Empowered Woman? Who is She?

Author: Khadija Begum

I was at a local film fest earlier this week that was screening movies by amateur film makers on gender based violence. During one of the audience discussions, a girl who must not have been older than 13 and an actor in the movie, in a very well-meaning manner asked a question: How do we teach boys/men to deal with the new generation of empowered/progressive women?

A lot of answers flew around the room but the question bothered me for some reason and I couldn’t put my finger on it for a long time. Then I realised it was the very phrasing of the question “How do we teach boys/men to deal with the new generation of empowered/progressive women?

It gives us an insight to the problem of power imbalance. That female empowerment is a problem that men must “deal with.” Instead of teaching men to “deal with the new generation of empowered women” we should be teaching them to “understand the new generation of empowered women.”

Perhaps the best way one can begin to understand an empowered woman is by defining her. Is she someone who wears a red lipstick? Is she ambitious and career minded? Can she be called empowered if she wears a hijab? Does she have to be well-versed with theories of feminism? Can she really be defined by her choice of lifestyle and clothing? It isn’t that hard to say.

We must begin to change the question from “deal with the new generation of empowered women” to “understand the new generation of empowered women.”

While an empowered woman is definitely not a single construct, at the heart of it all lies one idea – an empowered woman is the one who is able to devote herself to that which she finds meaning in; who can exercise her rights and her choices.

If this idea can be grasped by everyone, the Indian society which has been opening up slowly for a while now, through the efforts and initiatives of many, will reform at a quicker pace. Our business is and always will be to ensure that this awakening is uniform in all cultures and classes of society.

How to ensure? By addressing the issue on all levels that it exists, i.e., societal, professional, household and the individual. There must be gender sensitization sessions in schools, colleges, offices etc. That media and literature is needed which challenges the mainstream notions and stereotypes. The gender roles in office spaces and homes have to be redefined or rather undefined so that they loosen any paradigm of unwarranted limitations. As an individual, one can understand an empowered women by being conscious and critical.

However to truly check the problem of power imbalance, we need to take the next step of awakening, which is, evolving. We evolve when we leave behind our distrust in change; when women empowerment is not a topic of discussions, dialogues or debates but a way of life; when the idea of empowered woman becomes a norm. All of which could take a little more time. Until then, one can strive to be more empowered each day because the best way to make someone understand an empowered woman is to project one.

Khadija Begum writes at ‘Unduly Unruly’ and is a contributing writer at the Conversation Room. You can follow her blog here:

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What Makes A Video Go Viral?

What makes a video go viral? Is it a formula or is it just something elusive and unpredictable? trying to make content that will go viral can be a dangerous game for content creators, limiting their creativity or trying to tailor their talents to what they think people like, rather than just trusting their gut with what is actually good content.

Unfortunately we have an online system that prioritizes vitality over quality. Videos such as “Charlie bit my finger” or the salt bae meme show that these things are almost impossible to predict and that trends change often, if you become good at what you like, it is likely the trend will follow you rather than the other way around.

Battle of the Ages: Stuck in Reverse

Author: Revels

In Pakistan, one’s life revolves around what is socially acceptable or unacceptable. Growing up, a person is expected to agree to whatever he is being told, to comply with whatever decisions are made for him, to silently nod at what the ‘elders’ of the family think is right.

Before I start, I’d like to make clear that though the situation is improving somewhat, we still live in a way more primitive world than we should. The main problem we need to tackle is for our older generation to listen and understand the younger one.

This system has been in place for as long as anyone can remember and only a very small group of people have had the courage to speak out, despite some of them meeting horrific ends. Putting your foot down in the face of such opposition as your family is a very difficult thing to do in Pakistan where the majority of one’s social life consists of family, including cousins, aunts, uncles and the whole bunch.

People are somewhat used to living like this, but in this day and age, where one has access to what happens over the entire globe, our younger generations need their own space and demand the right to their own opinions. Where lots of families have been understanding and have recognized what is called for, most have been unyielding, with egos overcoming common sense. Children have resorted to sneaky ways to accomplish what they couldn’t have had they discussed it with their families.

Being an Islamic Republic, at least by name, Islamic values and morals are given their due importance. Nothing is forced, things like the hijab are not made compulsory as they are in some other Islamic states, but there are a couple of issues which, traditions combined with religious obligations, have become a social norm, and sadly, an issue of ‘honour’.

For instance, segregation is preferred. The strange thing about the way it is observed is that it builds to the frustration of the youth, questions like why can’t I talk to him? or what is so bad about hanging around with a girl? pop up in their minds as the segregation followed in Pakistan is not absolute separation. Girls and boys will share the same classrooms, the same buses, the same cafeterias, but they just will not talk to each other. This introduces a rather awkward situation because if people do eventually break that social taboo and talk to the other gender, the older generations immediately flash them the red light.

This, naturally, leads to an irritation invisible to the ‘elders’ who make all the ‘right’ decisions for the youth.

With the rising LGBT support around the world, Pakistan has seen its own LGBT cases number higher than ever before. The funny thing is, our elder generation will swear to this not being the case, as religiously and culturally it is not accepted.

But where there’s a will there’s a way, right? Men and women will marry whoever the family approves of, because marriage is another decision that only the ‘elders’ can make, though they try to make sure the people they are being betrothed to are like them. As a result, we have couples who live heterosexual lives in public but homosexual ones in reality, and this double minded society of people can only lead itself to disturbing consequences.

The question that we face is, though, will the obvious oblivion really solve what issues we have? Are we not living in a rather hypocritical little bubble? We’ve advanced from primitive thinking but we haven’t let go of our egotistical supposition that all is well as long as the elders are obeyed. Our elders try to implement religion to enforce what they believe is the definition of honour; they do not speak of what is religiously right or wrong, and do not listen when the youth tries to tell them about it. So do they really know what is best?

Our society, unfortunately, is still quite patriarchal, with men usually exploiting religion to their advantage, forgetting the whole package. Strangely, the same men who rule the household will turn into the very perverted souls that they try to keep their women ‘safe’ from when they walk out into the street. Is that really fair? A woman, no matter what she looks like, will be subjected to stares and cat calls. This isn’t even anything startling anymore because everyone is so accustomed to it.

Why be accustomed to something so gross?

Now the plot twist thickens, though. These same women will go home and still defend their sons and give them a preferential treatment! They will pray for their brothers, spoil them in the littlest ways and shower them with praise and love.

Yes, our world makes very little sense.

How do we get our elders to listen and sympathise? To think beyond what they feel is good and a happy solution to what is otherwise unacceptable to their, at times, absurd social standards? To be honest, I’m not so sure how myself, but to speak out in hopes of catching their attention might be one way. Philosophies ingrained over lifetimes are hard to shake, but bringing acceptability and acknowledgement is what is required at this moment. How long will it take? We have to try and find out.

Revels is a Pakistani student, blogger & contributing writer at The Conversation Room. 

You can visit her excellent blog here:

https://identity17.wordpress.com/

What Should Indian Feminism Look Like?

Author: K. Phani Krishna

The following article is divided into 4 points. This article is my take on what feminism should be in India right now. Feminism much like the word politics has been misused and misinterpreted a lot nowadays and it’s not a good thing.

What is Feminism?

According to google, Feminism is the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes. Nothing more, nothing less. Feminism is the fight for equal rights, equal pay, equal opportunities and equal social norms and acceptance for both men and women. A lot of people consider feminism the fight against atrocities against women. It is not. You don’t have to be a feminist to condemn rape. You don’t have to be a feminist to realize if a woman is raped every 30 minutes in India, it’s the man’s fault. Feminism and fight against rape are two different movements. One is moral while the other is both moral and legal. One aims to bring about a change in the thought process, the other aims to bring about a change in actions. The whole of India condemns rape and is furious about the rapes but that doesn’t make us feminists. It just makes us human. It is essential for us to not associate feminism with fight against rape.

Why do we need Feminism?

We need feminism because its 2016. Gender should not be a factor in judging one’s abilities or talents. There is nothing a woman cannot do that a man can. This includes both good and bad. PV Sindhu, Priyanka Chopra, Dipa Karmakar and many other women over the last few years have shown us that given the same facilities and opportunities, women can do as good as men. We need feminism because its high time we left the medieval principles of a patriarchal society and moved towards being a more modern and accepting society.

The two sides of the coin 

Just like any other issue in India, even Feminism is highly polarized and the state of feminism is completely different in urban and rural India. In rural India where people still are skeptical about sending their daughters to schools. Where people prefer to educate their son over the daughter. Where young girls are denied access to education and are forced into other activities or even marriage. These are the places where reservations for women and aid for education of girls are required. In urban areas, not so much. In urban areas where girls have access to the same schools and same facilities as the boys, there is no need for reservations or aid. What was intended as aid ends up becoming privilege and in a way hinders further growth.

However in urban areas we need to ensure at a higher level, women are paid as well as men provided they do the job as well as the men, if they do it better, pay them better. Serena Williams raised an issue in tennis. She said the prize money for the ATP (men) and WTA (women) tours was different. To which she got a reply stating the moment WTA tours attracted the kind of crowd and viewership ATP tours did, the prize money would be equal. There was widespread debate on this topic. My personal view is that it’s fair enough. You cannot expect the organizers to pay you more even though their investment recovery is generally less, just because the men are paid more. So my point here is we obviously need to pay both men and women on the basis of the merit of their work and the number of hours they have put in for work and not gender. If a woman is better than a man at a job, you pay her better. If she works much harder, pay her better. The most important point here is that the converse also has to be accepted. If a man is better at his job than a woman and if he is putting in more hours, he deserved to be paid more. If we understand this logic, we are good to go as far as feminism is concerned.

Solution

The most important role in this fight for feminism is of the urban women. The uplifted women. Women who have rational parents. Women who are educated. Women who can stand up for themselves. You need to let go of these privileges. You will have to stand up for yourselves. If we scrap all the reservations or aid for women after a certain economic level of their parents. We can channel all that money into the upliftment of women in rural India. We can build more girls schools and colleges. We can bridge the gap between an urban girl and a rural girl. If we manage to accomplish this, we have won half our battle.

The men have to realize that women are no less. We must respect them, treat them equally and most importantly not discriminate them because of their gender. We must not let their gender be a factor in determining their abilities nor their worth (salaries).

Together we need to educate our future generations about equality and we must ensure we leave the world to be a better place than when we inherited it from our ancestors. There is change coming up slowly. Its high time we accelerated the pace.

The most important point I’d like to make is India has so many issues like Gender discrimination, communal violence, violation of freedom of speech. There is only one common solution to these problems and that is rational thinking. If each and every Indian develops rational thinking right from their childhood, feminism, gender equality, communal harmony and freedom of speech will be eventualities.

Phani is a Mechanical Engineering student writing on a variety of important political & social issues.

You can visit his blog here:

https://phaniwritesblog.wordpress.com/