Mahatma Gandhi once said-
“When the women of a country can freely and safely walk the streets after midnight, then it is a true and developed Democracy.”
But today, stepping into the fourteenth year of the 21st century, the home of the Mahatma and the most populous democracy of the world, has more than ever at hand, to ponder and change. The year 2012 ended with the most hurtful event I had ever heard of in my lifetime. A 23 year old was brutally raped by six men and beaten almost to death in a moving bus, after which she and her male friend were thrown out, on the verge of death. The girl struggled to survive for about 3 weeks and then passed away. With her demise, which as if was not shameful enough for the society, a number of old and new cases were brought to new light.
A rape victim in coma for over a decade, the death of a 2 year old exploited by her own uncle, various cases in the US with one in which an 11 year old was raped by 18 men and a burn patient who was raped by a hospital attendant are just a minute part of the endless list. All that this does is speak of the extremely misogynist society that we are a part of.
For the word ‘misogyny’, Google presents over a million results, of which one even says that most women do not even know the real meaning of the word. A standard dictionary based definition of the word says that- ‘It is a hatred or dislike of women.’ The most basic Wikipedia article says that it is part of another article on ‘feminism’. Sociologist Allan G. Johnson, as mentioned in the same article, says-
Misogyny is a Cultural attitude of hatred for females because they are female. It is a part of the sexist prejudice and ideology and as such, is basis for oppression of women in Male-dominated societies. It is manifested in various ways, from jokes, to pornography, to violence, to self-contempt that they are taught to feel towards their own bodies.
Not in all, but many cultures, women are always asked to hide away from men. Mr. Johnson’s book, Nothing Left to Lose, was a blunt portrayal of domestic violence. Seemingly, it faced a form of misogyny itself, having been rejected by publishers about 70 times, over a period of 6 years. To me it seems highly unethical to not publish a certain text, just because it does not relate to one’s personal opinion or level of acceptance.
When the 2003 novel of author Dan Brown, the Da Vinci Code brought accusations and negative remarks from the Vatican, it seemed one of the church’s religious issues to me. However, over the years, I have formed a different opinion of the whole issue. Rather than being a meagre threat to the beliefs and the religion, it felt more like an issue to male dominance. It had striking reactions to things like, ‘how can a woman be the most important part of everything the Bible holds”, “Why would Lord Jesus, the son of God, fall for a petty thing like a woman?” The people who should be respecting every woman like Mother Mary, fell prey to the world famous feeling of the smallness for women. Keeping myself away from any remarks regarding the religion, that I do respect as much as my own, I just am unable to understand the validity of the disrespect for women in general.
Though we pray to Goddesses for money, food, health, safety, conception and what not, Hindus are no less sexist in their approach than other religions. Hindus have rules for women. Not to venture out during the restricted time of the month, not to enter the kitchen or the cooking area during that time, not to show their faces to men, not to wear western clothing, not to visit temples of some Gods and about a hundred more. Some who may be apprehensive of what I have just written should know that I am no Atheist.
Buddhism has its own villain, Maya. Maya, the name of Lord Buddha’s mother, is also the name of the Hindu Goddess of Illusion. Buddhist Tantrism claims that the four steps it defines are in fact compulsory for attainment of the eternal being. It, however, is restricted to shutting women out of the male life. A woman, even as a mother, is considered the cause of all harm and abstinence of a man from success. Hence, if Buddha was to attain the eternal knowledge, he had to rid himself of womanly love. This again is a matter of faulty and selfish interpretation. ‘Old Path White Clouds’ is one of the most educative religious texts that I have ever read. It shows Lord Buddha’s mother as a Boddhini, in fact one of the first ones. As things have changed, people have reconstructed religions as per convenience and involvement. Where Sikhism itself has no misogynist inclination, the Sikh states of India have among the highest rates of crimes against women, Female foeticide being on top. In fact, Guru Nanak Dev ji even declares people who harm an innocent as unworthy of respect and a coward and who is more innocent than an unborn child.
The religious mythologies and epics have also portrayed women in a bad light, blaming them for the harm and pain brought upon the world. In the Greek mythology, when Prometheus stole fire from the Gods, Zues, in an attempt at revenge against all humanity, presented a box (some say a jar) to a beautiful woman named Pandora. The former’s brother married the beautiful young girl in spite of his brother’s warnings. Pandora is said to have been curious regarding the Gods’ gift. So, she opened the box (or jar), unleashing evils of labour, sickness, old age and death upon the whole world.
The first love story, as known to man, is not as beautiful either. Adam’s first companion was Lilith. She was made out of dirt just as Adam was. But when she asked for equal rights, she was condemned. She bore monsters and demons from Adam and thus, became the greatest evil herself. Hence, God created Eve for Adam. Unlike Lilith, she was created out of Adam’s rib, a part considered vestigial to human body. Eve then turns out to be the Biblical version of Pandora. The story of the Forbidden fruit is said to be all Eve’s fault and because she had brought it upon Adam, God cursed her with labour and all sorts of Evil and made it a point that Women shall always be inferior to their men. Eve gave the forbidden fruit to other creatures of the garden, so that she would not have to suffer alone, coming out as the one to bring all harm upon all the creatures on the planet.
There has however not been any absence of such feelings since history and before the present. The earliest evidence of misogyny, with the only exception being the involvement of God, goes back to Aristotle, Socrates and Plato. Socrates, one of the greatest philosophers of all times and the provider of the dialectic method of inquiry is perhaps the most important figure pertaining to justice. However, to a Credulous and learning society, as it was in his times, his words putting women down made more sense than any religion. These words even seem supportive of women to some. It has been stated in ‘The Apology’ that ‘those who plead for their lives in court are no better than women.’ In the ‘Timaeus’ he warns men of living immorally for if they do, they shall reincarnate as women. He also used to say that the sign of a Democracy’s failure is the promotion of Sexual equality. Plato being one of Socrates’ students, turned out to be of the same opinion of women. Aristotle goes to extend a scientific note to his thoughts on the inferiority of women. He says that since women have lesser teeth than men, they are nothing more than a deformity of the latter. Also, they are inferior to men in general because they decide only the matter of their off springs and not the form. He also says that ‘the courage of a man is in commanding and a woman’s in obeying.’ There, however, are some clashes of opinion on this matter. These creators of modernism have been wrongly portrayed as being misogynist. But if they were, how can we expect anything better from a society whose wise men just obliterate the real meaning of male-female relationships and misconstrue the realities of life. Such broken and distorted mindsets towards the opposite sex are what are keeping human race from development in real terms. We seem to be living in a society whose history, mythology, religion and the teaching are all strongly influenced by some people’s male chauvinism.
Wikipedia quotes Australian, Pro-feminist sociologist Micheal Flood-
Though more common in men, it is also found in and practiced by most women against other women or even themselves, placing some women at sub-ordinate positions, with limited access to power and decision making.
Where Flood’s website XY, an enlightening addition to my online bookmarks, is strictly feministic, it admits how difficult the attainment of equality is for women. One of the articles on the page, by Mr. Flood himself, posted online in September 20122, was titled, ‘Building Men’s commitment to ending sexual violence against women.’ Besides explaining how this can be done, it also admits that it is sheer hard work. To quote the introduction-
This article concludes by discussing the barriers to and supports for men’s by-stander interventions.
As quoted by Wikipedia, Michael Flood’s observation regarding misogyny being prevalent among women is true. To me, though, it is ‘most’ women. They are their own enemies when it comes to powers and rights. The social cultures mould them as per their convenience from the very beginning of their grooming. Women have been brought up to live in a state of aporia regarding their own existence and to make things worse, there are more women pulling them down. In an incident that a lady IPS officer from my province once told me about has such feelings are at the core. A local woman at a village in Shimla once said to her and her friends that any girl consuming alcohol should be arrested and punished. When told that if men can drink, then why not women. Bothered by the officer’s response, she just said that it is okay for men to do it but not normal for women. I am not suggesting that consumption of alcohol marks the freedom of a girl, but is she not allowed a free will to her own life?
[The article is part of an essay called 'The story of Misogyny'. The second will be uploaded after necessary editing and alterations.]
[All pictures are from Google]