Seven myths to dump on this International Women’s Day


(These notes were prepared for the Deccan Chronicle, which is supposed to be using a subset for a Women’s Day feature. The link will be added when located.)

1. Women are the weaker sex.
The very framework of this statement is wrong. Neither women nor men can be characterized as weaker or stronger. This is true even in terms of physical strength, where women have greater physical endurance. In general, all we can say is that individual women and men have their particular strengths and weaknesses and both can be worked on.

2. Women invite violence by their behaviour.

Women’s clothes, their work and even their cooking is offered as justification for their experience violence–at home, at work   and in public spaces. But it’s a myth that women invite violence through their choices because the experience of violence is pervasive and transcends age, lifestyle and every other variable.

3. Gender roles reflect nature.
All women are not innately nurturing and interested in housework. And men are not necessarily assertive, logical and interested in mechanics and sports. We create these cartoonish stereotypes and then brainwash girls and boys into becoming like them, sometimes creating trauma for them.

4. Feminism is against men and women’s rights are somehow opposed to human rights. 

Feminists are not against men. They are simply against social ideologies and structures that discriminate against women. Feminism recognizes women as human beings and women’s rights as also being human rights.Therefore, the question of being opposed to human rights does not arise. Feminism actually benefits men who are also trapped and limited by the social pressures that gender roles and responsibilities place on them. Feminists seek to build a world free of violence where everyone can fulfill their potential as humans.

5. Traditional culture protects women. 
In patriarchal societies, both tradition and modernity treat women as objects, and women experience discrimination and violence in both traditional and modern settings. Tradition condemns women to early marriage, “adjustment to domestic violence,” mutilation and honour killings, for instance. Modernity offers the options of female foeticide, cyber violence, the effects of the spread of dowry and workplace violence. The interface between tradition and modernity also creates openings for harassment of working women on their commute.The root problem is patriarchy which sanctions masculine violence.

6. Women are women’s worst enemies.
Women and men both act out the roles that society teaches them they have to play. Individual men and women are the agents but the root cause of the many oppressions that women face is an ideology that treats them as less than human. Society is women’s worst enemy, if indeed blame must be apportioned.

7. If women are educated and self-supporting, none of these problems will exist.
Educated women live with domestic violence. Affluent women are subject to forced marriage and forced to abort female foetuses. Dowry knows no educational limits. The reality is that education and economic status are no counter to the entrenched injustices of patriarchal society.