India has been a witness to the grand scale women-empowerment drive that has been going on in the last few decades. Indeed, it's a great thing. This empowerment drive has given rise to many feminists, who champion the causes related to the women, be it openly defying gender-biased discrimination, to standing against the biases of the patriarchal society by questioning their validity and rationality. I respect them for that, not only for their firm stand, but also because even I can't tolerate anything that's derogatory to any gender.
But when it comes to benefit of their gender, I can often see a dual value associated in many so-called feminists, which is my primary concern, since I am having difficulty in understanding what's right and what's more right.
I would highlight this issue based on the attitude of two of my female friends, let us call them - A and B, in this article. Both of them are self-proclaimed hard-core feminists; they can't stand anything that's demeaning or disgracing to women, in any way whatsoever. Neither would I.
She boards the Delhi Metro, where the seats are just full, with only about a dozen people standing hither and thither. To those of you, who have never been to Delhi Metro, let me tell you that there are specific seats reserved for ladies only, senior citizens and 'specially-abled' people.
Now, my friend A goes near the ladies seat and finds out that it is occupied by an unconcerned man-with-earphones. Without being vexed, she goes to the person and reminds him that he is sitting on a ladies seat(which he perhaps already knew, but didn't bother himself to rise until asked. Yes, men are shrewd!). He acts like he didn't even know and straightaway jumps up on his toes, finds a place to stand and offers my pretty friend 'A' his place courteously, flashing a prideful smile on his face on his random act of kindness(a perfect loser!); which nobody notices except me(writer instinct, you know). A tells me, 'See. Such rights of women, if not asked for, would most of the time be exploited by men. They hardly bother to give up any comfort ever until you ask them, even if their conscience is screaming out aloud that they're sitting on ladies seat while a lady is standing front of them.'
I see her argument. She's right. The sad part is many a times I'd been that man-with-earphones sitting on a ladies seat, until being kicked off by the fairer sex.
She boards the Delhi Metro. The situation is same as before, where the seats are just full, with only about a dozen people standing hither and thither along the coaches.
We move around in search of seats. No vacant seats. We go to a corner, from where I take a peek at the whole situation. I see a cheesy lad wearing a yellow-embroidered shirt with earphones tucked in his ears sitting quite comfortably on a seat designated for only ladies. He gives B a top-to-down stare, seeing which I feel a bit nettled. I point out to B, 'See that ladies seat, that lousy fellow is sitting there. Come on, kick him off the place. He would hardly bother to offer you his seat, even if he already knows that it's a ladies only seat.'
B remains unconcerned, and explains with force in her voice, 'Well, I find these "seats reserved for ladies" the most heinous form of gender-discrimination I could ever encounter. I mean you could reserve seats for senior citizens, specially-abled or kids. But why on Earth do women need reserved seats? Aren't we strong enough to stand through the jerks and swings that the metro-ride offers? Well, this is highly condescending of women, but this is India. No matter how much you talk about gender inequality, you'll find that women, even some of the self-proclaimed feminists, encouraging these gender-disparaging symbols present in the society by either accepting it or in many dire cases, even fighting for these. How will you answer these issues when the patient is herself a catalyst for the disease? Women don't need support, because support never comes without pity in this society.'
I remain stunned. B is too different from A. But she's absolutely right.
Wait a minute. Even A was right. Who amongst them is more right? Can there be an absolute take on this issue of feminism? Your insightful opinions needed.
P.S. All those who read this, take a pledge with me to always mention the physically-challenged people as 'specially-abled'. Let us create a culture.
P.S. Women. Enigmatic, aren't they? ;)