The debate of the Genders – Part II

In the matter of genders, we are a region that can be said to be both progressive as well as backwards. But lets look at it from the point of view of being a progressive first. Let me also make it clear that when I use the word “region” I refer to the Eastern side of the globe, especially within the context of South Asia.

The many women that have made their name because of their Political Leadership

The East can very proudly claim to have the first woman Prime Minister, Sirimavo Bandaranaike (April 17 1916 – October 10th 2000) of Sri Lanka.  Not only was she the first female head of the Sri Lankan Government, but was also the world’s first female head of any Government. She served three terms as the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka and Ceylon, these being from 1960-65, 1970-77 and 1994-2000.

She was followed by Indira Gandhi from India (1966 ,1980)  – this was long before the West was going to elect  Golda Meir (1969) or  Margaret Thatcher (1979). From the Far Eastern side of the globe, that is Philippines, you had Corazon Aquino (1986) – a symbol for love and peace, who was swept into the office after her bloodless “People Revolution” led to the downfall of Ferdinand Marcos. Continue reading

Women and the Ultimate Choice

This posting has been a result of Grey’s Anatomy season 5 finale episode which I got to watch this week, and there was this particular scene in it that got me thinking about whatever I am writing. The scene was about Dr. Bailie and a choice that she had to make: to either accept a fellowship for pediatric training or save her marriage. It appeared that she had been given an ultimatum by her husband. If she went on to follow her career, he would divorce her!

There is nothing dramatic about it. We have all heard this story. Most of the women have been there and have been faced with an ultimatum like this at one point or the other. Many of us might have even lived this story in their lives and are now living under the shadow of that decision that they had made. And it won’t be surprising that the decision would have dramatically changed their life for the better or for worse.

This incident or story in itself is not new or astonishing. But it is astonishing that the man in our lives, the guy that we think is there to support us in anything we would want to do, refuses to support or share the burden when things just aren’t his way. Are women condemned to listening to these ultimatums and then making choices for the rest of their lives? Is there no breed of men that would walk this earth that would have more than their male egos to boost about? Men who would actually have the sensibility to know that a women is more than just the women who cooks and breeds for them, the women who is most of the time is dismissed as “not having enough brains to understand how the world really works.”

I am sure that women in all sphere have faced this and have thought the same at one or the other point in their lives. It is a tragedy that the stories of these everyday women do not reach us that walks amongst us everyday and whose reflection can be seen in the mirror as we go off to work .

But most of the names and stories that do reach us have been women that have lived in the public eyes, whose tragedies have been there for all of us to witness and to be used by the many men as examples to cite to their wives when they decide to challenge the four walls of their house. These names that come to my mind at the moment include particularly the names of Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister of India and Golda Meir, Prime Minister of Israel. Both these women have been examples of women in power who had authority and time consuming responsibilities and maybe thus hadn’t been able to give that much time to their homes that they would have liked. They had decided to take hold of their own destinies and have run their own lives in a different manner but doesn’t for one minute would have meant that they were bad mothers or wives, neither is it fair to assume that their kids would turn out wrong just because they weren’t home 24/7. It just means that they wanted more out of their lives, that they had the same ambition that their husbands had career wise. What is so wrong in it? Isn’t what is right for one gender also right for the other gender?

What is most distressing about this situation is that if a men is in the same position of power and authority that requires time and to be away from the family for a long period of time, and the women gives the ultimatum, not only would she be frowned upon by society but also be taken as a selfish women who doesn’t want whats best for the family. Put this case in the Eastern world, and the women becomes a tramp!

To cite an example from my own environment:I have this aunt who just did her Post Doctorate and at the age of 40, she is still single. In a conservative society of Pakistan where it is thought that the appropriate age for a girl to get married starts from 15 and it is highly unlikely that she can give birth after 25, she has some what challenged the society. I once read her diaries, so I know that there was a point in her life that she was about to get married and that there was a guy that she liked a lot. But then would she have been able to do all that she is doing today? Maybe it was this determination that shaped things for her so completely differently? She is considered an expert and an authority in her field in the world… would she have been all this with a husband and a family?

I guess that the precedences show that the answer is to bound to be “NO” … but hope is a symptom that is always found in the darkest of corners….

Another example from my own surrounding includes that of my mothers aunt. She got her son married off to a girl that used to work before marriage and after marriage she was told to quit it. You would nowadays find this particular aunt boosting about how she made her daughter-in-law sit in the house and take care of the new born, of how she always wanted to have a Bahoo (daughter-in-law) that would be a house wife and take care of the house. I really thought about how even this bahoo might have been given an ultimatum .. that she should either stay at home or go back to her parents house (a threat used in most Eastern household against the daughter-in-law, going back to her house means that she should go back to her parents house which is considered a great insult in the region).  Her younger son is about to be married soon to a doctor .. I really wonder what her faith is to be!

Is this too be the case always? Would women always be asked to choose between their roles as wives/mothers or pursuing something that they want?

Maybe there are some lucky damsels that have it all..maybe there are people that have found to support each other and make the most of things out of a not-so-perfect-idealized situation. Maybe there is a story out there in the world that is living by supporting each other and that is the story that needs to be told. That is the story that needs to come out of the silence and the darkness and be told ….!