By Kritikha S
Edited by Nidhi Singh, Junior Editor, The Indian Economist
Gender. The word is being used a lot these days. And fortunately, some are using it for right reasons. And some for all the wrong reasons. Various misogynistic comments and remarks ranging from irresponsible to shocking and ridiculous by various important and unimportant people (I think it is irrelevant to name them and quote them here) in the public eye have been made without any second thoughts about the consequences. Women’s issues, gender discourses and campaigns are rightly gaining relevance in this post modern yet primitive era. I used the word ‘primitive’ because often we wonder why even after being educated some people are not able to act as one. And then after much debates and discussions with myself, I come to a conclusion that maybe it is not their mistake altogether. Maybe they were not educated enough. As in most of the cases being uninformed and misinformed are the reasons for ignorance on issues like this.
A common accepted and established fact is that the ‘mindset’ is the culprit in most cases of violence, abuse and harassment against women. Or even men. But what if the person accused of a ‘rigid mindset’ is not even aware of what he is being accused of. Because most of the times most of the people do not even know that their thinking is at fault. For instance, the recent Tapas Pal incident made many of us cringe with ‘sending his boys to rape the women’ remark and now he is conveniently ‘not doing well’ to avoid further uproar over his shameful ‘mindset’. This is just one of the recent let-downs by our politicians as in past few years we have witnessed unwanted abundant moral policing ranging from khap panchayats to various ministers to even, sadly, a national women’s organization chief. The ‘mindset’ asks a woman to not go out late at night, dress appropriately and blah blah. The ‘mindset’ is to be blamed for gender inequality, women’s situation, etc. When every cause to the problem is pointed to the ‘mindset’, why not change it?
Mindset comprises of culture and tradition of our country which is dear to many and it might sound ridiculously childish and impossible to think of altering that. But with changing times, it is important to embrace new thoughts to progress or else we will stagnate with rigid and obsolete ideas.
Mindset is thoughts and opinions collected over the years and our brain starts analyzing and storing the information about the social environment also. The way our elders treat women around us will be reflected in our thinking. If a child imbibes wrong values of only seeing the women as submissive and inferior, it would naturally encourage stereotyping of both men and women. And all the fight against gender equality would go waste if we don’t start from the basics. Gender sensitivity has to start young before the future generation also falls victim to basic but nuanced patriarchy. It is here education comes into play. Because most of the time they have not been taught enough.
As gender has become an increasingly important issue today, it is high time that gender sensitization becomes a mandatory subject in all the schools starting from primary classes. I insist on starting young because it is said children are like wet cement- whatever falls on them makes an impression. So why not feed them with right information instead of waiting for them to be adults and expect them to suddenly change their perception and behave properly towards female sex. If since beginning provided with sensible atmosphere, it can prevent, if not cure the disease of misogyny and chauvinism. Children as young as five years need to know that it is not natural but cultural that boys play with cars and girls with dolls. We fail to understand that we nurture skewed logic of male superiority from a very young age. Inculcating values of respecting and treating each other as equal is necessary to bridge the gap of inequality.
As Bertrand Russell says, “it is because modern education is so seldom inspired by a great hope that it so seldom achieves great results. The wish to preserve the past rather that the hope of creating the future dominates the minds of those who control the teaching of the young”, we as a society need to remember it is never to late to start. If we make sincere attempts to do away with such a system where women cannot even breathe their freedom, it can only be one step forward towards a better world.
As someone said set you can change mindsets but not set minds. The opinions and principles one has as an adult are the experiences of the past. For instance, teaching them there are no inherent masculine or feminine traits in anyone. Boys can equally be submissive as much as girls can be aggressive. Or talking to teenage boys about menstruation. Periods have been a taboo for too long. Now enough. A class or two on this will do no harm but actually save the future men from making nasty remarks and being condemned. Such lessons should be taught through classes, workshops, plays, and various activities to bring gender forth from the sidelines. The basic idea by sensitizing towards gender is moulding the psychology when young to make students understand the dubious gender norms as to make them as adults in future to question logically and answer wisely and think correctly.
As Roger Lewin says, ‘too often we give children answers to remember rather than problems to solve.’ This is exactly the case here. Instead making them understand the cultural ethos we suffocate their minds with do’s and don’ts for their respective gender roles which eventually becomes a norm instead of giving them a chance to think if the existing social values are right. The conservative mindset is here to stay and torture us with its sheer existence if we don’t not take necessary actions to correct it and prevent it from ruining the future generation.
Although she goes through an existential crisis every now and then, she somehow manages to keep herself sane in the company of friends, books, newspapers, internet and movies. Meanwhile, she is studying French in Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.