Women’s Day — For the Woman Within

On the eve of International women’s day 2 things happened with me. Firstly I had a fight with a woman friend and secondly I had to deal with 2 women editors of a magazine I write for.

You might wonder what’s so uncommon about these happenings. Well to my fellow men and women, allow me to explain.

In these interactions I became aware of 2 things, firstly the emotions within me which are similar to that of a woman or may be considered feminine. If I were to put that more in a man’s language, I became aware of the bitch within me.

Secondly it made me aware of how it feels to feel that way. It’s not easy for the man within me, to accept the presence of these emotions and feelings as I have never been “encouraged” to even display.

It also brought back memories of my conversations with some fellow journeymen and women, in which we had talked about “empathy” and for me it was just a word. Of the many words that one uses in his corporate life to “sound” right and look good to their boss and move ahead of the pack. From that it slowly emerged to be a feeling, a way of doing things and when that happened, I guess the first ray of light had entered through the crack.

How easy it is for me to keep my needs aside and focus on what needs to be done? How easy it is for me to truly “listen” and “understand” where this person is coming from? How easy it is for me to just “listen” and not give a solution?

The answers are not easy. And when I look at the world from the lens of a woman, all these seem routine work to most of them. Well I am aware I am falling prey to the gender stereotypes here, but I guess they exist for a reason and so do these celebratory days, to remind ourselves of the stereotypes.

While I was writing this, I also thought of why did this day come into existence? What’s the need to celebrate Woman’s day? I learnt that it was about and continues to be about equal rights to women in social, political and work related issues. Even today we read about unequal pay for women in many professions including art, cinema and sports. In fact a recent survey by Monster, the job board, identifies the average pay gap between a Woman and a man at work in India is about 25%. I was surprised to see Manufacturing, IT & BFSI sectors listed as the top 3 as these 3 is where the participation of women is higher today in urban India, as per my observations. The same survey also mentions that close to 70% of the women at work feel that gender plays an important role in promotions and other decisions at work.

So this is a real issue and I realized that unless each one of us look at what it means to be a woman and take a very internal and personal view, we would not even understand the issue, forget about doing something about it.

I also reflected on the way I grew up and how me and my wife are trying to bring up our kids. How easily we accept a crying girl and ask her to keep quiet when she is hurt. How we ask the boy to show how strong he is and how he should not cry. How do we tell the man that pink is not the color to wear. The gender stereotypes run deep, very deep in all of us than we can even acknowledge.

One of the common points of discussion and argument between me & my wife is this lack of “empathy” in me at home. How I routinely fail to consider all variables and needs of others while conveniently choosing to focus on my agenda.

While the incidents mentioned above triggered these emotions, I also got in touch with my relation with women in power. How difficult it is for me to argue and disagree with the women in power position may be by designation or who hold the power over me at that moment. I got in touch with the fact that how my mother has used and even abused her power over me, albeit subtly. (I know its a judgement, but what’s a man without one). Now when I look at those instances, I also look at them from the lens of power plays between my mother and father with me as the receiver of the resultant outrage (It’s interesting that I can’t even remember a happy incident here)

So yes, to me its a game of power that men and women have been playing with each other, since I guess Adam and Eve. The potion of power is a magical one and it does interesting things to human beings, irrespective of their gender. We all play the game, both internally and externally.

Even when I look at this from my cultural and science lens I get a similar understanding. Hindu mythology does accept the biological fact that all humans are composed of the male & woman form or the X & Y chromosome. It’s already scientifically proven that it’s the chromosome within a man’s sperm, which decides the sex of the resultant child, yet even today the woman bears the brunt of the outcomes. Well it’s not only about the matters of birth, but the matters of birth control too, more surgeries are done on women than on men. So I wonder where such manifested practices and beliefs, upheld by both genders so routinely originate from.

I don’t claim to have found the answer, but in my personal journey it’s been to realize, acknowledge, accept, and then leverage this woman within me. And I carefully use these words, each of them represents a turbulent phase and it’s not easy to move from one phase to another, but it’s not impossible too. I am currently oscillating between acknowledge and accept phase and hope that I would be able to leverage these realizations.

So this woman’s day while I celebrate, congratulate and thank the women who have broken these external barriers, I also celebrate, congratulate and thank this woman inside me as she is very much part of me and makes me human. I hope that more and more men and woman undertake this internal journey and that’s how the external manifestations would change.

“Leverage often comes from new ways of thinking” — Peter Senge — The Fifth Discipline.