• Under the Raintree Festival

'Time for Women to be Heard Loud and Clear' by Dr. Jyothi

It is widely said, ‘Women are to be seen, not heard’. Generally, whatever is repeatedly said, people start believing and internalizing it. Over a period of time it becomes socially accepted value and people are expected to follow it. Like most other things, it applies to the presumably lack of ability of a woman to work in public spheres too. Going back to human history, a woman is related to her body than her mind. Simultaneously, her body is celebrated and abused as well. So, she could never think beyond the boundary of her body. When her body is celebrated, she is pressurised to look beautiful always, due to peer pressure and imposed social expectations. Then, her body becomes her identity. If her body is abused, then it creates fear psychosis in her and limits her movements. Let us see how she is treated in a public work place where she works along with her male colleagues.

To begin with, it has been really a difficult path for a woman to come out of her domestic space, to the world of education, awareness and knowledge. Let me not delve too much into her strenuous breakthrough into the world of paid work. I am trying to understand the conflict between her newly explored mind and already much talked after body. So, it is a transition from body to mind, which is still an incomplete task. People get awestruck and at dismay when they see a beautiful woman who talks some sense or appears as a public intellectual.

Let me share my own experience of being a presentable professional. I have been an achiever in my academics to start with and a go getter in my professional field thereafter. However, recognition for my excellence never went beyond my physical appearance mostly. On a negative note, my success has been suspiciously criticised as a mere by product of my looks. It brings me down and frustrates at times, for failure to recognize me skin deep. If men do so to a presentable woman, it can be ignored, but it mostly done by fellow mediocre women. At times, I feel pity for their frustration and lack of positivity. However, it is normalcy that I have to deal with on a daily basis. So, the question is, how do I live with it?

I feel, women are yet to take their role as a full time professional seriously. I don’t blame them entirely for this mess. They are still hesitant to voice their opinion, as they feel less confident of themselves in front of seasoned men. Many a times, they need to request for concessions from work due to personal problems like, juggling between work and domestic responsibilities like child and elderly care. Moreover, bodily issues like monthly menstrual cycles, pregnancy and infant care take a huge toll on their career progression. In addition to that, there are times they feel guilty to choose career over family care, as they, as well the rest in the society still assume that it is their primary concern. In this context, it is important to programme her that she has to take care of herself first. She needs to introspect without being judged, what really makes her happy.

We hardly hear the voices of women in public decision-making bodies. They are there just for name sake. Even those a few women who have reached the top levels in organizations speak of gender discrimination, stereotyping or being neglected at crucial decision making situations. I am not blaming men only to prove my point. We have to accept a bitter truth that, there are a few women who take advantage of their physical self for promotion and other favours at workplace. Sadly, such image of a woman is generalized to paint a bad name to all other truly hard working and deserving women.

So, it is time for women to show their true potential in all public spheres where are engaged in work. Take for example, in the case of ISRO, women scientists are highly appreciated for their brilliance and no one cares to talk about their appearance. Similarly, in MNCs, we find women in top levels and they are doing extremely well. But it is a different story in Indian politics. We find women leaders being ill spoken of, painted badly, images tarnished in public. Moreover, their success is always linked to patronage of some dominant male political leaders. Even if they succeed due to their own hard work, it is still cynically talked about. In glamour industries like film, TV, et al, we find women being projected glamorously and are generally labelled ‘beauty without brain’. They intelligence is mostly mocked at and less appreciated. These industries run on the power of women being projected with body than mind. In unorganized rural economy too, we find women being physically abused and later hushed up, but they remain to be in the same state, for their livelihood. We don’t have enough mechanisms to track these abuses. Generally, these incidents in both rural as well as urban public life, are not much spoken about, but deeply felt.

So, women have to wake up the world of their true self and claim their mind and shed their image of a bodily person.

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