such as not recruiting a woman because she will take maternity leave, or giving her less salary. Let us leave the Scandinavians out of this equation. How long would we continue this division and separation ? Why don’t we question the society ? Is living amicably a myth perpetrated by the poets and the movies ? Are we being hoodwinked ? Do we know the number of female presidents in the world currently ? The all and mighty USA is yet to have a woman president.
The idea of gender is too simplistic, biologists think as well. XX is female and XY is male. Isn’t that rather strange that the maleness or femaleness can be decided by one alphabet ? (Toquinho sings that one can imagine anything just by giving shape to that imagination with a pencil and a few colours and then erase them out as even the sun fades way…). What about those with XXY, XO, XYY, and other such ‘abnormalities’ ? Do they not have a place in our society as they do not fit to the general notion of our commonly agreed gender definitions ? Gender pervades languages too. When Vijay was in his Portuguese language class, he learnt that some words are masculine and some are feminine. He began to wonder if our minds sees the word as it is or equates the word to the attributes of a man or a woman. How quickly the association between a word and the thought occurs ? Can a word become a thing ? When we say ‘gun’, what thoughts comes to our minds ? Men, most would say, as most of the violence in the world is committed by them.
Vijay spoke with his sisters today. His sisters are housewives, as the Indian women are often referred to. They have the capacity to work but the bureaucratic system is hindering their chances. They are brahmins, the elite class (!) you see, again a division based on caste. How could one human being treat another being in the name of caste, and religion ? She will have to struggle perennially, she has to depend on her husband, her brothers and her father, till her death. Vijay’s heart wept. He was ashamed to be born as a man when his own sisters and many other unrelated sisters, whom he grew up with, struggle. Their daughters receive the same conditioning that was meted to them. They cannot go out. They follow their mum’s orders. Whose fault is this ? Family, belief, religion, society and relationships, strangle and chain women, making them incapacitated, yet a man can go out as he pleases. How can a sane society accept this ? What is the nature of that love that was showered on a female child by a father or a brother when she was left to live in agony, pain and misery ?
A child is born. How does the child know that it is a boy or a girl ? This notion is enforced by the parents. Till a particular age, the child is not differentiated. But after the age of 5 the torture begins. Vijay had a friend whose daughter who was covered from head to toe from the age of 5. The poor child cannot question as all it knows is the world of her mother.
Vijay’s mum has tirelessly worked for 40 years in the kitchen (and still is). She wakes up at 4 am and goes to bed at 10 pm. So much work because she was born as a Brahmin. She cannot change that. That is what she knows. If one takes away what she knows, she will be lost.
Why can’t men assume more responsibility? Why cant’ they help in household chores? Women aren’t child producing machines. How many times has a husband prepared tea for his wife ? Has he ever asked if she is tired ? Does he take her out to a cinema ? Should she be a bonded labour in the name of love ?
Jane Austen writes in Pride and Prejudice (1813):
‘It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife’.
‘Oh, Single, my dear, to be sure ! A single man of large fortune; four or five thousand a year. What a fine thing for our girls’.
The business of her life was to get her daughters married.
Dancing was a crucial skill for single women, and most would’ve known patterns, and steps to a variety of minuets, cotillions, and country dances.
Guy de Maupassant writes in Boule de suif (1880)
A listener would have thought at last that the one role of woman on earth was a perpetual sacrifice of her person, a continual abandonment of herself to the caprices of a hostile soldiery.
Boule de suif seemed rather shamefaced and embarrassed, and advanced with timid step toward her companions, who with one accord turned aside as if they had not seen her. The count, with much dignity, took his wife, by the arm, and removed her from the unclean contact.
She felt herself swallowed up in the scorn of those virtuous creatures, who had first sacrificed, then rejected her as a thing useless and unclean…
She made terrible efforts at self-control, drew herself up, swallowed the sobs which choked her; but the tears rose nevertheless, shone at the brink of the eyelids, and soon two heavy drops coursed slowly down her cheeks. ..
Somerset Maugham’s women characters hurt another woman in ‘The rain’ (1930)
There was something positively alarming in the triumphant assurance of the little woman`s manner. They were going out together that morning, and they went down the stairs side by side. Miss Thompson`s door was open, and they saw her in a bedraggled dressing-gown, cooking something in a chafing – dish.
“Good morning,” she called. “Is Mr. Davidson better this morning?”
They passed her in silence, with their noses in the air, as if she did not exist. They flushed, however, when she burst into a shout of derisive laughter. Mrs. Davidson turned on her suddenly. “Don`t you dare to speak to me,” she screamed. “If you insult me I shall have you turned out of here.”
In Coetzee’s The childhood of Jesus (2014)
Is he hoping to seduce her ? Is he insisting on the primacy of the personal (desire, love) over the universal (goodwill, benevolence) ? And why is he continually himself asking questions instead of just living, like everyone else ? Is it all part of a too tardy transition from the old and comfortable (the personal) to the new and unsettling (the universal) ? Is the round of self interrogation nothing but a phase in the growth of each new arrival, a phase that people like Alvaro and Ana and Elena have by now successfully passed through ? If so, how much longer before he will emerge as new, perfected man ?
If you like, you can have another go at thawing me.
Nothing is missing. The nothing that you think is missing is an illusion. You are living by an illusion.