March 8th was the day everyone did well to honour and acknowledge women’s role in their lives. From moms and wives, who feed and clean up after you, to that smart PAs who never forget anything for you to remember, a note of acknowledgement would, indeed, be worthwhile.
But then, women have not always been treated the best way. Nobody is unacquainted to this fact. Talk about the agrarian societies-- polygamy persisted there so men could accumulate more wealth by obtaining free labour. Then in the early industrial families women slogged in factories from the morning to the evening and returned home only to find more work waiting for them to be done. This was then followed by the industrial societies which saw more of lone parent families and women as the sole bread winners. Salute to the women who survived against the oddities of the harsh world.
Keeping aside feminists and their theory of patriarchal domination, even the ‘symmetrical’ families as supported by functionalists do not seem to be so. Where conjugal roles are supposed to have an equal value, reality does not illustrate the same. The labour saving devices have helped the domestic chores become much easier but let’s not forget the operator is usually ‘her’. I remember people talking about how even in symmetrical families men dominated all decision making. He would decide which house to buy in what location, while she would decide the colour of the house and all the interior designs. The concept of the new man, in that case, as put forward by the functionalists does not exist, contradicting their arguments. This is how we realize feminists are not wrong when they stress upon the exploitation of women like any trade union would defend their poor worker member.
Coming to people in real life, most believe women to be subservient to men. As part of a personal experience, I have heard people around me including the educated ones talk about women being weaker to men in terms of physique, emotions and therefore, like Marxists, would emphasize the subordinate class. However true this might be, women have proved themselves better. No matter what the status quo bears, there have been strong women who have stood up to challenge. Along with being tender and giving, women are bold and courageous.
The international celebration of women did not happen just overnight. It took a long course of suppression, yearning for equality and thus the ultimate recognition. The rallies for equal wages or the revolutions for democracy couldn’t be suppressed for a long time. Neither could the commendable acts by Clara Zetkins and like minded others could be, one of the major reasons behind why we celebrate women today.
Considering today’s scenario, I wouldn’t call it easy being a member of the ‘rising gender’. All these women empowerment talks and legal actions happen only in first world countries. They started celebrating women’s day and we’ve made it another commercialized issue. Here, we read the newspaper to find wives being brutally killed by their husbands, or women maltreated for being witches. We are superstitious people, always looking for religious explanations. No wonder women in the past had to burn themselves on their husband’s pyre too. This does not exist today, but has transformed to women being beaten and tortured for dowry in the southern plains. And, in the western part to Chhaupadi, where they have to stay away from everything in cowshed during their menstrual period.
Moving further to our neighbouring country India, it gets even worse. India is a diverse country, but with more underdeveloped areas than urban areas. Domestic violence and child marriages are very much common in the rural areas. Pakistan, much infamous for honour killings, polygamous marriages and denial for women rights has never encouraged women to be equal to men again on religious grounds. Sadder is the case in Bangladesh where women are beaten and acids thrown on their bodies.
Therefore, egalitarian societies do not exist in our part of the world. Despite the fact that we have some dynamic women who strive for uplifting other women, we have a very long way to vie for a utopian society favouring equality in our part of the world. Nonetheless, let us still give women the respect and celebrate the day each year with love and affection.