The Double Edged Sword of Patriarchy

There’s this guy, a good friend and a level headed person. You can never use the words jerk or asshole or misogynist to describe him. However, despite all his good intentions, there are nights when we find ourselves on opposite sides of the feminist debate. Here’s one that happened a few nights back.

So, he is a network engineer and his job involves attending to telecom network towers all across the city, sometimes even in the interior regions. According to his company’s HR policy, women are hired for the same position, to “promote diversity”. Now, his (and a lot of his other male colleagues’) problem is with the fact that the girls leave office early, as soon as it begins to get dark. This means the guys have to work extra, at the same wages.

On the face of it, it does seem a bit unfair. Same wages, more work for the guys. My friend’s solution to the problem is to not hire females as network engineers at all. If they aren’t up for the work, why hire them?

As soon as he said this, I had my hackles raised. This was preposterous!! My problem with this solution is:

Firstly, we have managed to create a world where women are easy prey after dark. Keeping this in mind, we usually tend to get out a little early, if we can help it. In an effort to save ourselves from the variety of unsavoury things that can happen to us, we leave before the men do. And that gets us branded as “weak” and “unable to handle the demands of the job”. It’s like being caught between the devil and the deep sea.

The whole bloody system is set up in a way that women lose no matter what they do! The game is rigged! We work till late, there is the danger of sexual harassment. It happens, its not an imaginary problem as some guys think ( I don’t know if they ever read the papers. But then again these incidents have stopped making it to the papers unless they are especially gruesome). On the other hand, if we wish to avoid this and leave early, we run the risk of getting branded as slackers. And this fact would be thrown at us every time we dare to demand equal opportunities. It’s a diabolical plan. Well done patriarchy *slow claps*.

Secondly, I am appalled that my “sensible” friend’s first solution was to not hire women for that post. When I explained my first point to him, he seemed to understand the problem but his question was, “Then what is the immediate solution?” . I, as always, said that it is up to us change this. We need to dismantle this atmosphere of fear and insecurity, if women are to work till late. He said, “All right, but that will take time! Right now, can we just not hire them.” And I didn’t know what to say anymore.

I felt defeated. If educated guys, who understand the need for feminism, come up with solutions like this; how are we ever going to change. Every one is trying to find an “immediate” solution, a stop-gap approach. The problem with such solutions is that they often take the form of statements like, “keep the girls home after dark”, “ wear decent clothes” and “do not hire women for xyz posts”. And once these solutions are given to us, and we accept them “for the time being”, everyone stops thinking about the long term, change-your-mindset solution. They drop the ball. These shortcuts are easy, require no effort on the part of the society and they just become the norm as they stay in place decade after decade. Change is difficult, it takes time, and no one has the time for change when they have their own little lives to take care of, equality be damned. When has the society ever accepted change without a revolution?

I don’t know if we will have a revolution. There are glowing embers of different movements all over the world and I hope we triumph. But most of all, I hope we can make the people closest to us stop looking for shortcuts and by-passes to the patriarchy problem.

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