Oct 31, 2007

Women's Liberation

(An article on how the women's liberation movement has affected relationships between men and women)
Liberation, in its true sense, means to free someone or something from rigid social conventions. Civilisations, world over, have undertaken various liberation movements to free themselves from oppression. Oppression, here could take on different meanings right from the pressures of an enemy nation in the case of warring countries to rigid ideologies and conventions followed blindly by society. History has been witness to several liberation movements that have helped mankind free themselves from the shackles of oppression.

Women, in and out of India, have also come a long away in terms of making their mark in the fields of education, career, family and society at large. This has been possible, thanks to women's liberation movements that have been propagated over the years.

In India, in particular, several ideas and rigid guidelines hindered the progress of women in society. Women, by convention were meant to be subdued, polite and take things as they were told to without reasoning or expressing their opinions about it. In short, they had to live their lives as written down by a male dominated-male biased society. The girl child was shuddered even when she was still in her mother's womb oblivios to the thorny path ahead. She was meant to live a childhood devoid of education and the fun times that her male siblings enjoyed. Instead she was blessed with the ultimate mantra of growing up into a 'good young lady' (read marriage material!!). The kitchen was where she spent most of her day. Cleaning and washing were an added 'bonus'. All this while her brothers invested their time learning the three Rs... Reading, (W)Riting and (A)Rithmetic. An early marriage followed by early motherhood only brought on more responsibility leaving her with no option but to blindly follow the trodden path selfishly etched out by society.

Sounds harsh, doesn't it? Not any close to what yesteryears women have actually gone through. Things have changed though. It is said that time is the best healer. Women's liberation movements pionereed by broadminded men and women, have paved way for a bright future of the girl child. It's hard to point out an area where women have not excelled. Women like Kalpana Chawla, P.T. Usha, Maneka Gandhi, Kiran Bedi, Madhuri Dixit, Barkha Dutt and, for that matter, Rabri Devi are all liberation personified. Each of them has made it big in their areas of interest. A clear case of 'strict no-no' turned 'go girl... way to go!!!'.

Women's liberation has had its impact on the man-woman equation too. Some good and some not-so-good ones. Relationships define the association between people. All the hullabaloo about women's liberation has changed the way a woman relates herself to man, the vice-versa being of more prominence.

A woman could be someone's daughter or sister, someone's wife, mother, colleague or friend. Each of these relationships have been altered by her new liberated avatar.

A modern day father-daughter relationship is characterised by the father planning out a girl child education investment for his daughter. Good education combined with an encouragement in extra-curricular activities are on the top of his list. Fathers of today don't really have to wait for their son's to grow taller than them or fit into their shoes to feel that sense of pride. Seeing their daughter walk the podium in the graduation gown would bring that glint in their eyes too.

When it comes to siblings, open-minded families try their best to create an equally promising and healthy growing environ for their sons and daughters. If practiced by all, this would infact prevent gender bias from creeping into the minds of young boys. Brothers of 'liberated' sisters would rather face tough competition from their sisters in a pillow fight, than have them to prepare their lunch boxes for school!!!

Career women make good wives too. Working women are the best proponents of time management. How she balances her career and home without comprising on either of them is awesome. Ofcourse, this is achieved by the continuous support and co-operation from her husband and family. Its important for both husband and wife to respect each other and here is where the husband would have to make a few compromises too. The age old funda of 'tired husband returns home and finds a happy meal prepared by his wife' could also be flexed and reversed today when the wife needs to put in extra hours at work. And surprisingly so, it happens!!!

An educated mother knows what is best for her children in terms of their health and homework too!!!

On the work-front too, male employees have started accepting women colleagues with a matter-of-fact attitude. While some women add that sensitive touch to projects they take up in their careers, others carry off challenging male-dominated careers with elan. This is made possible to a large extent because of the change in mind-set of men and women alike.

Looks like I've painted quite a rosy picture. Though women have made tremendous achievements and moved out of the rigidities of conservative societies, not all women have been completely fortunate. There's still a long way to go for them. Liberated women should take up their cause and help them with equal opportunities.

Also, this reform in a woman's position in society is not completely accepted by all of the male fraternity. There are a handful of people who still have second thoughts about it. This is because of their narrow-mindedness or inflated male egos or both. Like we agreed earlier, time is the best healer.

Similarly, all this has also had a negative impact in the man-woman relationship. Not all marriages are strong enough to handle the male ego of the husband topped with the career-woman ego of the wife. Clashes and differences of opinions are commonplace. Divorces and separations are a direct fall-out of lack of understanding and respect for each other.

It's important for the men to understand that things have changed and compromises need to be made equally. They need to harbour no kind of gender bias when it comes to their mother, wife, sisters or daughters.

Similarly, women need to avoid pushing this liberation thing too far. The ground work has been done, now they just need to build on it. Why get into things like a fight for a certain percentage in Parliament or other concessions when they can excel on their merit alone. Liberated women need to use their freedom to move forward in life, rather than promote their feminity as a case for sympathy and concession. Also, on the home front, they need to flaunt that natural flair to remain sensitive and keep their families strongly bonded.

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