Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Despite being a woman...

During his Bangladesh visit in one of his speeches Indian prime minister Mr. Narendra Modi said, "I am happy that Bangladesh prime minister, despite being a woman, has declared zero tolerance for terrorism." There is no doubt that he wanted to praise Bangladeshi prime minister Sheikh Hasina for doing very commendable job in dealing with terrorists in her own country. So, what is wrong with this statement of Mr. Modi which created some controversy in social media and it became subject of some TV debates? The use of term "despite being woman" is highly objectionable to many including me. I don't think there is any doubt that he should have chosen better words to praise her, actually there was absolutely no need to mention her gender while complimenting her for her stance against terrorism. Special mention of her gender displays typical patriarchal mindset of our society, even our PM did not think that it is wrong to complement any one by citing their gender. This also shows a stereotyping of women as gentle, non aggressive, soft gender who can not deal with tough situations. It will be grossly unfair to say that Mr. Modi is the only politician or person who thinks like this, this mindset is present in many societies including many developed countries, even in India many politicians across the party lines say many such insulting or derogatory comments about women on a regular basis. Whenever there is huge uproar against such comments they are brushed under the carpet by labeling them trivial remarks not to be taken seriously or they cite the usual excuse that they were taken out of context.

Why I am picking this statement? Does this single line diminishes all other achievements of this foreign tour of Mr. Modi? This tour is very successful and I am sure there will be many media releases and advertisements by Indian government to highlight these things, I don't have to do that. But the reason why I am picking up this statement is because this displays deep rooted prejudice against women in our society. Mr. Modi's supporters will off course downplay this incident, actually not only his supporters but every political leader's supporters are very forgiving towards their own leader.

Now let's see how following statements sound,
It is great that despite being a woman you learned how to drive, it is very admirable that despite being woman you are doing a industrial job, it is nice that despite being a woman you earned a college degree, I am glad to see that despite being a woman you are in military, it is good to see that despite being a woman you play football (soccer), I am happy to see that despite being a woman you are a writer...

Actually I can go on offering these so called compliments to women of this world, but the questions is, are these really complements or these are insults in very subtle way or indication of that person's bias towards women? Because of this deep rooted bias he or she feels that women can only do certain type of work and if they excel in any other field it is an exception and therefore it deserves a special praise, this is why they specially mention their gender and use the phrase 'despite being a woman'. We need to ask these touch questions to expose this patriarchal mindset of our society. Why some of us still think that being a woman is like having some sort of disadvantage? If any woman becomes successful then why some of us feel that it is an exception and not a normal incident? Actually because of such mindset women have to face many hostile situations in their day to day lives. Because of this narrow mindedness some people don't welcome their presence as they think they don't belong there. Women need to fight against this prejudice that is why it is not proper to compliment them like this, as long as we compliment them using such phrases we confirm that we are part of that same mindset. There are many examples of successful women from all fields including politics (both from present and past era), we know many strong female political leaders so it is not a strange or unusual phenomena any more. Time has come to get rid of this narrow mindset and stop using such phrases like 'despite of being a woman you did this and you did that' while praising achievements of any woman. I hope we all realize this and next time complement any person and judge their achievements not based on their gender but purely based on the merit of their work and achievements.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

[Copyright : Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]

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