Men and Women at War But who will broker peace?

If someone descends from other planet of the universe, tunes to any television channel or leaves through any newspaper and dares to read some books very soon s/he may realise that the two bitterest enemies are not Israelis and Hamas or Hizbullah or the Iranians and Americans or Tamils and Sinhalas, but three billion men…

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If someone descends from other planet of the universe, tunes to any television channel or leaves through any newspaper and dares to read some books very soon s/he may realise that the two bitterest enemies are not Israelis and Hamas or Hizbullah or the Iranians and Americans or Tamils and Sinhalas, but three billion men and three billion women. In the name of giving equality we have pitted the two genders against each other in a grim battle for supremacy.
Recently a television channel of the country telecast a programme on the pet topic – the girls education among the Muslims. What better place it would have been for the mediapersons than to motor down to the campus of Aligarh Muslim University and get interviews from a handful of girls and lady teachers. Some run-of-the-mill stuff was all that which could come out from this discussion.
Nobody is against education, but what struck the viewers most was the belligerent and rebellious response of many girls, even those in hijab or burka. As if they all nurse a grudge against what is called the male-dominated society. In not so many words they either complained of discrimination or lack of freedom to choose their own profession or course. Some of them even expressed strong resentment as to why are they not allowed to work beyond the routine 9 to 5 job. One of them specifically said she could not decide her own future as one fine morning she might be asked by parents to come back home and get married.
All these reactions have nothing to do with Aligarh Muslim University. Muslim girls studying even in more prestigious institutes have more or less the same thing to say and that too in the same tone.
Many of those whom the channel interviewed came from better off families. They were either daughters of NRIs, senior officials, doctors, engineers, bankmen, professors, etc. and on whose education the parents might have been spending more than their sons. Even those who were from the lower middle class families – and their parents have been paying through the nose to educate them in what they think the best institute – spoke in more or less the same vein.
All the girls interviewed were unmarried thus had to never face the ‘highhandedness’ of husband. In fact, some of them were pampered daughters of their female mother and male father. They might even be the dear sister to their brother(s). Yet it has been firmly ingrained in their mind that they are being exploited and discriminated by the male-dominated society.
It would have been somewhat justifiable for a married woman to make such a complaint as she might have a brutal husband. But why these girls are complaining, who in fact seldom faced any discrimination – their education in one of the best colleges is a testimony to this fact.
Herein lies the crux of the matter. True, women or girls are actually discriminated against, but not this complaining lot on whose brought up and education the parents might have spent more than their sons. Women of poor and downtrodden class do face discrimination. Because of the paucity of resources and low income the male child is often – but not necessarily always – preferred. This is more pronounced in the Hindu society, than Muslim.
If certain women or girls of a particular class are discriminated, it does not mean that the entire gender has been singled out for exploitation. You can apply this analogy to understand it. Muslims in India as a group are a poor and neglected lot in comparison to Hindus. But when we say so, it does not mean that the Shabana Azmis, Dilip Kumars, Irfan Pathans, Syed Shahabuddins, A R Antulays, Azam Khans, Sayyid Hamids, Azim Premjis and likes of them are also an exploited lot.
But it is the wonder of the capitalist-driven media that they created the subjective feeling of discrimination even in the mind of the most pampered girls of the society. It is very easy for a girl to say that she could not complete her education and was forced to marry – as if marriage is a crime – because she was a girl. But seldom does a boy says that he had to leave education abruptly in between because of his father’s death and started earning as he is a boy. There is no dearth of middle class boys who had to cruelly cut their study or who could never carry on their education because of the poverty. There are many brothers who delayed their marriage for years, even a decade – some could never marry as it becomes too late – just to get their much younger sister married.
They never bring in the issue of gender in between. True, there are many tyrant husbands in the society, but at the same time there is an overwhelming number of caring husbands too.
But the issue of gender biasness should not be confined to husband and wife. Do fathers discriminate between sons and daughters just because of the gender – may be in some cases. But in many other cases they may be discriminating in favour of daughter and not the son, especially in the middle class.
As girls are not supposed to be the breadwinner the society does not thrust them what to study and what not to. And if in some cases parents do advise them not to pursue certain course or profession it is not because they make discrimination, but just because they do not want their daughters to take so much burden. If the girls want to work beyond 9 to 5, it is sheer madness and nothing else. The truth is that all men want to work between 9 am and 5 pm and hate to go to the office in odd hours. It is sheer compulsion that forces them to take night duties and have detrimental impact on their health.
The truth is that it is not the girls who are compelled to take certain professions, but the boys who are from the very school level forced by their parents to study certain subjects and excel. They are psychologically forced to perform, are even beaten up and compelled to take the subjects not of his liking. Most of the boys who drop out or get spoilt are the victims of this parental mishandling. And instead of boys it is the girls of such pampered class who are making complaints – and that too against the very parents who so caringly brought them up!
The issue is not just of gender. It is much more serious. This misplaced assertion of girls is taking a huge toll. More and more marriages are collapsing or are not at all materialising as parents are unable to get match for the much better-brought up daughters. Yet we do not know wherein lies the problem. Nobody is prepared to point out to these girls that they are becoming the victim of the market forces, which have nothing to do with the real problem of our womenfolk. They are not going to address the problem of poor women who really face all sorts of challenges and discrimination.
These capitalists would pay so little to the labourers that they are forced to push their womenfolk to work. And if the exploited male labourers, out of sheer frustration, take to drinking or develop bad habits then the spokesmen of the capitalists – the media – would talk of the neglect and discrimination of women. The public opinion-makers would not say that the real culprits are those who are at the top and because of whom the children of poor labourers or labourers themselves become criminals.
These capitalists would come out with fantastic theories such as women make good managers and salesmen, as they had to appoint them to improve their sale – nothing more.
Management has nothing to do with gender. A woman can be a good manager and bad too, and so can a man be.
A few years ago we were told that women make good politicians or policemen. But can we say so now with so many Jayalalithaas, Uma Bharatis, Sadhvi Rithambaras, Vasundhara Rajes, Mamata Banerjees, Sushma Swarajs, Mayawatis, etc. around. They are as foul-tongued, corrupt or maverick as male politicians.
Sometimes back a woman IAS officer in Bihar took out her belt and thrashed her male driver for a very trifle issue, and that too in full public view. I myself reported it. And only recently a woman assistant sub-inspector of police publicly chased a two-wheeler and compelled the rider to pay her some coins as bribe. It is not that their male colleagues do not extort money, but the issue is: are females different?
Go to jail and make a survey of husbands arrested under the Dowry Act. There may be quite a few who had never committed crime, were away in job somewhere else, and the real culprits were their mothers and sisters. Yet they are behind the bars for the crime committed by the females of their family.
The issue of male-female relationship cannot be solved by instigating one gender against another. True, be it the issue of dowry, share in property or inheritance, women face discrimination. But these issues can be solved by more sincere and objective efforts in which women too will have to play a positive role. At the domestic front daughter-in-law-mother-in-law disputes are taking a much more heavy toll than husband-wife quarrels.
The need of the hour is to broker peace rather than provoke gender war. Islam stands for women’s rights, it guarantees them freedom, and treats them equally. It can help bring about peace in society, provided we approach it with open-mind.