Geneder stereotypes

Gender Stereotyping! What does it serve? Is Gender equality a Risk?

Women’s question in the contemporary crisis has become chaotic. On one hand its relevance is increasing and on the other it is also becoming irrelevant! We do find people who advocate gender equality and gender justice, however that equality and justice are not meant to be absolute. Universities, we say, have an important role in deconstructing the unequal spaces that have been stereotyped within the meanings of right and wrong, moral and immoral. At least I strongly believe that education system is the most able institution for bringing in major social changes. But then we face important hurdles in this system because this system is part of a bigger and broader patriarchal bigotry that perceives gender equality as a major threat! What is the threat about? Who will lose what? These questions have been disturbing me since my childhood. I remember when I was 8 years old, while travelling in a bus with my maternal aunt (a teacher by profession) a random male passenger who was standing in the overloaded bus furiously passed a remark ‘yem zanan chi lachul anani islambad wasan,’ (these women travel to Anantnag for buying the brooms), to this my aunt (seated comfortably) replied, ‘we travel for many more meaningful things’. I was happy she replied, but I was unable to understand the whole dialogue and their individual perspectives. Gender as a concept was not much known those days; we were familiar with the word only in the context of English Grammer. A period of more than two decades have passed since then, today I see women driving big cars, running large businesses, heading important offices, and even running the most difficult State and that daughter of that aunt of mine is a mathematician. However these explicit changes have not changed the basic structural differences and are not even common sites. The Kashmiri society is more astounding in terms of its complex cultural traditions and the shattered social fabric (as a result of decades of armed conflict). Since my first day in the university, many people working there complaint that the CCD (Café Coffee Day) a coffee shop (apparently more modern, because they serve mostly western food items and play modern day hip hop music/songs), is disturbing the safe and traditional spaces of the university. By this they imply that it is an intrusion to the culture that bars lot of intermingling between male and female students. One employee said, ‘we had opposed its installation in the beginning, we knew these young boys and girls of Kashmir are non-sense, they won’t be able to hold themselves. See how these girls spend time there with boys and the way they dress themselves is so disgusting’. He continues laughingly ‘ ye chu sori khata, ath women empowermentas..(the fault lies in the idea of women empowerment) ‘. Although it is not a common view, but one does spot few girls wearing jeans and long boots with open blond hair. Even the most modern looking female colleagues object and say ‘this is not how good girls are meant to wear’. Lately I pondered about all this and was trying to understand about this concern about ‘women empowerment’ and ‘good girls’. It reminded me of my first Friday in the university. A Friday sermon in some mosque nearby, Naseem Bagh was somehow audible to me and it drew my attention when I heard women in Maulana’s furious argument. The Mualana fiercely declared ‘ Hash te chi naukri karaan, Nosh te chi naukri karaan, kor te chi naukri karan, beni te chi naukri karaan, te Mouj ti, agar kanh berozgaar chu su cho saun Naujawan’ (the mother-in –law is employed and so is the daughter –in-law, the daughter is employed , the sister is employed and so is the mother, if there is anyone who is not, it is the our young men). At first, I contemplated that this is a mere objection to women working for earning. Later the deliberation changed. One young employee, while returning from the prayers, convinced by what maulana had conveyed, said ‘ poz haez chi wanun , tohi wuchew haez, az chi korei yot mulazim lagaan’ ( the maulana was right, look around , today its only girls who get employed easily) I straightaway disagreed, because he was factually wrong. But then, he also knew this, and was actually concerned about the growing number of women getting employment opportunities. Are these men frightened because women are endangering the culture, traditions or religious practices? How do girls enjoying with their male or female friends in a coffee shop rupture the dignity of a space? How does a woman, seated in a bus, infuriate a man in the middle of an overloaded bus? Clearly something is at risk! What is seen as male space gets intruded by women, it frightens the whole structure. The Man in the bus, couldn’t find a comfortable seat, and when he saw a woman sitting there, he claimed his space (which actually does not belong to him). The hotels, restaurants and little coffee shops are considered appropriate for men only and it is therefore inappropriate for women to own such spaces. The way you dress, is usually an indicator, of the level of obedience you possess. And when women work, they are taking away the men’s jobs. When a man secures a job for himself, he has enough competencies, whereas for women, it is given and not secured, she becomes part of a global plan to emasculate the men of her community.
The core of this whole debate is that women are seen as intruders and the spaces outside the homes (public spaces) are deemed as belonging entirely to males and thus it is up to them to decide on its access to women. They fail to understand that women have their own existence and the world was meant for them as much it was for men. When she sits in a bus, it is her right just as men hold this right. Women take jobs as per their capacities, and they have a right to do so. They have never taken away anything from men in their struggle for their own survival. They have competed. For last 10 years or so, female students have outshines male students in Kashmir and elsewhere, but they are not able to secure employment on equal basis with men. There are innumerable structural barriers women faces in securing their employment as well as in pursuing their employment. Let us think and understand, women are individuals just the way men are. They have the right on their share, let us not devoid her from her share, by putting her in brackets.

Dr Shazia Malik

Dr Shazia Malik

Assitant professor at univerity of kashmir and Author of women's development amid conflict in kashmir 2014

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Dr Irm jalali bodha

Good job Shazia Di. I appreciate your sense of understanding the intricacies woven in the social fabric of kashmiri society… Looking forward for more editions.


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