Though we claim to live in a modern society, we still have a long way to go on the aspect of gender equality. Since time immemorial, women have been discriminated against and their basic human rights have been ignored. The sad part is that our society continues to be male dominated and we continue to witness alarming amounts of crime committed against women each day. The notion of male chauvinism is not something new and has been a part of our culture. In this article, we look at the reasons due to which women continue to be denied their rights in the society.
To understand how this delusion of male superiority has become so deep rooted in our culture, we have to go back to the ancient society. In an ancient society as exemplified by the Hindu texts of Vedas and Smritis, an ideal woman was the one who would help her husband perform obligatory duties. The notion of an independent woman was ridiculed at. She was to live under the protection of the man of the house. She was not to participate in any rituals and that is why perhaps we rarely hear about a female sage. Though women were worshipped in this era yet their position in the society was that of a secondary citizen and her rights were completely neglected. The traditions such as child marriage and sati were prevalent in the later Vedic period which gives us a clue that as the years went by the position got worse, partly due to the misinterpretation of text by so-called Brahmins and partly due to the fact that the texts themselves to some extent promoted inequality. The rise of religions such as Buddhism and Jainism was partly due to the fact that they tried to bring the concept of equality and thus attracted a lot of women. Yet these religions were unable to eliminate gender inequalities and soon enough the traditional Hinduism made a comeback (in the 7th century) and this time its attitude towards woman was way harsher and women were treated much worse. The practice of child marriage and a ban on widow remarriage became a part of the culture.
This thought is prevalent in other religious texts such as Quran which though revolutionary for their times still advocated practices such as polygamy and blatantly stated that a man is equal to two women. It also allowed men to take women slaves outside marriage. With the passage of time and the writings of hadith, the Muslim society continued to take a course towards eliminating whatever little rights a woman had in the early-Islamic period.
Christianity too laid an emphasis on the inferior status of women. The Bible specifically States that women are not permitted to exercise any authority over men. Some verses were also aimed as to how a woman should never question authority in public and always remain under the protection of their husband. The modern Catholic Church has taken the view that a woman's primary purpose is childbearing. All the other roles come much later.
It is clear that all the religions played a major part in creating an environment of hostility towards women. Some historians claim that one of the bases of the creation of all religions is to promote man as the superior creature. This can be substantiated from the creation stories of the major claim that the first thing to be created by God was a man and a woman was only created so as to give company to a man. It can also be argued that all major religions have a male authority as the central figure of worship. They have tried to brainwash our minds into thinking that a man is the only creature that is worthy of being worshipped and woman were only a commodity that was linked to a man's honour. The theme was that if you wanted to destroy a man’s honour, the easiest way was to rape his woman. But the appalling thing is that there is nowhere the talk of a woman's honour. She was portrayed as this creature whose only purpose was to give rise to lust in the hearts of men. We see that even today that rapes are blamed on the woman. Men claim that they were drawn in by the beauty of a woman. This kind of logic has its earliest associations with religion. Throughout the middle ages, there was an attempt by the menfolk to strengthen their dominance even further by altering some of the things written in the scriptures. It is only recently that the various religions around the world have started to change their attitude towards women because of the backlash they have been facing due to their rigid beliefs and attitudes. Still, male chauvinism is inherently is the core of religion and hence the religious authorities are trying their best to demean the woman who takes a stand against their policies. They are taking a hardcore line to defend their falling bastion. Hence we see a rise of misogynistic Catholic Trump in the United States, a fundamentalist named Erdogan in Turkey and the Sharia law advocating Dutarte in the Philippines.
Alcohol is seen in the modern society as a symbol of freedom. The liberal media is the first one to oppose any restriction on its sale and it is claimed that an infringement on alcohol is an infringement on our fundamental rights. They could not be more wrong. It is true that the extremist Islamist regimes have put the agenda of prohibition in the driver's seat yet their failure has more to do with their rigid ideology rather than the ban on alcohol. The success of ban on alcohol in states such as Bihar is a testament to the fact that alcohol indeed is a social evil. The murders and rapes in Bihar declined to less than half within a month of the ban. To those people who question the ban on alcohol on the basis that it takes away the freedom of the individual, I would like to remind them that prohibition movement was one of the most successful and liberating movements for women in the 20th century. It is a sad thing that the very source that inhibits free thinking is used by the liberal “free thinkers” as a symbol to hold on to. Alcoholism is a disease that has consumed the mental faculties of today's youth and is a clear source of violent crimes, especially in rural areas where there is little or no education regarding safe limits of consumption. It is to be understood that the man himself is responsible for the crime against women. The ploy of some conservatives to pin the blame of rape on alcohol is a sham. Alcohol is a driving factor(not the main factor) in those crimes and the attacker cannot plead innocence on the name of alcohol. That being said, it has been too long that we have neglected the indirect violent effects of alcohol and now is the time we limit or abandon this menace.
The small-minded male comes from both the sides; from traditional as well as the liberal societies; from “so called” educated as well as non-educated societies. The common thing about all these small minded males is that they suffer from one of the following two problems: either he is so scared of his insecurities in life that he vents out all his frustrations on women or else he considers himself the alpha male; he considers that all women are naturally attracted to him and he can have whatever he likes. Both these types of males are given encouragement from other small minded males in position of influence, those who claim that raping a woman is a small mistake and some go even as far as to justify rape. It is these small minded men who raise questions about the character of women who wear short skirts meanwhile ignore all the fallacies in their vision. They will do anything to protect themselves and fellow small minded men. It is because we have given these small minded men authority over ourselves, be it in politics, the religious or corporate world that is a pity in itself.
To eradicate these small minded men from the society is not an easy task because they in themselves represent a society. One could argue that by morally educating the youth, we can get rid of this mentality. But what if the people who set the agenda are part of this mentality? One could also say that by adopting a liberal lifestyle one can adopt a better attitude towards women. But what if the ones promoting the liberal agenda turn out to be perverted in disguise? The problem of the small-minded male is the one that has plagued the society for centuries and will continue to plague us until we take the step of completely isolating them. It is our duty to completely disassociate ourselves from these kinds of individuals for it is loneliness these elements fear the most.
The very medium which had the power to revolutionize our attitude towards women has been successful, albeit in the opposite direction. Bollywood was meant to promote a modern egalitarian lifestyle instead all it has done is justified a barbaric attitude towards women. From item songs to actors making lewd comments and even assaulting women, the story of women in Bollywood has been nothing short of an Oscar-winning horror movie. In the earlier years of Bollywood, the woman was portrayed as meek and timid, and almost all storylines ended with the hero killing the villain and rescuing the woman. The idea of a woman fighting back herself was nowhere to be seen. Today, though women have been given powerful roles yet they pale in comparison to the blatant sexism that has gripped the industry. Actresses today are idealised as sex symbols across the country. Item songs are businesses to portray women as an “item”. The attitude preached by Bollywood is that whatever the hero does is right. If he decided to chase a woman; he is right. If he wants to grope a woman; he is right. If he wants to have sex with a woman; he is right. The hero always gets what he wants. This attitude goes across to millions of youth around the country. They start to believe that their life is a movie and each one of them is a hero. The follow of consent goes out of the window. If they like a woman, the reciprocity clause has to follow. The commoditization of women seen in our movies completely misses our eyes if we don’t pay attention but gets ingrained in our subconscious mind.
A Woman needs no more than gestures of respect and freedom to live a life of dignity to become a Goddess in anyone’s life and it is the responsibility of each one of us to sprint towards a society that is egalitarian in all respects.