Men and Women
Two Different Worlds
at 40. So they say. Is that really true, I wonder on days
when the sun doesn't shine, when one feels older than one's
age or gets stuck with unflattering labels that are so easy
to dish out. Yes, I've learnt to be thick(er) skinned from
my salad days but it's not easy to give up a lifetime of introspection.
points in my life, I have been perplexed by issues such as
gender inequality, parenting, the unpredictability of relationships
and death. Here I seek to focus on a subject dear to me--the
yawning chasm that separates the lives of men and women in
and you will see the picture of happy families. But often
behind the facade is the shaky edifice of relationships based
on inequality, self sacrifice and the lack of acknowledgement
of women's role in society. To illustrate my point:- someone
I know compelled his would be wife to give up a prestigious
job so that she could devote her energies to 'home and hearth'.
Then there are several acquaintances who expect their wives
to be clones of their mothers--complete with culinary and
flower arrangement skills. Still others --and this is a majority--
are content to sit back after a hard day's work and let their
wives handle the drudgery that goes with homemaking even if
the latter are equally exhausted.
the children come along, the burden of parenting falls squarely
on women. Did anyone say that women are instinctively better
at this task? What absolves fathers from doing their bit by
helping out with homework, meals and outings? Most fathers
feel that their responsibility ends with dishing out the finances
for the family.
blame men for this blinkered view of life. From the time they
are born, they are made to feel that they are God's answer
to womankind. In this part of the world at least, pride of
place is given to boys, after all, it is they who will carry
on the family name. The woman, so the reasoning goes, will
ultimately go into another family and --unhappy or not--she
has to stick it out since her rightful place is beside her
the way out? Women activists in Asia are of the opinion that
financial independence is the key to women's equality. In
a previous generation it may have been possible for women
to stay away from the workforce. Then it was taken for granted
that women's role remained confined to the home and children.
Today they not only supplement domestic earnings but carve
a firm place in professions such as journalism, teaching,
medicine, corporations, banks and law.
at the grassroots level, women from rural areas have transformed
themselves into wage earners through income generating activities
such as poultry farming, mulberry tree plantation and fish
culture. This revolution in women's lives in Bangladesh has
been aided by the indefatigable efforts of NGOs such as BRAC,
Proshika and Banchte Shekha. These organisations,
with their extensive network of field offices, have helped
to empower women through education, health care, legal education
and poverty alleviation measures.
fair, there are many women who are content with domesticity.
Indeed, unlike in the West, it is still possible to find women
who derive fulfillment from nurturing their families. These
are women who are on par with even the brightest career women
and derive a different --and possibly greater-- satisfaction
from their lives. And indeed what could be better than to
be an anchor for those who are dependent on one? Many are
the cases of women who have looked after the elders, been
good mothers and managed a home with effortless ease. Is their
contribution to society any less than that of working women?
those who think about issues such as gender equality, a word
of advice from Indian writer and historian Bilkiz Albidin
who writes, "Life is very difficult and strange. People
who sacrifice their dreams for others often do not receive
anything in return. Every woman must have a goal and an ambition
of her own."
of wisdom for any thinking person.
(R) thedailystar.net 2004