Thursday, December 4, 2014

On reverse gender discrimination - a reality in urban India

Feminism is defined as the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. I subscribe to this definition. That makes me a feminist. 

Now, let me list a few instances to drive home what I want to convey - the reality of reverse gender discrimination in urban India - 

  1. Last week, in a BMTC (Bangalore metropolitan transport corporation for the uninitiated) bus, I see this "Rs 200 fine for those who occupy seats reserved for ladies". I am standing and so are three other guys. This display appears to be warning us. Ahead of us, among these reserved seats, three are empty, all of them aisle seats with women occupying the window seats. Neither me nor the other three guys even contemplate occupying these seats. We continue standing until my stop comes (around 15 minutes). Through this 15 minutes, these seats remain vacant. 
  2. I have also seen men in BMTC  Volvo buses treading with extreme caution when they have to navigate the area close to the driver where typically women stand/sit. Given that the drivers of these Volvo buses take a special liking toward applying brakes every now and then, this implies drawing on all skills of balance whilst walking amid a crowd.
  3. In most suburban trains and buses across Indian cities, 1/3 of all seats are reserved for women in normal hours of commute.
  4. I observe this in the elevators at work- Whenever girls enter, especially whenever young girls enter in a group, the men inside squeeze together. Those who are unfit even make an effort to draw their bellies in. It is amusing and disturbing at the same time. 
  5. Early this week, two girls from Haryana beat up three alleged molesters. One "braveheart" girl put her belt to some good purpose thrashing these guys. These two girls became instant celebrities. Media houses scampered and queued to interview them, invite them to the studios and ask them all sorts of questions on "Women's rights". A few days later, another video surfaced, of the same girls beating up a guy in a park. Now, harassment is not pardonable but whoever arranges for these videos to be taken is a mystery. 
  6. Whenever a case of rape is reported, there is a tendency to paint the entire male gender in shades of black. Men should be taught good manners at home, they say. This tendency to make sweeping generalizations doesn't help feminism in any manner. 
  7. People joke (politically correct jokes you see) that men prefer "fair, beautiful, pretty, good looking" brides. Women too prefer "fair, good looking, charming, well earning" grooms. Somehow, if this is pointed out, many women feign ignorance. I wish they get to see what their friends and colleagues and sisters write on sites like Bharat Matrimony.Let us not even get into false cases of domestic violence.
  8. Imagine a man after doing masters, sitting at home taking care of children and doing household chores. Somehow, a man like this is seen as "a-good-for-nothing-bloke", whereas, women can do this and get way. 
  9. Corporates conduct "women focused recruitment drives" to increase representation of women and sometimes to "correct" gender imbalance. 
I have based these instances on my own experiences. I refrain from generalizing, hence the qualifier, "urban India". 
Sometimes, sometimes, I imagine the plight of men born into upper caste in India. I forget to find any reservation that they can lay claim to. 

The world is not a fair place. It is not a just place. However, as a race, we should strive for fairness and justice. The means by which we do that should not tilt the balance too much. I am afraid that, similar to reverse caste discrimination in the context of affirmative action, we are beginning to see many instances of reverse gender discrimination. If we, as a society, truly want our men and women to enjoy equal opportunities and rights, we should educate young children to see each other, first and foremost, as human beings.

And, yes, to reiterate, I am a feminist.