Sensitization begins at home

We are contrary creatures, us humans, but that isn’t something we need to be afraid of, or even much troubled by. And if you make a list of those people who worship consistency, you’ll find they are one and all tyrants or would-be tyrants. Ruling over thousands, or over a husband or a wife, or some covering child. Never fear contradiction. It is the very heart of diversity.

– The Bonehunters (Malazan Book of the Fallen)

A few days back, I overheard a conversation between two Software Engineers. Both of them were discussing rape cases and laughingly agreed with each other that 95% of the rape cases are consensual. I am sure that they kept a window of 5% open in case a female member of their own family gets raped. Such females can then be conveniently boxed in the category of 5% women who are tamed and belong to well-to-do families but who are victims of the evil. Mind you, these are extremely well-educated men working in an MNC and earning a handsome salary, who like going to a pub and like getting drunk, who despite being married will stare at a woman’s buttock as she passes by, who snigger at a woman driving a car. This well-educated category of urban Indian male also believe that any woman who does not belong to their family are objects and possible prostitutes and leave no stone unturned in blaming the victim. They forget the fact that a stranger might be having similar thoughts about a female member of their own family.

The bad news is that education has nothing to do with changing mindsets. Education cannot teach the idea of respecting a fellow human. But then what can? Baring a minuscule population of India, a large unbelievable chunk is deeply entrenched in the swamp of patriarchy. The rot is so deep that we will not be able to see a change in our lifetime. Patriarchy glorifies the act of controlling another human’s life. The acts of crime against women that we witness in modern India are illegitimate offspring of patriarchy. Respect has to be treated as gender neutral and so should be freedom to make choices. 

Can we make a beginning somewhere?

It is extremely difficult to change the mindset of an adult. Two adults can react differently to the same situation. For example, consider a man who has seen his father as an authoritative figure all his life. It is possible that such a man carries his father’s legacy and treats his own wife as a subordinate. It might also be possible that he reacts to the suffering of his mother and when the time comes, treats his own wife with all the dignity and equality she deserves. But where does the distinction comes from? What are the factors that decide the path a man would finally take?

In the end it all boils down to how much contradiction can you swallow as a human. How much is the magnitude of your fear for a thought or an act that contradicts your beliefs? Are you willing to let go and ready to open the cage that was meticulously built around you? Ironically, a majority of us do not acknowledge the presence of a cage. It has melted so deeply into our psyche that we fail to feel its presence. It is embedded in us. A monster that lurks silently.

Sometimes I wonder that if gender inequality is such a pressing issue, why can’t our government work towards bringing up a more gender sensitive next generation? Why can’t we set up mandatory sensitization sessions for all the newly wed couples? Why don’t we put a huge fine if the couple fail to attend these sessions? Why can’t we arrange similar sessions for all the parents with children in the age group of 0-10 years? I don’t believe reactive measures are the correct way to approach the issue. What we need are preventive measures in place so that the next generation don’t end up like those two software engineers.

I see that as our only hope. Unless the present lot of parents understand the idea of bringing up their daughters and sons at an equal footing, no amount of punishments or laws are going to work. We have to make sure that our next generation is not as messed up as the present one. Otherwise this is a vicious cycle and there is more never-ending, unimaginable traumas coming our way for years. 

A majority of women in this nation do not know what real freedom is. The irony of mankind is that we have used the very act of creating life to abuse women and then blame them for it. It is similar to cutting a tree that sustains life and then blaming it for being in the middle of the road. 

We have to bend this devious road or there won’t be any trees left.


[This is an entry to Indiblogger’s iDiya Contest]

image from here

62 comments on “Sensitization begins at home

  1. who said education means learning? those 2 software engineers have got an education but havent learnt anything. in india, crimes against women are not committed by uneducated, uncivilised, violent lowlifes. no, they are committed by the educated, highly paid, modern men who are guilty by their endorsement of such acts. the majority of men in india think every woman, other than the ones in their immediate family, deserves to be attacked. in the west, these indian men see women wearing skimpy clothes but they dare not even stare or pass comments. they behave with decorum. why? because they know that if any woman complains to the police, there will be charges brought against them. if their managers/employers come to know that they misbehaved with a colleague, they can lose their jobs. not so in india. they know that the shame rests with the victim and she will not complain. and if she does, the police will laugh her out of the police station. if a case is lodged, the court will blame her for her own rape and kick her out. the laws will not have to change – there are enough laws in our constitution for protecting women – they only have to be enforced. i suggest anyone wanting to join the police force has to pass tough tests. personality profilers should check them out. they will have to be trained on how to react to female victims of crime. even this will not work since the rot sets in at home, in childhood.

    • There was a time I used to believe that education can change mindset. Not anymore. I have seen too many educated men and women talking like uncivilized animals.
      I agree with you MS that such people stay in control because of fear of law but then that fear does not work behind the close doors of their houses. You will find wives and kids suffering there. My point being that laws can be effective only till a certain point. If we have to bring a real change, it has to be by changing the way we bring up the next generation.

      • you are correct in this. i think the incidence of spouse and partner related violence must be high also in other countries. the victim-mindset transcends national borders. do you think that over exposure to violence in the media has led to high levels of violent behavior? domestic violence is different in the sense that the progression of severity is gradual. but rape and murder are brutal and sudden. the only other place where there are systematic attacks on women is mexico. remember the news about 300-400 murdered women buried in undiscovered graves in the desert?

        • MS,
          There is a cocktail of factors. It is not as if such crimes don’t happen in developed nations but the governments there don’t treat it as any other crime. THere are strict protocols and the guilty is punished. Here, we wait for a rape as brutal as what happened in Delhi and then people coming out in hoards to rattle the political system. We have this habit of sitting on our ass till it is a question of life and death.
          Rapes are usually meticulously planned. Most of the accused are known to the victims. The police force and the judicial system give the rapists more power. Our society gives him more power.

  2. I fear that the answers of gender equality will have to come from women themselves. As more and more women get educated, join the workforce and become financially independent, they will wrest their rights from this patriarchal society. Because left to men, no amount of ghanti bajaoing will change anything.

    • I agree Rickie. The present generation is completely messed up. The people that hold position of power do not care. I believe that wrestling for rights will not be sufficient. This country is capable of generating so much filth from the patriarchal sewers that there will be no dearth of attemplts of subjugation. The hope lies in bringing up the kids in a more dignified manner and teaching them about respecting everyone irrespective of their gender.

    • I have had my fill of such conversations. There was one about dowry where one guy was sulking because he was getting less cash than the other.

  3. Wow, Amit, you’ve outdone yourself. What a wonderful post. I think there is progress. More women have started realising their brain is the same as any other; women now have many other women they can look up to as they rise in their field; they have support groups – both male and female. As you mention, the attitude of the police and the lack of swift justice is what holds many women back and gives stupid people like the ones you mention assholes where their mouths should be.

    • Thanks KayEm. Yes, I see a change around and that is a wonderful feeling. Unfortunately the resistance is also getting severe. But yes, there is always hope and I know we will get there one little step at a time.

  4. They actually said that?!! :O
    It just goes to show that we have miles to go before we actually see changes, that education, travel, a job that requires interaction with a lot of other educated people has nothing to do with changing a person’s mindset…
    how can 95% of rape be consensual?! That doesn’t even make any sense!!

    and you are right – most women don’t know what freedom means. They need “permissions” for even the most basic of needs to be fulfilled! 😦
    Sad that even today, most parents differentiate between boys and girls…sigh!!

    • None of it makes sense and that is the irony. Most of us parrot what has been propagated without caring what it means. We have this incredible ability to turn an outsider into a piece of furniture and our family members into puppets.

  5. Don’t know what to say. This is such a multidimensional thing! It has no one solution. It is about parents bringing their sons right. It is for girls to be more independent. It is also about changing cultural mores slowly and inclusively. It is also sensitization of women to support other women.

    • Yes, Rachna. It is all that and much more. Parents need sensitization so that the next generation turns up ok. I wish we had a stringent political agenda for that.

  6. The government can barely manage to govern. Expecting them to spend time on gender sensitivity is too much to ask for. Ask them to create caste sensitivity and they will happily do it. A lot, I guess has to come from parenting.

    • I agree. Unless and until the issue rock their chair and puts their future in jeopardy, no political party will go beyond putting up more PCR vans. Passing a law had to be followed up by implimenting it and that is where we utterly lack.

  7. Huh!!! Education does nothing to mindsets. When the mind is already “SET”, nothing, not even education will change it. I’ve also heard nonsense from well educated,well employed men/women. Sometimes I have to pinch myself to realize that I’m hearing this from people living in this age and time.

    They have been brought up in a certain way, and thats how they will also be. They don’t even realize that they can make a change or that they can even think otherwise or that there is another way around a situation.

    My neighbour finds it surprising when he sees my hubby helping me in cleaning the house (his wife gets maha pissed with that and takes every opportunity to point that out to him) or other work. As a man he is not supposed to do all that. He even keeps saying, I will not bother with my kids education till they are in 6th. Till then its my wife’s responsibility. (Apparently from 6th is when studies gets tough and foundation gets laid for Engg coaching).

    I know of friends who are physically/mentally abused by their well educated/well employed husbands. Education does not change a mindset. But there are few lucky ones for whom education has helped. Sometimes I wonder, how can people’s brains be wired sooooo differently.

    • I move in the circle of software engineers and I have seen enough educated people talking like idiots to last a lifetime. It’s not just SW Engineers but there are such people in every walk of life. Most of us are brought up not to think but to follow. Do what the others are doing and don’t question anything. Everything else is wrong.
      Thankfully, all my friends are sane couples. The boys help their wives and keep them happy. 🙂 But there are some females in Geet’s circle who have a hellish married life. Yes, it is all about wiring. If the parents are wired wrong, they are going to pass it to their children. Sometimes, the child has the good sense to break free as he/she grows up and there are so many factors that can trigger it.

  8. “why can’t our government work towards bringing up a more gender sensitive next generation?” because they themselves require gender sensitization. Just look at the response of our ministers, president’s son, spiritual leaders after the rape/molestation cases. When the leaders themselves are into victim blaming, how can we expect them to take any action to promote gender sensitization.
    It depends completely on our generation of parents, how we bring up ours kids to be more gender sensitive.

    • I agree Seena. Unless and until the matter becomes so serious that their chairs are in danger, the politicians don’t move. They are the children of this swamp of patriarchy, you cannot expect them to behave differently. What surprises me is that there is not a single politician who can dare to come ahead and fight for the victims. I sometimes hate the way Sheila Dixit behaves completely helpless on television interviews. If she is that helpless, please dissolve the post. What is the point of sitting on it?

  9. The people who you spoke about at the beginning of the post, they are mere literates. I wouldn’t call them educated! Earning yourself a degree and then landing up in a MNC wouldn’t make people educated.

    Having said that, I completely agree with you that is got a lot to do with mindsets. I guess parents play a major role in this aspect.

  10. What a sensitive post, Amit! I have heard many so-called ‘educated’ people touting the same kind of nonsense, too, and have been disgusted with it. I was about to do a post about this myself. You inspired me further. You are right – education has nothing to do with being a sensitive, well-balanced human being.

    • TGND,
      I usually stay away from such people. They can never enter my circle. Many of such guys have tried to be my friends but I have given them the coldest shoulder I can manage. I can’t bear such idiots around me. Life already is very complicated.
      Please go ahead and write the post. Would love to read it. 🙂

  11. I just wish we live to see the day when when both the sexes are treated as equal and patriarchy dies. It has begun, but we have a long way to go. With men joining in the fight against patriarchy, it is now a little more believable that we’ll be successful to curb the problem, someday.

  12. The presence of a cage in our psyche is so so true,education in our country accounts only in getting 6 figure jobs, for most people it has no role to play in developing the character of a person. To the point post 🙂 Kudos 🙂

  13. It is sad to read a conversation like that but people are perfectly capable of that. I vividly remember the creeps in college and even the workplace who had the filthiest mind for girls. What flummoxes me till date how they were also the most trusted males.

    Yes, it is an unassailable truth that sensitisation begins at home. Again, I’d like to point that mothers are often the more indulging parent in messing up the minds of their sons. I am not saying that fathers don’t ruin their sons. But is is just unforgivable on part of women to tolerate atrocious attitude against girls. And since people are increasing confined to nuclear families, there is little scope of moderating influences.

    • you are correct, our attitudes are formed in our childhood and we all learn by role-playing: boys imitate fathers, girls their mothers. so an abusive father and subservient mother lead to an insensitive son and a servile daughter. these grow up to be men who treat women like dirt and women who live tortured and depressing lives. each marries partners who carry on with the role-playing: such men have wives who resemble their doormat mothers, and such women are married to abusive men who resemble their cruel dads. it will take a strong woman (while she is married to an abusive and controlling man) to break the cycle and teach the little boy that women have to be respected, no matter what. and teach the little girl that she deserves love and respect, no matter what. women must take the responsibility of instilling values in their children since the first 7 years are when children learn morality, empathy and sensitivity. and to all those women who take revenge on their daughters-in-law, for their own cruel treatment by their husbands and sons, you are the worst of all enemies of your own gender.

    • Yes, I agree. Many parents create the kind of environment where the sons get a notion that they are the most important being in the world. It gets worse as they grow up. What they forget to teach their kids is that every other human is as important and unique as their sons. This filth is worse than AIDS, passed from one generation to another.

  14. You are right, Amit. Education has nothing to do with it. Education might change people’s perspective but not their mindsets. It has to start at home, Amit. With the mom, with the parents. I keep reminding my son each day, your marks doesn’t matter to me; how best of a person you are counts at the end. I donno how much of this makes sense to him, but I keep telling. It sickens me to the stomach when I hear statements like those guys’ coming from politicians, people in responsible positions….

    • Exactly Latha,
      Being a good helpful human being and turn your children into someone who respect everyone is not a lot to ask. Teaching your child about freedom of chioces is not a lot to ask. I sometimes wonder how we can be the most intelligent specie on Earth. We hardly do anything intelligent while bringing up our children.

  15. Reminds of the statement of the retired DIG (or DGP?) of Delhi Police – forgot his name – making a public statement in the newspaper some years back, that rapes happen because of the way women dress “these days”. Apparently “purane zamane mein” they used to dress well (read, cover themselves up) hence did not have suffer.

    It all begins with mindset.
    We have a long long way to go… 😐

  16. Text books don’t instil rational thoughts. even if we see a glimpse of it here and there, it’s all hollow and superficial.

    i see these people everywhere. so, i am not expecting a radical change in the mindset of people.

    yes, being preventive is the right approach but we are not even reactive enough.

    like how you express your opinion.

    • Our education system is already in shambles. It will be a wonder if we provide basic education effectively.
      But we do react. When we are about to die.
      Thanks Debs. 🙂

  17. Absolute truth, Amit. Sensitization begins when the kids grow up knowing that they are not previleged because they were born a particular sex. It begins when no one is made to feel inferior because they were female. Sensitization can happen ony when dialogues that sound like “Girls shouldn’t laugh so loud” or “Boys don’t cry” are abolished! Sigh!! We are very far from the ideal, arent we?

    • Exactly. The moment you put a superiority/inferiority complex in a child’s brain because of his/her gender, you are actually messing up with his/her brain. They should be raised as human beings and not as boys and girls.

  18. You speak the truth. Education should be changing people’s mindsets as colleges and universities are supposed to be a meeting of young minds and new ideas…but a lot of these institutions nowadays don’t even allow young men and women to talk to each other! Teachers in labcoats, parents summoned if a young woman is seen talking to a guy…what can we expect but output like those software engineers?

    Gender equality begins at home but schools too can do their part. I used to have a ‘moral studies’ class where they taught things like helping old ladies cross the street, girls helping mother around the house, taking the dog for a walk (copy paste from an old British textbook?)…nothing of actual relevence…they can include more gender equality based curriculum no? Call me optimistic but I feel most people do not put much thought into what they are saying/doing, and just follow the crowd, and those are the people who can be sensitized. I used to be a fan of Bollywood films but now that I can see the blatant sexism in them I cannot watch most of them…so I think that like me people can be changed…

    • I do not understand the concept of boys only and girls only school. What the hell are we trying to achieve by that? You are right. Schools and Colleges can play their part but a lot of people running them are disgustingly regressive.

  19. I’d like to think people choose misogyny because it’s convenient. Why burden yourself with responsibility, accountability when being a boor is so much fun! What’s more, this attitude has more supporters and is the accepted norm.

    It has to start with women stop putting up with bullshit.

    Btw, a very incisive write-up. Loved it!

    • I think they choose misogyny because they can get away with it. If we are strict in dealing with it, people will stop. And you are right. This ‘Chalta hai’ attitude has to go.
      Thanks Purba Ji!

  20. Education does not change mindsets, not always. But this conversation made me boil. Trash all their degrees, but just can someone be so inhuman? Such blindness! It is really revolting, to say the least.
    I see a lot of sense if what you have suggested. Sad though it is that such steps have to be made mandatory, there seems to be no other alternative. The leaders themselves need some classes, though.
    All the best Amit! Well-written, this is 🙂

    • I have heard a lot of such conversations. I usually put a lot of air in-between myself and such people. A large % of our so called well educated class is comprised of such people.
      Thanks kismitoffeebar. 🙂

  21. Couldn’t agree more with you, Amit! There is no point trying to change minds that are set so hard, the change has to start with the younger generation. But what scares me is the fact it is these same set of idiots that are bringing them up. Given a chance, I would go spank a few of them real hard. I meant the parents 😉

    • Yes, that is why such idiots who have a kid who is 0-10 years old should also me sensitized.
      I am having a feeling that you really like spanking people, don’t you? 😛

  22. It is my firm belief that as long as we bring up sons & daughters differently women will not get equal status in society.When we treat boys as royalty, they grow up with this belief that they are superior than girls & they can ride rough-shod over them.It is certainly the parents who are to be blamed for this sorry state of affairs.
    I wonder if things are different in the matrilinial societies –like Kerala?

    • There have been cases in South India in the past few month that makes me believe that the matriarchy that is prevelant there is just a facade. Men don’t wait anywhere in India before distributing their gyan about how women should behave.

  23. i don’t foresee any solution to this problem Amit .. i remember there was one episode of roadies on MTV in which an educated guy contestant said that he’ll do anything to protect his dad’s honor even if it demanded killing of his sister and her lover ..

    point is, no matter how educated we become, till we do not learn to give respect to women (which begins at home) and eradicate patriarchy .. nothing’s going to change .. we men are the ones to establish patriarchy so we should be the ones to remove it…..

    • I too remember an episode from Roadies where a girl was given 2 scenarios – A girl is wearing a mini skirt and is molested by four boys. Whose mistake is it? The girl replied – Of course, the girl’s!
      Then they asked about the same scenario but this time a guy wearing a bermuda was molested. According to the girl, this time it was the mistake of the four boys!
      Yes, that is how fuc*ed up our brains are right now.

  24. Pingback: I used call myself a feminist | Soulsez…

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