The masculinist construct of femininity
THIS refers to Anu Celly’s write-up "Interrogating the masculinist construct of femininity" (March 4). When our women were so active during the freedom struggle, then merely saying that our society is male-dominated is not enough. Women represent about 50 per cent of our population and their problems of dowry, illiteracy, poverty, etc. can be eradicated only if they come forward to fight for their rights.
We have been ignoring the contributions and potential of women — 50 per cent of our human resource — for the past five decades. More than half a century after Independence and a Constitution that enshrines gender empowerment, we are far from main-streaming gender issues.
Existing laws disqualify the mother as a natural guardian and deny her equal partnership in parenthood. In organisational life, the gender bias has been thoroughly institutionalised. Despite all things being equal, the intake and percentage of women, for example, in the civil service and public sector enterprises that are considered to be gender neutral bodies, is merely 10 per cent and 5 per cent respectively. As a result, qualified and competent women continue to remain invisible and are only responsible for secondary decision-making. Our systems need healing as well. Regenerating the qualities and capabilities traditionally considered feminine would restore both our health and the health of our institutions.
The shift from industrial age to information age has interesting implications. The communication revolution is ending the hierarchy and power structures within systems. Information Technology, mercifully for women, is gender blind. This may pave way for a future that belongs to women.
Equality alone is not the solution unless it is accompanied by a complete overhaul of mentalities of both men and women. Our aim should be to include women and not to exclude men. Promoting equality in everyday life will centainly come from a position of strength. But beyond strength lies balance. When we reach that stage we will be ready to make a real beginning.
The writer attempts to provide a general explanation for the universal devaluation of women and further argues that their status in society is evaluated more by patriarchal ideology than by anything else.
I do not agree with the writer that a woman is expected to inculcate a spirit of all-absorbing devotion to a set of femine attributes at the cost of smothering her own individuality. In fact, the virtues of sensitivity, empathy, compassion, and perseverance and above all patience are closer to femininity than masculinity. A woman’s psyche and psychological make up are more concerned with child-care and primary socialisation, and women develop more personal and intimate relationships with others, especially their children.
The answer to why women are universally devalued may lie in the cultures of different societies. Ironically, in almost all societies of the modern world, a higher value is placed on culture than on nature. Culture is the means by which man controls and regulates nature. This is the reason for the devaluation of women. Until this does not change, female subordination cannot be eliminated.
Apropos of Tamanna Kanwar’s article "A question of female identity" (March 4), the comments of the writer on the serial Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi are highly academic and highly misconceived. This serial is now topping TRP ratings and has even surpassed KBC’s popularity. Viewers are fed up with serials based on love triangles and extra-marital relationships and like serials which they can see in the company of their children. Serials like Kyunki.... fit the bill and this accounts for their popularity.
This refers to Vimla Patil’s article "Muqaddar Ka Sikandar" (March 4). What’s Amitabh Bachchan’s place in our hearts today? Every Indian respects him as a mature, seasoned and talented actor. He did us proud when he was voted star of the millennium. We are charmed by his charisma. Like good wine Amitabh Bachchan has got better with years. It is nice to see that Bachchan has toned down his starry persona.
Sadly enough, his stint as a politician was too short to be worthy of any comment. So far he has lent a support to social causes from outside only. His contribution as a social activist by way of his support to the anti-asthma campaign is welcome but inadequate.
Coping with widowhood
This refers to Taru Bahl’s article "Widowhood is not the end of the road" (March 4). Widowhood does not have to mean that a woman’s life is longer worth living. If we turn the pages of history we will find that women have proved themselves to be kind, brave, tolerant and powerful wherever it became necessary. When a person wants he/she can win life’s every game even if he/she is alone in the world. A widow must accept her life as a challenge and face it with fortitude. A widow does not have to stay silent, to stop smiling, or isolate herself from every kind of happiness.
The plight of many poor widows in our country is pitiable. Their in-laws are seldom sympathetic towards them. While rich widows can lead an independent life, widows from poor houses can only work as maid servants. Comforts become a mere dream for such widows.
BRIJ MOHAN SHARMA