Saturday, October 15, 2005

Women

I know some men who believe in women’s issues, sometimes, passionately and, at other times, even fervently. The trouble is, however, they believe in these issues as long as it doesn’t specifically involve their own women.

If it is about women living in the remotest corner of the globe or if it concerns women in all the major cities, these men have the statistics on their fingertips and appropriate tear-drops for effect.

They can talk till the cows come home as to how little has been done to alleviate the sufferings of women, and how uphill the task it is to propel gender equality.

But the moment the talk shifts towards their own women and what have they done on home ground to initiate some of these so-called reforms, explanations spout forth faster than one can imagine.

One cannot be too radical, one opinion goes, while the other insists that things are not black and white and we must move forward at a slow but even progressive pace.

Only fools rush in where angels fear to tread, some try and cliché their way and others use the favourite word of all spin doctors: exceptions.

Women should be encouraged to fulfil their potential but there are exceptions to all this and we cannot simply embark on a random reforms rampage, they plead.

Let me apply some brakes here and point out that I am talking about a few men. I do know many others who are exactly the opposite. The trouble is, they are rarely vocal about their actions.

They do their acts of emancipation in a quiet and unobrutisive way without any fanfare whatsoever. The result is that the smug chauvinists hog all the space and makes their regressive ideas seem like the sole male point of view.

Sadly, this has dented communication between the sexes and coloured perceptions. The loudest voices get the hearing and end up setting the agenda. Those who disagree are called oddities or worse, and have to trample the long and winding road for acceptance by other ‘men’.

On this count, at least, these men share something in common with women all over. They are both at the receiving end of abuse by the chauvinist types. It just clarifies an important point about sex discrimination. It is not really about gender but about power. It is the way of the world, the way of the strong silencing the weak and throttling any hopes for accord.