In the wake of Donald Trump’s inauguration, thousands of men and women participated in the Women’s March. The protest was not limited to only the major cities of the United States, but rather occurred globally, even reaching parts of Antarctica. Protesters addressed issues such as the wage gap, sexist policies, and abortion. The Women’s March targets a flaw in our society- the lack of representation for females.
Representation is a prime reason why protests advocating for equal rights are vital. When millions of people, all of different races, religions, and social and economic standings, come together as a community fighting for a single cause it shows that we are more than willing to demand the rights that have unjustly been taken from us. Sexism is an issue that plagues third-world and first-world countries alike. In some countries sexism exists in the form of a wage gap and the denial of certain positions under the pretense that women are not capable, in others it exists in the refusal of education for girls and a lack of choice. Although conditions have improved significantly over the past few decades, females are still denied basic rights. Time and time again, it has been made clear that females will continuously be denied these rights if we do not actively fight for them.
Recent political events have left advocates for equality at a great disadvantage, we are a minority in the government. Without a strong position of feminism in the ruling body, the threat of an even more powerful patriarchy is imminent. Hundreds of years of progress are at risk and with every passing day a chance to equal rights seems to be moving farther and farther away. Our refusal to submit to regression is the only way to prevent sexism from becoming more acceptable in our society than it already is. For this reason, protests are essential to the survival of the feminist movement. Protests such as the Women’s March help to prove that advocates for equal rights will not stop fighting and help to cultivate a feeling of community and hope. By banding together, protesters show their strength and represent the views of millions of people worldwide, proving to the world that our voices will be heard.
The topic of women’s rights within India has consistently generated discussion and garnered attention, in both negative and positive ways. Recently, the topic has once again gathered attention after the box office hit Dangal hit theaters. Dangal tells the story of two young girls from the state of Haryana who, against all odds, become national level wrestling champions. The movie is based on the true story, and focuses heavily on many of the misogynistic aspects present in Indian culture.
I won’t lie: this movie was delightful. Watching the two sisters-Geeta and Babita- struggle and fight and win against the patriarchy is incredibly inspiring, and it was beautiful to watch the movie call out injustice and misogyny. But I don’t think that we should remain completely uncritical of the movie.
I think the most important aspect to address was the portrayal of the father. The story should have been about the girls and their struggle; but instead it was portrayed more as the story of the father’s struggle to train the daughters. Multiple times throughout the movie, the authority of the father in the movie was emphasized; a movie that was supposedly challenging the patriarchy, made sure at the end of the day, the plot would resolve once the girls listened to their father. This was obviously a money grab; at the end of the day, Indian movie producers still want to make money off their films, and they wanted to push boundaries; but not push them too far. This is precisely the problem; there is a lot that is inspiring about this story but unless we are willing to address the root cause of all this: the patriarchal family structure: women’s rights in India will not improve.
Don’t get me wrong: the movie Dangal was incredible, and it was extremely liberal for the heavily conservative state of Haryana. But it’s important to remember that there are still ideas present in the movie; and in Indian society as whole; that need to be challenged if we want actual progress. And unfortunately, money hungry producers will only generate so much of a discussion. It’s important that we attempt to make a difference ourselves.
written by Aditi Poduri
India’s extremely patriarchal society has been in place since the creation of the social caste system hundred of years ago. But while the rest of the world’s societies are progressing and abandoning discrimination and harsh practices, India seems keen on halting any social progression towards equality. The topic of female child abortions, infanticide, and abandonment is one of the major results of India’s patriarchal society, and sadly is not getting the worldwide coverage it deserves. Modi is making a valiant effort to do so - the new "Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao" (Save the Daughter, Educate the Daughter) initiative launched in January of last year has provided increased awareness and attention to this issue. However, the preference of male children over female is a stigma so intricately engrained in India’s society, that it'll take more than just awareness to solve it.
Female infanticide and feticide are practices that became increasingly popular during the 1900’s. Girls were either strangled to death or abandoned in the streets shortly after birth; in the case of feticide, deliberate miscarriages were orchestrated while the child was still developing. Selective-sex abortions became the preferred option after ultrasound technology became implemented in India in the 1980’s. A study found that around 12 million Indian girls were aborted since 1981 (The Lancet, 2011). This, in addition to the 2,000 girls killed as brutal acts of infanticide and feticide everyday, demonstrate just how dire this issue is.
What's even more shocking is the demographic of people who believe in this discrimination and commit these acts against the female sex. A study of India’s 2011 census led by the University of Toronto calculated the second-born child gender ratio in families that had first-born girls. The general trend showed that the number of girls to 1,000 boys decreased by almost 100 between 1990 to 2005. What astounds most of us is that the killing of female babies is no longer confined to rural villages, but is rather more prevalent in more educated and well-off families. Is this truly the impact of westernization and industrialism on India?
It's important to understand that the selective-sex abortions in India have no place in the argument between pro-life and pro-choice. The majority of these children were not aborted or killed because of an unwelcome pregnancy, but specifically because of gender. If these fetuses had been male, most would have been born and allowed to proceed to adulthood. And honestly, the western argument between pro-choice and pro-life seems to wan in the face of this mass foeticide, where millions of females are viewed as “burdens” even before birth. “UNICEF reported that 43 million of the estimated 100 million women worldwide who would have been born if not for extraneous circumstances, including gender-specific abortion, would have been Indian” (Frontline PBS, 2007). India is responsible for almost half of the missing women population across the globe.
For all that the country is progressing in terms of global standing, the remains of an ancient society lie dormant but prevalent in the hearts of its people. A more industrialized, but still extremely patriarchal society remains to represent India in the twenty-first century. The world must learn to put aside its tradition of turning a blind eye to suffering, for the generations of girls that could’ve been.