Tuesday, April 04, 2017

The damned women!

I benefited a lot from having a sister who is a few years older.  Growing up with her, her classmates--especially the sister of a friend who died young--and all the female classmates that I had in school, I had no idea that there was a world outside in which girls were considered to be intellectually inferior to boys.

The reality-check happened when I was not even a teenager.  One summer, we were at my grandmother's home when my father's much younger cousin graduated from college and wanted to proceed on to graduate school.  Elders in the family murmured their dissent, and her father was adamantly opposed to it.  I could not understand why she was not allowed to--a decision that left her in tears.

A few months ago, when visiting with the family, this aunt came over for a visit when I, once again, asked her about those days.  "I had big plans, all the way to taking the IAS exams," she said.  Her plans were snuffed out.

Societies have always resisted educating girls and women.  The next time somebody talks about the good old days, ask them about this aspect too.  What a fucked up history!

My adopted country is no different.  Even the elite colleges were opposed to educating women, and dead set against coeducation. The NYRB has an essay that will get any feminist angry, angrier than how I feel.  (I have a wonderful certificate on this--my daughter once complimented me as the most feminist man that she has known, despite my slip-ups!)

Linda Greenhouse writes in the NYRB:
In encounters with undergraduates at Yale, where I teach, it occasionally comes up in conversation that until 1969, when 284 women were admitted to the class of 1973, Yale College was for men only. The response I get, from young women and men alike, is one of incredulity.
Imagine that--until 1969, Yale was only for men.  (We will set aside for now an equally horrible history of it being exclusively for WASPs!)
these women were tough, and proved themselves soon enough. In Princeton’s first coeducational class of 1973, women were 18 percent of the class but 32 percent of those elected to Phi Beta Kappa, and the captain of the women’s tennis team was deemed “Princeton’s Best Athlete” on the cover of the alumni magazine.
I have been fortunate to have grown up with, and interacted with, a whole lot of tough women.  I want them on my side, and I want to be on their side.

But, we have a long, long way to go.
Sexual harassment and assault on campus are rather recent arrivals to the news columns, but they are not new phenomena. The roots of this behavior are deep. Early in the coeducation experience at Dartmouth,
Fast forward two generations, and we have Harvard’s discovery last fall that members of its men’s cross-country and soccer teams had for years been issuing crude and sexualized rankings of many women. The university canceled the soccer season and put the cross-country team on probation. Similar behavior came to light at other universities. Harvard has also wrestled with the problem of sexual assault on the premises of the private all-male clubs that exist without official university recognition while continuing to have an outsized part in undergraduate social life.
Men sitting on the roof of Massachusetts Hall shouted numbers from one to ten as women students walked by—with the numbers meant as ratings of the women’s attractiveness. The same happened in the dining hall, where men held up signs bearing numerical ratings “as if you had just completed a dive.” One woman reflected, “No matter how cool you were, no matter how self-possessed you were as a woman and mind you a lot of us were 18 at the time it was devastating.” 
And we now have a president whose entire life has been punctuated with atrocious treatment of women.  I cannot understand how we can have a thug who boasted about grabbing pussies is in the Oval Office!  Damn those Republicans!


Ramesh said...

Yes, the discrimination against women when it came to education was horrible in India. I am delighted to say that there has been a huge change in the span of 30-40 years. Urban India changed sometime ago, but when I now interact with rural India as part of the role I took up two years ago, I see the same change happening. Even very poor families are educating their daughters. Hoorray !!!

Sriram Khé said...

India might have, and has indeed, changed when it comes to educating girls and women. But, India has a long, long, long way to go in translating into practice the idea that men and women are equal. A long, long, long way to go--even in urban India.