Rakhi Gera Bhandari
The (Essential) Art of Womanhood
The month of March marks the International Women's day annually, carrying with itself a history filled with stories of courage, rebellion and grit.
To discuss this topic and to get different viewpoints on what does women empowerment mean to different people,
H2O Budapest hosted an online webinar last week covering the topic of 'Perspectives of women empowerment and how far have we come'. Our accomplished and experienced panelists gave their candid thoughts on this very debatable subject and contributed to its success. Its our step towards the bigger goal, bringing about awareness.
I recall an incident when I was Nepal and which was explained by our mahout on a jungle safari. I noticed that many of the majestic elephants were roaming around in the jungle resort in Chitban, Nepal, without being tied. So obviously, I asked him why don't they try to run escape? The mahout replied that when the young elephants or calves are brought in for training, they tie them in thick chains to strong poles. They try very hard to escape and run to their families but instead end up injuring themselves. Months go by, sometimes years, they get 'conditioned' and start believing that they cannot escape and fear the injuries caused in the attempt to do so hence they stop trying and eventually accepting it as their fate. Why is this story relevant? Well, you will know the 'relevance' as you read further.
Ever wondered why and how did the patriarchal society come into its robust existence, as we know it? Researches have suggested that in some of the early civilizations like the Mayan, Persian, Chinese, to name a few, men and women had almost equal statuses and rights. In fact, China is known to be one of the first matriarchal societies in the world. However, somewhere down the line, societies around the world deviated towards a patriarchal arrangement. What was the reason? Well, there are many proposed theories. I have mine too ('relevance'). And, as my favourite writer, Yuval Noah Harari says, "In order to understand our present and future, its important to know our history". We cannot base our thoughts anymore on reasons like genetic predilection, hormones and biological differences and yet we continue to do so!
“You don’t have to be pretty. You don’t owe prettiness to anyone. Not to your boyfriend/spouse/partner, not to your co-workers, especially not to random men on the street. You don’t owe it to your mother, you don’t owe it to your children, you don’t owe it to civilization in general. Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked ‘female.'” — Erin McKean
Estrogen vs Testosterone
We all are familiar with famous book, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus.
Well, the war of the genders is not only restricted to assigning planets, its also based on the
innocent hormones that are secreted in our bodies. The testosterone or 'the male hormone' is associated with the qualities like aggression and competitiveness is completely opposite of estrogen or 'the female hormone' which is associated with nurturing and bonding . These differences have been the basis of the prejudicial society wherein individual capabilities are determined and judged. The child-bearing superpower of women which were revered during ancient times has become a cause of concern within money-centric corporates. In fact, the truth is that a healthy balance of both these hormones is important for development and growth of the human body. Metaphorically speaking, so is a healthy balance of men and women in every field and every strata for the development and growth of the country and the species in its entirety.
We all have grown up reading and watching the innocuous fairy tales. Little do we realize the tacit stereotypes that have been planted in the mind of a child. Importance of external beauty, an evil step-mother/woman, a damsel in distress saved by a knight in shining armour and 'happily ever after', they have all been responsible for the subconscious prejudices and cliches relevant in our society today.
Even occupations have a stereotypical approach. Airhostesses, nurses, etc. are associated with women and engineers, military/army, etc. mostly have male predominance.
Who decided this structure? Who is responsible for this sexism? We are, our years of unflinching, non-committal approach is.
“My coach said I run like a girl. And I said if he ran a little faster, he could too.” - Mia Hamm
Objectification and Commoditization
As we look around ourselves today, females have never been as objectified as in todays digital world. Internet, television, magazines, they are filled with objectification of girls and misogynous content. Why do we fail to recognize them? Or if we do why don't we challenge them? It is because we have unintentionally gotten used to them, we joke about them and then forget about them, with no conscious agreement of the content.
Music, media, television are extremely powerful sources and can contribute towards a social change, a good cause. Sadly, there is no conscious effort made by the law makers on censorship or 'non-objectification' (if it is an existing term)
Based on a Content analysis performed wherein “The Hot 100” list was generated by Billboard Chart Research Services, six themes were found based on a framework. These themes were men and power, sex as top priority for males, objectification of women, sexual violence, women defined by having a man, and women as not valuing themselves.
If this was not enough, dictionary got an additional word this decade, it is called,
'Snapchat Dysmorphia', which means "an intense dissatisfaction with appearance after using digital filters resulting in the user seeking to look like their digital image". In their effort to keep up ('...with the Kardashians' ) girls are trying to attain the perfect female body and are losing their mind and their self-confidence. Instead of standing up to the objectification, girls and women have burdened themselves with it. How ironic is this!
How can we fight these norms?
The theme of this years International Women's Day 2021 is #choosetochallenge.
Challenge the stereotyped norms when you see them or hear them.
Empowerment comes with Education. Educate every girl and woman, every boy and man about the flaws in the societal structure.
Do not be scared of speaking up against these stereotypes.
Set an example for your children by doing the right things irrespective of the result.
Raise your kids like equals with no subconscious biases.
Talk to your children early in life, about the defects in the societal framework, before they build their thoughts based on stereotypes around them.
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