Monday, June 18, 2007

Why look for differences, instead of similarities between sexes? Are you complaining, ‘if men and women are equal, why clamor for privileges or look for special treatment?’ Melvin Konner, a renowned anthropologist poses the question, ‘Why raise gender differences?’ and answers in his book, The Tangled Wing that ‘insistence upon the nonexistence of significant biological basis for the different behaviors (that) we observe in the two genders, can only obscure the path to understanding, amelioration, and justice. The truth may not be helpful, but the concealment of it cannot be (helpful either).’ Ignoring differences may lead to temporary harmony but it does not make them go away. Differences that you wish to tuck away from view remain as differences. As one thinker would say, ignoring the aggressive nature of males or the female inclination toward mothering does not eliminate the differences; it only drives them underground, with predictable eruptions later, often involving conflict.
More women are engaged primarily in domestic tasks and child care at home, while the men go out to work. It may be possible to cite examples spanning the entire gamut of history by references to women in every facet of human endeavor, from the Vedic times to the contemporary India, from being a goddess personified to philosophers; to poets; to scientists. They will continue to remain as exceptions and cannot prove that women have obtained the status of equal competitors in all walks of life. Women were first engaged for cheaper labor. Women became nurses, teachers and telephone operators. The strict segregation of women into certain occupations began to lessen somewhat as new opportunities arose for female workers in traditionally male occupations. New technology has meant that many tasks that once required heavy physical exertion, and hence were restricted to men, can now be performed simply by pressing buttons, sitting in push-back chairs in air-conditioned offices. There have also known how to wield power.
Power, Dr.Bevans says, is can-do-ness, the capacity to make-things-happen, the ability to accomplish results in the world. At first glance and in most conscious thinking, men are more powerful than women. It appears, if we don't look below the surface that men are in charge of things, including women. Men do act and talk big; we "show off" and stand out. We like to think we are the more powerful of the genders, and women, for pragmatic reasons, often let us, even support, outwardly, such illusions: "You're so big and strong; I'll let you make the camp (and money)."
Hear Dr.Bevans further say: ‘The male mode of dominance and aggression easily looks more powerful than the female mode of submission, where powers are most often hidden. Men seem to be more powerful than women. Peer more carefully, however, below the thin veneer of appearances and muscles; look longer, past present tense; listen for more than what is spoken; watch for long range results rather than short term displays; and you may see that things are not what they seem. With obvious exceptions, as in all our other gender differences, femininity, by and large, is more powerful than masculinity.’
How would you rate these women - Indira Gandhi, Benezir Bhutto, Khaleda Zia, Sheikh Hasina, Srimavo Bhandaranaike, Chandrika Kumaratunge, to take examples only from the sub-continent? True, they have all had either their fathers or spouses or both, as active politicians, who consciously cultivated the way for their ascension to seats of power. A woman, with no such support but making it to higher echelons, in spite of several handicaps, biological and societal, by sheer industry and iron will commends respect. She shall progress the same way, meriting every step in the ladder. Such a person shall not stop somewhere in the middle and demand that she shall be given way, because she is a woman.
Every democratic expression in India, including the election process, is a new lesson itself. The issues involved in the choice of President and the gender preferences are matters of topical interest. Laws, too, have a gender bias. Be it in the Indian Constitution or Penal or Labor laws, women, like children, are considered a class by themselves that deserve to be treated differently, equality clauses notwithstanding. The crutches are only for pulling one to get up. Once raised, she ambles across, tossing the props to the wayside. A Indira or Khaleda or Chandrika at the helm of a nation’s ship does not give the impression of all round women empowerment. The esteem that Dr.Radhakrishnan earned or how Dr.Kalam is reckoned, is sui generis. They are men of their own merit. Does the first citizen of a country, be he or she, get the respect for what the nation earns for the person or does the nation get the respect for the esteem that he or she commands?

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