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The entire India was reeling last month around the same time under the pain of death and protest marches denouncing crime against women. There were candle light marches, slogans, hunger strikes, etc. throughout the nation. The case of Delhi gang-rape was not an isolated case and we all know in the heart of  our hearts that there are different types of ‘crime’ against women. Beginning with discrimination by grandmothers against grand-daughters or daughter-in-laws about food and provisions, to not letting women contest college and local council elections, to high stress levels in working Indian women who have to balance home and world, to sexual infringements within family, India has witnessed the worst forms of crime against women. The problem with many Indians is we tend to elevate the status of people and things so much that while we are ready to ‘worship’ women, we are not ready to take them as just another human being.
Saying all this, I do not intend to simplify the complexity of the issues at hand or be reductionist in my approach to socio-cultural dynamics of India. I am shaken by the strange approach of our responsible sections of society: media, politics, and people. A pattern that one gets to see is that there is a strong sensationalism that we tend to follow and live-in. The sensation and ‘Breaking News‘ syndrome that leads us to follow for some days the hulla generated by the horrors of such news, but then it gets lost forever in the mass amnesia, and “today’s newspaper becomes tomorrow’s wastepaper”. As common masses affected daily by these set of violence, we do not encourage the idea of sustaining our protests in the form of debates.
In this article, I am verbatim reproducing two set of dialogues that we had on my Facebook page on mindsets related to women. I thought that my larger audience might like to read and participate in the discussion that followed on a status which I posted on Facebook. The people in the dialogue are not from the imaginary/ fictional space. They are real individuals, from across different sections of  society, responsible for their statements and opinions.
In the wake of these dialogues, I am bound to reveal the identity of Anne de Plume because of the need of this article as well as to respect the identity of peers whose names are being mentioned here. My name is Arnapurna Rath — I teach engineering students and a few research scholars about the joys of being humane (I am one of the participants in this dialogue). As Anne de Plume (I consider her as my alter ego) I have met you, shared my personal and public anguish/ concerns since 2008. Coming from the academic community, my sense of responsibility towards both male and female students has often stopped me from making remarks with biases towards any one gender. However,  the context of this article comes from a discussion with some women students who once casually reported that sometimes college elections across India are so gender biased that if a woman wants to contest even as elementary a position as a class representative, some of their male counterparts state that “they would rather go for a creepy, lazy male to take-up the position than be ruled by a woman”.
Here goes the status and the responses that I posted on the social networking site:
A little disturbed today by a strange comment.Sometimes there is such a strong break between ideals and practice. The paradox is some people project high ideals and low action, while some are high on action and low on ideals.Do we ever get a seamless bonding between the two? A strange revelation from some friends: there are some students who while voting say that we will not vote for a woman because we do not want to be ruled by women. Are these the same people who are taught the fundamentals of technology, humanities, sciences by women faculty? Is this 21st century?Are we the same people who do candle light marches for social upliftment? Clean-up your home first before you go and clean the society!

Sushant Sharma: one word “hypocrites”

Arnapurna Rath: Sushant Sharma: As the head of 1500 researchers at one point what was your experience? Is this a fact or fiction?

Mathai Fenn: A PhD does not mean they are smart.

Shalu Shalo:  Given a choice, these specific “type” of people would not want to be taught by female faculty either. Its sad, but their choices of who should/not be a supervisor/superior (in business/life) perpetrate vertically. They do not enjoy the fact of working for female bosses/supervisors; would not want women leaders; an independent and strong-willed female family member (sister/mother/girlfriend/wife); strong female co-workers/subordinates…just to name a few. The reason goes back to the morals taught/practiced at home followed by the society, media and the other whole nine-yards which help bolstering such egotistical attitude. I don’t think these “type” volunteer anything remotely meant for female-upliftment et al. This lack of tolerance solely starts at home and inflates exponentially as they go out in a male-dominated society. I am not a feminist, but I sure do hate discrimination of “any kind”. All these statements are from my own personal and professional observations

Sushant Sharma: it is difficult to answer… capturing true thoughts/beliefs are near impossible, one can only judge by actions…moreover the sample size you mentioned will be biased to come up with generic answer… more likely higher-education/social-status does not necessarily mean any improvement in right beliefs….however i know sometime thoughts/beliefs evolve it just needs a spark to make people contemplate and comprehend the facts ….and at this moment i feel we are still far from being a gender neutral and civilized society ..

Arnapurna Rath: Shalu shalo what scares me is that it is not about one ‘type’. There are multiple variations of this type. You are right — some might be thinking they do not want a woman to teach them! We are thinking of social changes while grooming people who refuse to be groomed. No doubt there are 5 media incited protests and then the country forgets. ·

Arnapurna Rath: Mathai: It is not just about Phds. There are many sides of the story. Possibly even in girls colleges! The range might vary from 16yrs–96 yrs.

Akshay Bishnoi: Ma’am….I will prefer to explain it from Psychological perspective…..Ideals (Value) are ambiguous most of times and Compliance on people by Social desirability and without rational…and Practice (Action) is affected by both Values and Circumstances and more rational in approach…. So while reading humanities people express or create those ideal (Value) only because of Social pressure or getting marks…So if they behave in a different way, it is can be considered as failure of Education system…Or in other terms it signifies how important it is to have democratic environment to be followed in true sense in society which may lead to acceptance of values in better way and action will also be on same line as of values…..

Mathai Fenn: We live in a country where men and women are treated separately. I remember when I was in college there were very different rules for the men’s hostel and the women’s. While we had a fairly liberal hostel the women had early evening curfews and the like. In fact almost all colleges have different rules for men and women hostels. HOW is it in your college? The interesting thing is when I asked an inmate (pun intended) she told me that it women needed more protection than men……( “from themselves”…..I completed, under my breath)

In how many Indian families do girls get as much freedom as boys do? For that matter the West is not THAT different on the matter either. LAST QUESTION: How many women feel incomplete without a man to “COMPLETE THEM?” lets face it men and women are not treated equally by their parents, their schools and colleges, society at large, or even themselves. Let us not get carried away with thoughts of freedom, etc. Erich Fromm, in his book title “ESCAPE FROM FREEDOM” suggests freedom is the ONE THING that we do not want! AFTER ALL THIS, you are complaining that men do not want to be ruled by women? I think its understandable, women cannot rule themselves!Idealism is good for blogs. Reality is different. Believe me……I’ve been there, done that!

Shaoni Shabnam: I guess teachers and parents have a critical role to play!!

Arnapurna Rath: Well Akshay Bishnoi what you say is very true. That is what I was indicating the gap between ideals and action. My question is can we help? Is there a solution to issues of the kind rather than explanations and debates?

Arnapurna Rath: Mathai Fenn I am complaining because the illusions and the idealisms are created by people like you and me. Let us admit that women are the greatest perpetrators of subversive violence against their own sex. My concern is about a strong break between reality and theory. Let us not get into one anothers gender bashing. If mindsets do not change than as a part of academic community I also equally take the responsibility of failing to get across the ideals that we have been trained to believe on.’

Mathai Fenn: Yes very much you can help. Please launch courses that sensitize students to gender issues. Help them understand. But dont make it simplistic. Also help them to critically analyze their own situation

Shalu Shalo: @akshay bishnoi: as much as I want to agree, I must disagree with the decree that “women cannot rule themselves”…etc etc… Age old rules of women’s role in society and homes have been brain washed onto men n women. This brain washing psychologically stifles the capacities to break old borders and create new ones. Keeping a few lazy women aside (who want everything handed to them in their lives), I believe that most women (yes, I speak for myself and women in my family and friends) want to break free and want freedom from caustic old and rusted belief system. Again, it’s the belief system and attitude that has to change…at home and then it will slowly trickle into the society.

Mathai Fenn: Does that mean you are complete even without a man?

Akshay Bishnoi : Ma’am…Mathai sir already answered it very well, how to tackle such issue, perhaps the most practical approach……In short Internalization of values by people is only solution….Debates also help in awareness, perhaps debates are the places where a person starts to think about issues, the first and most important step for change…Isn’t it??? But they can be internalized better when some real life examples follow them….And we need to take things in every aspect of life rather than only classroom teachings for e.g. we can have plays where role playing of the girl by a boy for some time, so that it may give him better perception how it feels to be like a girl (Empathy development)……

Shalu Shalo @mathai fenn…if you are asking me, then here is my take on the question…”when was I incomplete”? I was born alone, took all the challenges so far by myself, and technically we fight our battles alone . Unless otherwise brain-washed over n over again, no one is incomplete. Now, feeling the need to have a man to complete oneself should not automatically discounted to be a symbol of weakness or lack of confidence. Companionship means different thing to different people .

Akshay Bishnoi: Shalu Shalo: Man and women complete each other is correct….It should not be seen as sign of weakness….But when dependence crosses limit, what should we call it ???……Just a simple thought how much Indian women prefer to have their own identity??? Identity based on their own skills, achievements rather than Kids and husband?? We may have few ladies who have identity of self…But when i Look to Indian masses “Learned helplessness” is inserted in a girl from the very day she was born and accepted by most of us…Perhaps we are brought in such a manner that Such issues are made Sacro Scent to us and we never question them…..So providing a more thought provoking and Democratic parenting, Schooling and Societal environment to child is best way……..

Akshay Bishnoi: Shalu Shalo: Just one more thought about “Age old rules”….Well, If we reinterpret those rules by studying original text or most closely available ones….They are good rules with Some specified intentions which were used by Society people in wrong notions as time passed and no body questioned them….Just for example In my childhood days, everybody told me Speak Truth but no one told Why I should???….I saw most of people surrounding me telling a lie even the teacher and parents who taught me to say truth..Am i expected to say truth is such situation….Perhaps we forget the fact that A child learns more by Observing surrounding than Reading books…

Shalu Shalo: Well, new age issues need creative and new age solutions. In all my comments, I always mentioned the need for change in attitude. We are talking about old age belief systems which are hardwired across generations and cross sections. Such things cripple new age progress. It will be challenging as it involves changing both women’s attitude AND men’s attitude. A tough battle, but not an impossible one.

Arnapurna Rath: Thanks all for sharing my concerns and anguish. The length of the comments speak about your involvement with the issue. I have a feeling that diluting everything to psycho-sexual behaviour is not leading us anywhere. Introducing courses and seminars have also not been as fruitful as they should be — Akshay Bishnoi’s statement kind of proves that. We do courses for grades and marks these days, not to end up learning. In my opinion, post classroom debates, informals, debating clubs, etc can play an important role, and most importantly girls themselves should be responsible to establish their own identity in whatever possible ways they can. Men can be great supports and fabulous comrades too, but playing a second fiddle to someone is not a great idea. If personal anecdotes can help — during a particular PG cult at my home institution, I needed a projector to be setup on the SAC for my PPT on ad-making and someone from the council shouted down at me very rudely. I had a steely reply: “You see I usually get things that I want, either you help me or else I will help my self to get what I want” . We got what we wanted! And others who followed also got the projector for the next set of events. Did not intend to boast — even if one woman is inspired, I would consider victory.

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The debate generated an interest which was followed up in the psychologist Mathai Fenn’s status update. I am sharing that dialogue too:

Mathai Fenn’s facebook status: A friend of mine, Arnapurna Rath, complained that she knew some men who do not want to work under a female boss. She found it disturbing that men could think that way. Once upon a time I did too… but no longer..and HERE IS MY ANSWER….
Mathai Fenn: We live in a country where men and women are treated seperately. I remember when I was in college there were very different rules for the men’s hostel and the women’s. While we had a fairly liberal hostel the women had early evening curfews and the like. In fact almost all colleges have different rules for men and women hostels. HOW is it in your college? The interesting thing is when I asked an inmate (pun intended) she told me that it women needed more protection than men……( “from themselves”…..I completed, under my breath)
In how many Indian families do girls get as much freedom as boys do? For that matter the West is not THAT different on the matter either. LAST QUESTION: How many women feel incomplete without a man to “COMPLETE THEM?” lets face it men and women are not treated equally by their parents, their schools and colleges, society at large, or even themselves. Let us not get carried away with thoughts of freedom, etc. Erich Fromm, in his book title “ESCAPE FROM FREEDOM” suggests freedom is the ONE THING that we do not want!
AFTER ALL THIS, you are complaining that men do not want to be ruled by women? I think its understandable, women cannot rule themselves!
Idealism is good for blogs. Reality is different. Believe me……I’ve been there, done that!

Samresh Kumar: I hope you look at the reality as it is, understand it and yet hope that someday the ideal thing will happen!

Mohit Kishore: Assuming as you say that women don’t want the freedom/liberation/authority, how does that link up to men not wanting to report to the ones who do have the freedom or liberation or whatever. I think the bit about not wanting to report to women is more linked to men who are used to withholding women’s liberties in other aspects of life and find it hard to get used to a professional / workplace scenario where they no longer have that control.

Mathai Fenn: I have no doubt. My intention was to show that these attitudes run deep and we can find it in our own institutions and families

Arnapurna Rath: Mathai Fenn people feeling complete or incomplete without each other is a part of  biological and emotional preference related orientation. But gender competition and dominance is a part of cultural evolution. Thinking of August Strindbergs play Father.

Mathai Fenn: Ah biological evolution makes a woman feel incomplete without a man. Despite this if a man FEELS superior he can’t use the same logic. Obviously saucer for goose and gander are different

Pravin Noronha: Equality is a myth, be it gender or socio-economic status, but fairness is what we should call for.

Arnapurna Rath: No Mathai Fenn the feeling of incompleteness is mutual. You are leaving out preferences which may not include man-woman equation.

Mathai Fenn: Ok time to bring out the not-so-nice guy. I have had more WOMEN tell me that they feel incomplete than MEN do.

Arguments:1. Men and women feel it but its not cool for men to say it 2. Women feel it because they are victims of a male dominated society

Arnapurna Rath Loved that one — cultural stereotyping as I said!! Men are taught ‘not to be emotional’ and girls are known to be expressive and chatty!

Mathai Fenn That is the key to such arguments. It uses the argument either way to support your POV. I am sorry, but I genuinely don’t buy the argument that women feeling incomplete is BIOLOGICAL

Arnapurna Rath: I think we both are arguing the same point through two different ideological frames. I told that in my other comment too that it is not completely psycho-sexual behaviour. We live through multiple layers of complexity in the society. Some of them are yet to be understood and tapped. Mathai Fenn: I am publishing this entire conversation on my blog as it is, with the permission of the concerned people. I hope no one has reservations?

Mathai Fenn: I reserve rights to 30% of the advertising revenue that you get from the traffic to your blog for six months from the date of publication!

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I have specific reasons to publish this dialogue. In India, these days, we are mostly following the debates  that are being raised by media and social networking sites. We tend to show reactions to a set of actions generated on television or cinema. They are great starters in my opinion. However, we would perhaps help generate a more responsible and socially sensitive set of people if one-to-one debates are encouraged either on social sites or as a part of informal grooming sessions or classrooms and canteens. If gender sensitivity is such a tough idea to introduce in a tough-nut patriarchal society,  the reformists can start from primary schools and classrooms.

We have battles to choose — which one is our prerogative and priority! What do you all say?

Nobody ever loses their memory. It gets locked away like a madwoman in the attic. Occasionally you hear her scream, but you don’t unlock the door and have a look. Right?
There’s a great sadness in your life. (Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar, Madwoman in the Attic)

*I am thankful to Mathai Fenn for instigating me 🙂 ! I am grateful to all the participants in this discussion: Sushant Sharma, Shalu Shalo, Akshay Bishnoi, Shaoni Shabnam, Pravin Nornha, Samaresh Kumar and Mohit Kishore. Hope that the spirit of debating continues.

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