Shri Nishant, an employee at CISCO
March 8th is women’s day and is celebrated with much fanfare across the globe. The hyper capitalist world we are part of, along with the advertising blitzkrieg that has now become synonymous with such events prods, nudges and almost convinces us into thinking that buying things or gifts for women on this day is a good way to celebrate. Let us pause for a moment, steer clear of the cliches and rhetoric surrounding the day and explore more meaningful ways of celebrating and empowering women.
One way is to start acknowledging the fact that women make up half of humanity. They are as much human as any man is and play an extremely important role in nurturing families and shaping societies. Having acknowledged the role of women in our lives, we can then proceed by posing some simple questions. For instance, how have we been treating women? Have we designed the world keeping only the male species in mind and completely relegated women to playing second fiddle to men.? * Do women have power in decision making at the family or at the level of the state? Do we consult women in designing public policies or are women represented enough in panels that have such decision-making powers? If one carefully and critically examines these questions and tries to find answers (One way to do that is by asking women themselves) a grim and sorry picture starts emerging. There is a lot to be desired in the way we have been treating women and asking and finding answers to such questions can be more meaningful to women than falling into a consumerist trap and buying gifts will ever be.
Jason Hickel, the eminent anthropologist** asks us a brilliant question we all should be asking. Given the impact of economic theories and their real-world applications on our lives, what would economic theory look like or in fact what would the world look like if the basic unit of behavioral modeling wasn’t an abstract, bourgeois male individual but a mother? Now that sounds like such a basic and a simple question but at the same time, I think it is a revolutionary question. (Does economic theory have any place for women at all?). I for one would love to live in a world in which the basic unit of behavioral modeling, be it economic or social, is a mother or a loving sister. Instead, what we have now is a cold, calculating, dull, heartless, profit driven bourgeois white man as THE basic unit. This needs to change. Isn’t it? We should allow such questions to confront us and help steer our societies towards a more equal and inclusive world for our women. Again, we would be doing women a huge favor by raising such pertinent questions and initiating public debates on such issues.
Apart from asking uncomfortable questions this women’s day, we can also celebrate by reading inspirational figures who fought for women’s rights. Savitribai Phule - who started educating girls in India when it was unheard of and even a taboo during her time. Rosa Parks - who sparked the Montgomery bus boycott in the US and put a stop to racial segregation on public buses by simply refusing to give up her seat to a white individual, Pandita Ramabai – another brave and towering figure in the women’s rights movement in the late 19th century and early 20th century India. Rosa Luxemburg, the fiery and revolutionary Marxist philosopher all come to mind that everybody and especially the youth should be reading and discussing extensively. These personalities will help expand our understanding of the position of women and their subjugation in our societies and will quickly dispel any myths that we can empower women by dedicating one day of the year to them. We need to seek incremental changes in attitudes towards women and reading certainly helps in that regard. Having made a case for an unconventional but an effective women’s day gift nonetheless, I would like to sign off by quoting the eminent American historian Will Durant, “Education is a progressive discovery of our ignorance”. Let’s pledge to keep learning and educating ourselves.
Notes/References: * Caroline Criado Perez , the feminist scholar addresses these questions in her meticulously researched book “Invisible women-Exposing Data bias in a world designed for men”.
** Jason hickel is the author of “The Divide: A Brief Guide to Global Inequality and Its Solutions”.