Man and wife. Mr and Mrs. So fixed the usages that no wife, no Mrs ever bothered to protest their tag-along status. An unholy imbalance dogs holy matrimony.Shashi Deshpande, in her recently released memoir Listen To Me, writes: ‘It is one of the strangest stories of oppression, in which the oppressor and the oppressed have lived together in seeming amity, in which the oppressed have been wholly complicit in their own oppression, almost typifying the Stockholm syndrome.... In my lifetime I have seen this story come out into the open, I have witnessed the slow awakening of one half of the human race, I have seen this struggle slowly achieve a legitimacy and get identified for what it is—the struggle of an oppressed people. This struggle, the struggle of women to be considered equal human beings...’
And unequal it is, this man-woman terrain. The skewed ratio translates into power play in long-term alliances. Throw in children, in-laws, property laws and working women, and nothing’s fair. Even talk-time is sexist. A recent study by the Harvey Kennedy School says 71 percent men in India have their own mobile phones compared to only 38 percent women.
Any man who thinks the MeToo movement has nothing to do with him as he did not personally rape or paw anyone must remember the power he wields in the domestic spaces he occupies. Disrespect, so deeply ingrained in the male psyche, cannot but bob up in every arena of his life. Disrespect is at the root of heterosexual ties all over the world, with #MeToo only a small—and now beginning to be visible—part of it.
Marriage is not a magic land where boy-girl woes vanish. It is exactly where gender stereotypes can be enabled and nurtured. Nothing’s more political than the nuptial.Nalini Jameela, a former sex worker and now a writer, admits respect was an issue with some clients. Perhaps, she says, they want to show me that is all the respect I deserve, but what I’d be thinking is how much can these men respect their wives then.
In an ideal marriage a woman is as important as the man, but in reality there are only flawed people and one gender that pulls age-old rank over the other. Conditioning, of course, and convenience. In all honesty, if women had been considered unquestionably superior from time immemorial, would we abdicate? Attendant perks are too lifelong, too make-or-break for all but the highest thinking individual to give them up.
Too many educated women take too long to see themselves as victims. But once they do, they cannot access the blindfold again. It takes a certain vintage to own up to being the second-class party in a two-tier pairing. The planet is owned by men, we only rent it.Working women go to their jobs with lowered self-esteem and the constant guilt of displeasing the men in their lives, both husbands and bosses. The #MeToo movement is flushing out some of the offenders, but how do these offenders treat the women they live with? After all, it is the same man inside who goes outside.