On a regular Friday evening after winding up work, I dragged a friend of mine to explore the culinary world hidden in the by-lanes of Delhi’s Paharganj. It was purely coincidental that this friend happened to be a man. As we were navigating the busy streets unable to locate this particular restaurant which we both have heard so much about, I relented and decided to ask for directions. We went up to this nice young man, probably in his late twenties, and I took it upon myself to ask him, please note the I here. He quite politely listened to my query, looked to my male friend who hadn’t uttered a single word yet and explained by pointing towards the direction to him instead of me. As we were walking away, my friend saw the palpable dismay on my face and agreed with my frustration at the sexism that just was.
However, the onslaught of casual sexism that evening was not to end there. With the same friend, I was at another restaurant in South Delhi where I placed an order for my favourite chicken. The server, who took my order, comes up to us and apologises to him instead of me, citing the unavailability of that particular dish. I, still fazed by the earlier incident, didn’t let a moment pass before I blurted out my disappointment with “I was the one who ordered it. Why are you apologising to him and not me?”, upon which he turned to me guiltily while my friend smiled in the background.
These are just two examples from the various instances of sexism that we go through on an everyday basis, though sometimes it might escape our immediate realisation as our deeply patriarchal mindset has normalised misogyny unless it’s extremely blatant. In a similar vein, a few weeks ago I was talking to some friends (men and women) about how the bill after eating out at restaurants is always placed in front of the man and never the woman, even if it were just a man in a group of women. The men seemed to have never noticed this before, while all the women agreed to the reality of such a practice. One of my women friends rationalised it with, “maybe they just don’t want to hurt the ego of the man” which was met with scowls of “a man’s ego is considered worth more than a woman’s existence”. It got me into thinking how we still place a man’s sense of worth much more than that of a woman’s till today despite it being 70 years since our independence.
It just goes on to show how we are failing in inculcating gender awareness even amongst the highly educated masses. It still surprises me to see people shrug away from labels like feminists, in spite of claiming to be proponents of gender equality. Feminism which means the equality of sexes: socially, politically, culturally, and economically; has been misconstrued as a movement by men-hating and bra-burning women. This negative connotation to the movement has brought about the dissociation of many like-minded individuals with the same goal.
Just recently I met a young man who shrugged upon hearing the word ‘feminism’ and remarked, “why can’t they just call it gender equality!” with a look of patriarchal disappointment which seemed to convey his discontent on allowing a movement to be named after women. I also remember a conversation with an acquaintance who kept on insisting she is not a feminist but a humanist, because all humans were equal to her. Whenever confronted with such arguments, I talk about affirmative action, how it is right to name the movement after the discriminated section in order to be able to bring them on par; once that threshold is reached and the disparity removed, then we can all go on claiming ourselves to be “humanist”. But until that day is achieved, let us fight as “feminist”.
Because it is 2017 already, and we are slowed down while battling sexism everyday.
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