Step It Up for Gender Equality!

The word ‘domination’ is a commonly used word in English, yet its meaning is not as pleasant as its phonetic sound. It denotes all kinds of authority, implying the presence of a victim, and subsequently, a denouncement of the victim’s personal, social, political, and economic rights. If we take a glimpse down the pages of history, we will see that in fact, most conflicts and revolutions erupted due to the domination of one over another, or when this discursive authority is forcibly imposed on another. History has shown us masters dominating slaves, lords dominating serfs, and employers dominating workers. Keeping this understanding of domination and what it entails in mind, let us delve into understanding the word ‘Patriarchy’.  

Literally, ‘Patriarchy’ means ‘rule of the father’. Originally it was used to denote a social system based on the authority of male as the head of the household. Presently, it denotes ‘male domination’ in general by excluding women’s rights in decision making and domestic division of labour. Here we can see two contending classes and genders struggling over their status in society. Since patriarchy favors the male, the woman is denied her basic rights. This inferior status to women in society in relation to men is therefore, the product of the institution of patriarchy. In any case, the dominance of men and submissiveness of women are not directly based on biological differences.  

Broadly speaking, these are the products of the social institutions that have been based on a patriarchal culture. It endorses domestic division of labour in familial spaces and a biased economic system. Therefore, to truly ensure a woman her divine right, these exploitative systems must alter the nature of their workings. To deny a woman her basic right on the pretext of socio-cultural and traditional designs is to deny the rights of all humankind.  

In the contemporary world, it has become necessary to draw a distinction between ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ to understand the issues concerning the status of women and grasp the seriousness of gender inequality. Sociologically, the term ‘sex’ is confined to biological differences that construct ‘male’ and ‘female’ with distinct physical features. But when we use the term ‘gender’, we enter the cultural realm referring to the ideas that construct images and expectation of both male and female. By the same token, it becomes evident that nature has divided humans into men and women but their status, role and contribution is defined by cultural expectation endorsed by stereotypes. This mode of thought should be challenged and altered in the light of growing social consciousness.  

In no case do women differ from men in their talents, skills, and capabilities. With the development of technology and sweeping changes taking place in our society, women are capable of doing what men can do, and perhaps, even more efficiently. The legacy of art and poetry since the 1800s have portrayed women as an object of beauty, an entity of fragile constitution, and a commodity to be admired and possessed. Her voice is systematically and forcefully denied expression. It is necessary to view men and women, the essence of humankind, as essential agents of change enjoying equal rights in all spheres of life without any hindrances.  

One must understand that the voice of women is not a voice against men. It is a voice against the tyranny that enslaved women and deprived them of their share in education, health, opportunities as well as their adequate share in economic and political power. It is the voice of the survivors of rape crying out for justice. It is the voice of the suppressed reverberating in society so that they can have their say in decision making. This voice shall continue to strive for hope, equality, and understanding. As long as women are raped, sexually harassed, and paid lower than the men, we cannot claim to be a society which considers women as equals. 

It is the birthright of every woman  to be respected in society and as well as within the confines of her home; to live as she desires, to endorse a lifestyle she willingly chooses and to participate in decision-making anywhere as a fellow human, without the fear of suppression.  

This year, International Women’s day has been celebrated with great zeal and passion emphasizing on women’s rights. It is celebrated to acknowledge the contribution of women to society. Let’s hope for the day when there will be no discrimination based on gender in any form. It will be a world where all women can live in peace and truly be free.  

“Degree of Thought is a weekly community column initiated by Tetso College in partnership with The Morung Express. Degree of Thought will delve into the social, cultural, political and educational issues around us. The views expressed here do not reflect the opinion of the institution. Tetso College is a NAAC Accredited UGC recognised Commerce and Arts College. For feedback or comments please email: [email protected]”.