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'Give Women Their Due' by Aparna Ashish

Women are said to bring diversity at the workplace. The government has essential guidelines to enrol more women into the workforce. Women empowerment and upliftment are part of every other scheme. The ground facts, however, are not very encouraging. Most of the women in the workforce in rural areas are barely educated and work as daily wage labourers. Similarly, there are very less women in top management teams or as independent entrepreneurs in urban areas. The male chauvinists justify it as incapability of women, while the ignorant justify it as women being disinterested. A small percentage of smaller voices reiterate women as low risk takers. Still, recent media coverage shows that women are capable of flying fighter planes, sending spacecrafts to the moon, championing various sports, becoming laureates, part of the national army and so on. Clearly, there is a gap between the potential of women and the outcomes.

India is diverse in so many aspects, geography, religion, culture, languages, food habits, climate, general physical appearances and so on. There is further diversification within religions as caste, within languages as dialects etc. Women are the harbingers, carrying this diverse background from generations. They bear the religious and cultural insignia of diversification, in every part of the country. They are essentially taught to dress, cook and learn all sorts of activities in a certain way, so as to be passed on to future generations. They are also taught to please everyone by their appearance, behaviour and actions. Women are also part of the big development wave since this country’s independence. They have brawled for their education, and have distinguished achievement in various sectors of this developing nation. Even so, women are mostly applauded to be agreeable to their guardians, be it their family in case of housewives, be it the society in case of public figure or be it their managers or colleagues or bosses in case of a working woman, or be it their boyfriend or husbands. The primary criterion of being more acceptable is their physical appearance.

It is an unsaid rule in every corporate office to hire and promote attractive women. The physical appearances of women are given utmost importance even outside the fashion or glamour industry. A woman undergoes physical transformation all through her life, with puberty, childbirth and menopause. A woman also has dual responsibility at home and work, to satisfy various guardians in her life. Moreover, women already have self-deprecating nature about their bodies and physical appearances. Women do not stand up for themselves most of the time for this single reason. Secondly, women do not sympathise with each other, let alone support when biased for physical appearances. An intelligent and bold woman is generally spelled as rebel, with bad attitude or non-adjusting in the work place. The first bullet in the quiver of potential competitor is to attack the physical appearance of a challenging woman. The ironical part is, such gestures are supported by the women themselves. Worst case is, when women are asked for sexual favours for a job opportunity or promotion, as if being a sexual partner is her only capability. This whole conundrum is taken for granted by women, and they hardly stand up for themselves, even in worst case scenarios.

The best quality of a wife or girlfriend is her physical appearance. From matrimony site to female protagonists in movies, novels etc., women are only portrayed as per their physical appearances. They all sing praises for the fair, slim and perfect woman as desirable protagonist. Women are taught from a very young age that their main job is to be physically attractive to be married well. Let alone the rural, poor women, the middle and upper classes are no less prejudiced about gender biased physical appearances. Movies or novels and matrimonial sites simply sell the reverberation, of our prejudiced sick mentality. The discriminatory society barely acknowledges, that it takes a mentally sound woman to run the house.

It maybe slightly harsh but tolerance to bias only aggravates the situation of the victim. An assault of any kind, if remained unchecked becomes a habit. It is certainly illogical and non-practical to throw away a well-paid job or relationship or jolt a family over small issues. At the same time, women represent half the population. They practically run the country in the background in all aspects e.g. superiorly managing the household economy also aiding to the net balance sheet of the household. Women should stand in support of women victims. They should be totally biased to their welfare. Women must learn to value themselves and their day to day endeavours. Valuing themselves is precisely valuing each other. A self-effacing woman, affects the mental health of an entire generation of a family. Instead of following a Deepika Padukone or Katrina Kaif swirling in their clinging outfits, they should learn to follow a Mary Kom or Jyoti Naik (President Shri Mahila Griha Udyog Lijjat Papad) or Ritu Karidhal (ISRO scientist). Different times need different role models.

Physical fitness should not be translated into the acceptance of women in general or her career growth or her relationship status, but should translate their mental capacity to do greater good. Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes and colours. The most beautiful things are inside human brains. All the inventions were indeed, first an imagination of a beautiful mind. All said and done, there is always a price to be paid for an achievement. The price for unshackling women from pre-emptive body shaming is standing out to social, religious and mental prejudices. Speaking out, is the beginning. If they want you to talk nice things about them, they better start treating you nice!

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