‘The gender bias is decreasing’ my liberal minded friends state. I agree that gross forms of gender discrimination have gone down in the urban areas but subtler forms remains which need finer scrutiny. With the new ‘Domestic Violence Act’ which men who have suffered at its hands consider draconian, women feel relatively safer and protected than they were before. Since attitudes die hard and do not change over generations such stringent Acts would help in making a dent in people’s thinking. People who do want to be generally politically correct in social circles have started to mouth gender appropriate viewpoints. They have become socially polite, suave and shrewd. They may carry two sets of opinions-one for personal decisions and the other for merely social consumption. To look a perfect picture is important indeed.
One of my personal staff was courageous enough to express his honest opinion when his wife delivered their second daughter. He almost fainted at the hospital he said and took a few days to recover from the disappointment. He would have been happy with a son since he had a daughter already. But you would agree that the same emotional truth would not have applied if there had been a second son, that is, if there was already a first one. Parents would rejoice with the fact of owing two sons. This also is a subtle form of gender prejudice and still exists in abundance. The liberal poses and positions are just superficial and like a consolation price.
I overheard my Mother’s advice to my staff member which was far superior to the solace that I offered him. She said in very simple terms that ‘there is actually no difference between a girl and a boy. The difference is made by us when we and the whole society shower blessings in abundance to the boy and not to the girl. If you will bless her with all your love and good wishes she will grow into a beautiful human being’. He was touched as he walked out with his eyes becoming moist. He realised the truth of the wisdom as his elder girl was brilliant in studies and seemed to have a good future. He was ambitious about her career and was actually planning to educate her as far as she could go.
It’s a common sight today to see two daughters and a set of doting parents. It’s heartening to see happy parents of two girls whom they nurture with their full love and care. When I was born as the second daughter to my parents I am told that my aunts cried in sympathy to my Father but he was determined in his opinion that it’s fine and great! I guess my Mother’s emotional and moral burden must have diminished seeing his rock solid attitude. I am very much loved and pampered by my parents even now I must confess. My two siblings feel I am the lucky and blessed one! And imagine that was a generation ago!
But some traditional families do not change over generations and do not believe in changing. They have a bullish attitude as they hold steadfastly to old values with a weird sense of pride. In a rebound reaction to modern preaching they might turn more traditional and oppressive. This becomes a defensive action to a growing fear of losing control over their families and children. Just as modernity is on the rise, fanaticism or fundamentalism is also on the rise. They seem to be positively correlated to each other. The ‘traditional’ backlash is expected as self appointed guardians of society cannot tolerate so much modernity.
But as guardians and parents we must learn to unlearn the old harmful beliefs of generations and instil new values in ourselves. We must we wise enough to discard oppressive and exploitative values and adopt new healthier ones. Otherwise society will stagnate and rot and stink. It will never grow up and people will never evolve into better human beings. It will never be able to rise to face newer challenges of modern world. Of course the word modernity has different definitions for different people and communities. That could be debated among members of the communities and a common decision could be arrived at. I could begin with my own community.
Published in Hitavada Women’s World on November 04 2009