Sunday, February 2, 2014

Women’s Empowerment: Rhetoric and the Misogyny Factor II

Misogyny is an oft-repeated word in my article. It has been mentioned a lot when describing the increase in sexual violence across the world. Literally it means hatred/dislike of the female sex. When I say society needs to unlearn misogyny, I mean both men and women. Sadly in many cases misogyny spews from women to other women and herself. In this context I refer to the misogyny factor as defined by Anne Summers:
The Misogyny Factor is a set of attitudes and entrenched practices that are embedded in most of our major institutions (business, politics, the media, the church, academia) and stand in the way of women being included, treated equally, and accorded respect.

So how does the average person go about unlearning a norm? It needs being vigilant of our actions, attitudes, and words. In the past decade society has come far in being politically correct – sometimes even going too far. In the years that follow we need to take that attitude to combat misogyny. To deal with the backlash against women the call for “Inclusion, Equality, Respect” needs to be the unified voice and demand of women across board. If the French Revolution was defined by its cry for “Equality, Liberty, Fraternity” then “Inclusion, Equality, Respect” should be the byword for the pro-woman movement.

If we are to do more than quote Shinzo Abe and allow women “to shine” we need to take action to root out the entrenched misogyny that’s a hurdle to our “shining”. This development will be incomplete without the participation and encouragement of the male sex. Our predominantly paternalistic societies where according to Summers, again, men are the gatekeepers, we need to sensitise them to gender issues. Inclusive attitudes needs to me drummed into the minds of children. Media and social media are poised to indoctrinate minds like never before -- we have the power to choose to make it about ousting misogynistic mind-sets.
I think the words of a popular Facebook post I quote below is a good marker:

We need to teach our daughters to know the difference between: A man who flatters her and a man who compliments her. A man who spends money on her and a man who invests in her. A man who views her as property and a man who views her properly. A man who lusts after her and a man who loves her. A man who believes he's a gift to women, and a man who believes she's a gift to him. And then we need to teach our sons to be that kind of man.

It’s more than sons who need to be taught respect for women. We need sons and grandsons, fathers and grandfathers, uncles and cousins, fiancés and husbands, brothers and friends to imbibe this positive attitude. And for men to imbibe it we need women to own it, work it, and believe it until the claim for “Inclusion, Equality, Respect” is unconscious, automatic and universal!

The Indian Supreme Court sternly standing behind its decision to uphold Article 377 of the Indian Penal Code, criminalizing gay sex, is an indicator of attitude towards gender. Not to mention the overt xenophobia and misogyny exhibited by the much-touted revolutionary Aam Admi (Common Man) Party’ law minister Bharati and his band when they accosted and assaulted passing African women while calling for a vice raid in a Delhi neighbourhood. The time for acting leaving behind rhetoric is now. Misogyny is nearing tipping point and a tectonic shift in attitude is called for in all of us – male or female.

Raakhee Suryaprakash has a Master’s degree in International Studies and a Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry but her passion remains writing and researching things that change the world for the better. Her work has been widely published both in print and online media. Raakhee Suryaprakash is in the process of launching a social enterprise SUNSHINE MILLENNIUM that aims to help India's off-grid rural areas achieve the Millennium Development Goals by setting up of solar-powered millennium development centres maintained by local stakeholders and funded by corporate