Empowered & Affluent

So it is International Women’s Day. The day when we are supposed to respect women, pay attention to their needs and celebrate their empowerment. I don’t think the first two make a difference if it happens only on one day and the last one… I’m a little confused about that.

What exactly does empowerment stand for? I’ve been flipping through a whole bunch of magazines the past few days and all of them have made the March issue for ‘women’. And so they feature ‘strong, beautiful’ women who have made it.

Except, all these women who have ‘made it’ were already there.

Only one magazine mentions that these are women who are daughters of rich CEOs and such. The rest of them, when you look at their family tree, you realise they come from economically powerful houses. Is that what empowerment really is? Using the opportunities you have got, coming from a household that has absolutely no issues with you working, where you do not have to juggle bills and a growing family every day?

I believe that would be called being not stupid and taking the opportunities at your doorstep.

Increasingly, I read about wives of well-known actors as ‘having their own identity’ and mostly, these identities have a ‘designer’ attached to it. I’ve not seen any of their work and cannot comment but on the other side of a magazine’s pages, it just seems a little lame to me.

Empowerment is not only for the female labourer on the street. For those people who struggle to make ends meet. For the woman who was abused and had the courage to walk out on the abuser and made a good life for herself with the children. But that is where the challenges in empowerment lie.

Does India even deserve to celebrate Women’s Day when we still face a huge amount of moral policing? When a woman, no matter how she is dressed, can walk down her own street at night and be assured she will not be harassed? Where she won’t be called names because she dared to take a drive one night with friends and got raped? When she will not be harassed more at the police station when she goes to register a complaint about an eve teaser?

Several readers will say that I’m just being a wet blanket and way too cynical. But if we are going measure things like empowerment, then maybe we should look at the real picture. All I’m saying is there really hasn’t been enough progress for the amount of hoopla that surrounds the issue.

‘Women empowerment organizations’ often turn moral police. Their version of empowering women is to ask women to leave their husbands and build a life of their own. Teach women about self-respect, about not insulting another woman because she dresses cheaply or made choices that do not go down well with you. Teach women to be independent and give them life skills. That would perhaps be a step forward.

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