Culture & Society

Irony of Being a Girl: Sex Object, Second Gender or Equal Partner?

Pranay Prashar for BeyondHeadlines

“Girl” what comes to mind when one got to hear or read this word? There are two prominent versions that represent the forefront of mind’s horizon. In the first version, what human mind characterizes is the appearance whose most likely adjectives connotes an ultra modern figure, dressed in skimpy clothes, tight jeans and clothing whose appearance gives the glimpse of promiscuous entity. While the second version being strictly conservative in nature depicts a portrait where woman has been reduced to degraded wretch, shrouded in the veil of male hegemony, wrapped in the so called societal moralities, carrying on what ‘wise man’ euphemistically called household or motherly responsibilities.

Ever though both these versions plague our psyche, why do ‘men’, even in this ‘satellite age’ still cling to old, irrational and decrepit system of thought? There are no easy answers to it, only conjectures, and the one which suits the ordeal and which satisfies the maximum quest is conditioning and commissioning of human mind.

An unfortunate legacy that is passed on to future generations has survived is the onslaught of Western Modernism. A legacy has silently taught us that we ‘males’ are superior than our female counterparts since our physical built is far stronger. Similar arguments are common with regards to intellect and spirituality. Some people will use this line of argument while forgetting the pain enduring prowess of a woman which is far stronger. If to tow an egalitarian line then we can refer to, Gandhiji who once remarked “woman is companion of man, gifted with equal mental capacity…..if by strength is meant moral power, then woman is immeasurably man’s superior, if nonviolence is the law of our being, the future is with woman”.

Reverting back to the original visualization how both of these descriptions are instrumental in culmination and perpetration of the worst crime against woman’s dignity and her modesty, namely “rape”.

First visualization is the handiwork of the neoliberal media advertently propagating sexually explicit content. We visualize whatever we see. Major newspapers that boost of being most widely distributed dailies have turned into soft porn magazines often carrying “superfluous and unsuitable content” and have terribly misused the freedom of expression and ethical limits that comes with this noble profession. Television advertisements are replete with fairness and freshness agendas often intruding into very private domains. This commoditization coupled with ‘item culture’ of our cinema has portrayed woman merely as “sex object” and has done an irreparable damage to woman’s dignity and further aggravated the modesty concerns. Robbing woman of her individuality it has perpetrated a notion that woman is a promiscuous entity whose modesty can be outraged at whims and pleasures and she is nothing more than the integrated package for relishing carnal desires and a subsidized “keep”.

The second visualization is outcome of traditional practice well entrenched through centuries. Arising out of discriminations, prejudices and social antagonism directed to keep her backward it prevents her from developing into a individual. This continued devaluation and disempowerment of woman that starts at her birth and from that tender age continues till her death infuses in her psyche in a rather subtle manner that she must not transgress the societal boundaries. This whole phenomenon also contributes its bit in making woman meek and timid eventually making her vulnerable to criminal tendencies including rape.

Had the society endorsed the principle of gender-equity espousing man and woman as equal creatures and forwarded that woman too commands respect in equal measure as man, it would have been tougher for criminal tendencies to act against her. It would not have been easier to invade her body without her consent and then woman too being psychologically strong would have resisted any such attempt tooth and nail.

Some of my “so called learned friends” will argue that the woman’s attire or what she wears is also in some way responsible for rapes thus making her culprit and shifting on her all the blame. This is very simplistic view of the deeper malaise. Indeed it is an attempt to save ourselves (males) from the blame for the ill fate we have brought to our mothers, sisters, daughters and friends and to absolve us of all the responsibility that we should bear towards bringing to her respect, equality and dignity. It is my humble opinion that man’s manliness is not in running away from this blame but in correcting the previous wrongs and in respecting her dignity, providing her space for equality.

(The writer is a B. Tech student at Jamia Millia Islamia. His email id is pranayparashar@gmail.com) 

The views expressed in this article are writer’s own, and it does not necessarily reflect BH’s editorial policy. 

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