“Flying solo--being responsible for self and entitled too”- 8 September 2015.

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Written by Rita Aggarwal
Wednesday, 23 September 2015 11:19

My last column on “Own your single status” seems to have touched the nerves of a few men in a raw way. I am not unfamiliar with hate mails from males of certain male-activist groups with national networks. Mr. Shiv Kakkar, a research scholar from IIM Ahmedabad says “Your delight at the seemingly enlightening article on women empowerment (and correspondingly male vilification) is extremely palpable. I would hope that the single women you are talking about are not subsisting on alimony or maintenance derived from their respective baby producing sperm owners. This is, based on the assumption that the baby came out of a single sperm cell sourced from a certain male's body (lest there is some technological advancement I am unaware of)”. What language!!

How he links women’s empowerment with male vilification is unclear to me. The women mentioned by me had high entrepreneurial aspirations and competencies. They were professional women earning their own money and not subsisting on alimony. For self respecting women living on alimony would be shameful and a self deprecating existence. Wonder why honourable Mr. Kakkar was in a hurry to vilify them. I repeat that men do feel threatened by single working women, and hence the anxiety to condemn them. This is similar to ‘witch hunting’.

To quote Mr. Kakkar, “women are so poor with the whole 'responsibility’ and ‘entitlement’ business”. Mr. Kakkar would agree that this is a sweeping generalisation made by him for women. Typically, women’s housework is unpaid work which is socially devalued and unrecognised by men. So his traditional male sensitivity does not comprehend that by doing housework women are being equally ‘responsible’ in running a family. Just because a man earns money it does not make him more responsible. Why don’t we reverse the roles and let women earn and men do the housework like cooking, cleaning, caring for children and the old parents and the sick. Would he still feel the same way about men being ‘irresponsible’? Does he believe that earning money (which traditionally men do) is the only responsibility in running a family and every other task is redundant, which reduces women’s work to nothing? No wonder then women would rather do jobs and earn than become just housewives.

As far as the ‘entitlement’ issue is concerned which he raises let me state that yes married women who are housewives are entitled to alimony for they have done unpaid domestic work and need to be supported. How does she survive otherwise?

He further cries, “we males die on borders, maintain families, take risks and run companies only to be vilified for not giving ‘enough’ to females. Why as females, do you think are you entitled to anything? The world doesn't owe you (or me) anything. Real empowerment lies in the ability to fight your way up rather than being entitled to it”.

This is where he contradicts himself thoroughly for he assumes that men maintain families single-handed and women just sit and twiddle their thumbs! Secondly he assumes that boys, from day one when they land on earth, are genetically programmed to become superheroes without parental support and inheritance of property and girls are tuned to be lazy bums who just keep crying for entitlement!

Mr. Kakar asks me to elaborate “about the 'business of equality'.

This is the most important part to understand. Equality is in terms of opportunity to seek education, to make careers, to live a life of their choice. Equality is in terms of decision making and independent thought process. Equality is in thinking of oneself as a competent capable person inferior to none and standing on one’s own feet (not alimony or subsistence or doles).

Educate every girl child. Teach her martial arts for self defence before teaching her to cook.  Make it compulsory for her to have a career and be independent. Give her an equal share of the parental property. Marry her to a man who does not demand any dowry or gifts. Marry her to a man who will share domestic responsibilities equally. Let the man cook and clean, care for the children and the old and sick equally. Do not give the career women anything in terms of alimony in case of divorce. Let them share the responsibility of caring for children equally. Let not a man show his physical might by beating, terrorising or forcing her to do things against her will. Let not the man treat her as a piece of his own possession. Respect her and regard her as an equal human being. Let marriage be a contract to build a life together with respect for each other. All aspects will have to be rounded off in a balanced manner for there to be equality. No gender should get exploited and harassed. In fact the concept of gender is man-made and not God-made. Do away with the gender divide. Just become good human beings -not men or women.

Is that a tall order Mr. Kakkar?