Empowerment begins at home

Greater Kashmir

Old publication such as magazines  are treasure troves, evoking nostalgia, or describing  concepts and ideas. It’s not just nostalgia thing, but sifting through the past often leads to something new and delightful.

Recently, I was flipping through the memory lanes of a very old and popular women’s magazine of 1930s, published from Delhi. One of the articles caught my attention. The article had pretty catchy title ‘Women and Home Science Schools’. The article seemed truly captivating and read as:

‘It has become a trend nowadays, to send our daughters to colleges after matriculation. At colleges our daughters are taught useless /non yielding subjects like chemistry and science, which are of no use to them in future. Primarily, our girls don’t pursue jobs even if she pursues, it’s an uphill task because Indian society does not accept this phenomena of women working in offices. Secondly, girls will eventually be married off and imparting training about daily chores at home will be of more value to her future than going to college.’

This was a phase when women’s education was considered as taboo. It followed by a phase where sermons on equality were imparted, and feminism was discussed in social circles. Women who broke the clichés and found a way for themselves were labeled as feminists . Our magazines were flooded with feminism columns.

Vividly, I remember during late 90’s, I adored a mainstream women’s magazine. It was smart, cool, and in a glossy package. However, few acquaintances labeled me as a staunch feminist for being an ardent reader of this magazine. They thought it spoke feminism, a wrong tag by then, so I was asked to read ‘good material’ instead. I eschewed my desire and  acted upon the pearls of wisdom.

Later beauty pageants and fashion shows remodeled woman as ‘beauty with brains’.

And lately, women empowerment is the new buzzword doing rounds even in developed countries and is being most talked about after Kentucky chicken or French perfume. ‘Woman being neglected, undermined, assaulted or bothered for being who she is, and constant reminders, ‘she is less than a man’, definitely qualifies a woman for the much needed marketing feud, precisely dubbed as empowerment.

Nearly everyone in middle school biology learned that if you’ve got XX chromosomes, you’re a female, if you’ve got XY, you’re a male. The entire universe rests on this formula, the proof, Adam and Eve, being our forefathers. So, the million dollar question arises in the backdrop of equality, empowerment, emancipation etc., of a woman – who is going to bell the cat? Or in other words who’s going to empower a woman? Rationally, a man, but why on earth would a man empower a woman, when she has emerged as his strong counterpart. Logically speaking, why would one competitor empower another competitor? It would be like Apple selling its ownership rights to Microsoft or Coke vs Pepsi legendary battle.

Whenever I look at women’s day celebration, I just go in trance, as if some tourism day, earth day or independence day  is being celebrated. Woman is not a commodity, and does not need any brand promotion like tricks. The glorified terms like empowerment and equality are meaningless and are just overused, misused buzzwords, with vague usage unless they are used to obtain a collective rather than just an individual process.

These different transitions of women’s journey have celebrated her as cloying brand of quirkiness, describing woman as an old wine in a new bottle.

Instead of being women rights’ advocates fighting for her rights, celebrating and speaking on her behalf, let’s stick to ‘charity begins at home’. Vague definitions can help a commodity to sell but not sustain in the run. Before empowering a particular sect it would be a better idea to empower our relationships first. Improving our relationships does not mean our blood relations only, but our relations with our friends, neighbours, acquaintances, society and most importantly with ourselves. Relationships are the essence of this universe that God created even before creating this world. It’s relationships that connect us with each other and foster a sense of purpose of our being in this world. In absence of relationships all other emotions like sorrow, joy, success, failure, respect, hope, beauty, disappointment, and love like emotions have no value. Our lives are meaningless. So, if we nurture our relationships, rest will be taken care of itself.

One thing I learned on the book tour is that a magazine that speaks to its audience is exactly what audience wants. I’m sure none of us would want to find our way yet in another crease of an old magazine in the form of “he too” or “we too”.