It has become a trend now, for politicians to hurl sexist remarks and for the media and the masses to react heatedly. The only change from the past is the latter, the media and the masses taking note of the fact that misogyny is inappropriate and that they need to protest against it.
Recently the Samajwadi Party patriarch, Mulayam Singh Yadav approved of rape by saying “Boys will be boys. They will make mistakes.” Even as he was being slammed for his callous speech, his colleague in Maharashtra Abu Azmi went a step ahead and said that the woman being raped should also be punished. He said in an interview to a tabloid that a woman going out with a man and having sex, with or without consent, should be punished too.
Well, politicians are prone to making biased remarks during election season. They do it to woo their vote bank. But which vote bank are they wooing by making gender biased remarks? Men, of course! Men are, without doubt, a larger, stronger, and the most assured vote bank for any party than women. Why? Because more men than women go to vote. Secondly, at least 90 per cent of the women who vote are guided by their male relatives on who to vote for.
We still live in a society where men go for their routine annual Leh-Laddakh treks with their guy gangs and shudder at the mention of their wives doing the same with their girl gangs. “Who will look after the kids?”, is their shock retort!
I reported the 2003 Delhi elections for The Times of India. I was at various polling booths in Delhi taking quotes from voters. Almost all women I spoke to said they were voting for a particular party because their husbands, brothers or fathers felt this party was right. Over the years, as I happened to meet some more families in the course of my assignments, I realized that it was a trend across rural and urban areas. They heard their men discuss politics at home and decided accordingly. Women never discussed politics as such when they met.
Quite a few suddenly single women, rendered single due to divorce or due to death of their husbands, have told me, “It was not that he was imposing his thoughts on me. Just that the discussions he had with his friends at gatherings and over meals at home, sounded genuine.” …
“Although I was watching TV and could make my own opinion, he expressed himself with such authority that it seemed he knew more.” …
“And at the end of it, it was just so convenient. Why should I rake my brain? How does it matter?” so on and so forth.
Then, all of them signed off with a common remark, as if they echoed each other, “But after separation, when I was forced to make decisions, I realized how dependent I was even for something I knew so well.”
So even as men, and the society in general, are pitched against women, at times in shoot-at-sight positions, the reluctance on part of women to renounce their comfort zones must also be held equally accountable for promoting a gender biased environment.
The number of women voting can never be more than men even if there is 100 per cent voting (sex ratio in India is 917 girls to 1000 boys as per 2011 census and it has not improved much since). But at least the women who vote can do it as women and not as avatars of men in their lives! Even that would make a striking difference to begin with. On second thoughts, the voting sex ratio can improve if more women come out to vote because all men won’t vote as it is.
And that will make women a vote bank to reckon with and definitely not mess with.
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