As I make my way through Mumbai’s crowded streets in my car, I’m often disarmed by the resilience of its pedestrians. Perhaps, resilience is the wrong word; it seems more aggressive than that. A left hand held out in warning and the security of being one of a horde is capable of bringing moving traffic to a grinding halt. And it does. Often. But, there’s more to it than just that. I’d like to believe my estimation that pedestrians take more risks when they see a woman motoring a vehicle toward them is the assessment of a taxed mind and not a reflection of reality. And, yet, I’m not convinced. I do find, with every passing day, that the men, women and children who lurch into the path of my speeding car perform these acts of recklessness with an ease not always reserved for male drivers. Is it a fact universally accepted that a woman will be more accommodating to these transgressions? That her ‘natural’ inclination to nurture will prevent her from mowing down jaywalking pedestrians?
I find it infuriating. As much as I do when knowing glances are exchanged when a woman’s car stalls or when I watch an advertisement that depicts a man on a motorcycle benevolently waiting for a floundering woman to reverse her car in to a parking spot, smiling apologetically at her non-honking savior the whole while.
I’ve just watched, the now banned, documentary on Jyoti Singh’s rape and murder in December 2012 – India’s Daughter. I’ve just been reminded of my status as an object: as a diamond, a flower, a nothing-at-all in need of protection. I’ve been reminded of my natural role as housekeeper and homemaker. I’ve been reminded of my female fallibility.
I’m not going to comment on the vacant eyes of a remorseless, convicted rapist and his vitriol for the female kind as he sits on death row. I’m not going to comment on the sorrow and incomprehension of a family who lost their child to a most gruesome end.
My concern is concentrated on the imminent demise of objectivity. I worry for the moderation that permits a thinking, female mind to look upon the other gender as a partner, an equal. I am disquieted considering the repercussions of pushing us, the ‘other’ to the edge. I am fearful of the combined wrath of an angered womanhood whose tolerance has been disrespected for far too long and what it will mean in the future.
In my opinion, the longer we take to reach consensus on gender equality the more we ensure it remains a chimera, to be replaced by something far less equitable. Unfortunately, for lawyers such as AP Singh and ML Sharma, the maintenance of archaic norms of gender inequality will not manifest itself in women embracing their status as protected imbeciles confined to hearth and home. The continual co-option of women’s needs and rights by men will be met with pent-up fury in the future. Innocuous and indeed legitimate demands for gender parity are forging into a groundswell that will not stay contained for long. The dam is set to burst and the waters its keeping in check are swirling with discontent. Once it bursts, equality may no longer be much more than a trifling keepsake from the past. After all, “what rough beast, its hour come at last, slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?”