Monday, December 3, 2012

The Normality of Subtle Discrimination

I have to admit I don’t like walking in the streets of Kathmandu at all. No I am not being snobbish; I have my reasons to feel precarious about the streets even in the daylight. As an adolescent I recall crying to my mother for all the eve-teasing I’ve had to endure. My self-esteem was broken and it took me a while to renew my confidence. I blamed my oddly tall Nepali height only to later learn that I was wrong. Yesterday, I thought I would go for a walk. I was rather positive given that this year I was not splashed with even one water balloon in Holi nor were any of my friends. And after months of stay in London and years of avoiding the streets of Kathmandu as a media person in Nepal, I thought things would have changed. To my dismay it is yet the same.

Even today while walking, a random person will dash close to compare his height and flaunt a reckless sexual remark. Such understated yet powerful discrimination that can have adverse impact on those affected is deep rooted in our society. It comes from the very way we are raised and educated and how we as a society fail to respond to these discriminatory incidents. Forgive me if I project that all men are like this. I’d be a stark fool if I say so. There are plenty of good men whose support cannot be understated. I have seen men respecting women as equals and fighting for their rights when needed and most importantly competing with them as contemporaries. We need men like this especially in our patriarchal society and I wish there were more of them. 

One might argue that things have changed and I agree. Overt and blatant discrimination is much reduced. Besides, such direct prejudices worry me far less than some more subtle, subconscious ones. Convert discrimination that are invisible on the surface is very prevalent. No matter how much we try to avoid, it propels in our work space, home, lifestyle and our culture. What disturbs me even more is the very fact that we women ourselves tend to promote this. For example, we sub-consciously equate “distinguished” with “men”. I realized myself that when I had to list prominent media personalities in Nepal, I ended up with a male list. Given that there are many talented female media professionals how did this happen? The same thing happened with many of my other female friends who are doctors, engineers and bankers. How can we get mad at men for not treating us as their counterparts when we ourselves don’t! Women in general should first stop judging other women as not equals and we ourselves should also not devalue our own potential and self-image.


I have learned, after being offensively groped in a street festival, physically molested on my way to school and verbally abused in front of my friends in a rafting trip that women in general especially in a society such as ours need to be smart and intense. This is not an exceptional story my friends and I would feel offended should you sympathize. If at all, let’s acknowledge and educate ourselves. Understand that it is our sisters and daughters who suffer and importantly through the behaviour of our own father and brother. These maliciously motivated occurrences are endless. A mid-aged man will sickeningly stare at your chest making you feel uneasy, a group of teenagers will throw an undignified statement, an onlooker will whistle or sing a cheesy song and a seemingly innocent man will try to fumble you as you pass by. And what do we do? The very fact that we in general have accepted such behaviour as mundane and natural makes me believe that we have internalized the culture of patriarchalism. Such ignorance reiterates the patriarchal system that creates and expects certain codes of behaviour that denies feminine identity—denies, the very fact, that such an identity might even exist. 



Benokraitis (1997) notes that subtle sex discrimination is what to many people are `normal', `natural', or `acceptable' behaviours and responses. For example we know women are eve-teased by men and this is something normal in our society. However, just because you are a man does not mean you have the right to tease a woman and just because you are a woman doesn’t mean you should tolerate it either. This subject of gender discrimination has been discussed on various lengths by many different experts and scholars. It is covered so much that we feel like it is overrated. But the fact is ‘gender discrimination’ subsists. We just need to open our eyes and see our surroundings in a different light. May be if we retake a second glance and question ourselves ‘perhaps I overlooked it in my first pass?’ possibly then we would see. Accordingly, the first thing to do as individuals either male or female would be to acknowledge that there is a problem and then only can we take the next step to solve it altogether. 

12 comments:

  1. Hi Pallavi -- great article. Well written, interesting, and IMO spot on.

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    1. Thank you very much for your kind comment.

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  2. WOW.,my goodness, u've got such a great vocabulary and a unique style of expressing ur thoughts.Don't stop ur pen,Kip goin girl,,N im trying to give an honest opinion,aint exaggerating..u left me with my mouth wide open..Cheers

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    1. I am glad that you liked what I have written... Appreciate it very much..

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  3. great thoughts! :)) Nice way of presentation!
    www.jawknockraazaa.blogspot.com

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  4. dami hai dami... a good WAY of writing..

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  5. Just happened to knock at your blog and strolled through your write and couldn't help complimenting you at this..
    Wow....!!
    Your spirits really cherished me up and yep in this patriarchal society with the male-hood thinking, U really gave the right boost..
    Three cheers
    Keep shining..:)

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    1. Thank you so much Kanchu for your kind words.. Happy to know you liked what I had to say..

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