Monday, 31 December 2012

Out with the old, in with the same?

It's THAT day of the year again when one wonders about what can be ditched to begin the new year with a spring in one's step. Out with the old tedious practices and mindsets that have proven to be life sapping leeches. In with a new life enhancing routine that will rocket one to great heights of self-fulfilment.  

Does it ever happen this way? I normally make a list of 10 resolutions but only ever manage to accomplish about half. My intentions disappear at mid-point through the list. This is probably because numbers 6 to 10 contain things that I should give up but don't want to. Willpower versus 'Oh, What the hell I will try next year'. Old habits die hard and I am mistrusting myself even before the clock strikes midnight.

Happy New Year and here's wishing you all the best with your resolutions.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

The world is becoming a smaller place for women

Never have I known violence against women to be as rife and common place as it is now. The arrival of social media is often touted as a reason for the rise in awareness of global problems, citing the speed of the transfer of information as being the reason, rather than there being an actual rise in the crime being perpetrated. So it is with violence against women where the fact that it is a daily occurrence does not make the news so much as the level of violence and number of men involved which warrants the act of violence as being newsworthy.

Rape is the most common form of violence carried out and it is on the rise in Asia (witness the Delhi demonstrations), Africa and in the Middle East. Nothing much seems to have changed in Western countries either. It is a global problem. What unifies all of us as women regardless of our location on the world map is a right to feel secure and safe when going about normal life. I recently visited a country in Asia and was told that women were too afraid to even venture out to the local shops on foot for fear of being robbed or kidnapped. Sadly, the women I spoke to viewed their fear as a domestic situation rather than a social policy one.  

Taken on a continuum of extreme, placing women's fears for their own safety in the domestic arena leads to women then viewing their choice to not venture out as being a freely chosen option. The flip side of assuming that the home is the safest place for a women is the fact that domestic violence is on the rise too.At which point then do the authorities step in and implement safety intervention measures?  Perhaps it is time for women's security to be placed on a global high-ranking agenda like the World Economic Forum's annual meeting at Davos or at a G something or other conference. If women hold up half the sky then we need to be outside the home doing this. 

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Patriarchy is Embedded in Indian Culture

Even though I left Asia 31 years ago to live in Britain I still feel a sudden gush of anger whenever I read or hear about how the Indian patriarchy culture has, yet again, enabled and perpetrated a gross act of violence against a women. I mention the length of time that I have been away from Asia to illustrate the point that time seems to have stood still in terms of gender equality for Asian women. If anything, the audacity and level of violence seems to have risen. Time seems to have enobled the Indian patriarchy system instead.

The trigger for this blog post is the gang rape of a poor woman on a bus in Delhi in the last week. Gang rapes seem to have become commonly committed incidents in India and when I delved further into it I discovered that gang rapes were taking place in institutions and open spaces where the public, whether man or woman, can reasonably expect their safety to be of paramount importance. What is happening here?

When I was growing up I witnessed the seeds of violence against Indian women rapidly being sown. I can pinpoint two reasons for this - women's rights were seen as non-existent and women's issues were seen as belonging to the private domestic sphere. In other words, Indian social culture placed a woman firmly in the home where she was to be subject to the domination of others. Young Indian girls left school at the age of 17 or 18 and were immediately married off before they could 'sully' themselves by having boyfriends. Once married she was deemed to be too 'westernised' if she did not cook, clean and submit herself to the authority of her in-laws. Any husband who dared to take his wife's side in disputes was told to 'behave like a man'. Being 'Westernised' meant that you were letting your family, in-laws, society, community and culture down by not being adhering to the patriarchy of the Indian culture.

After marriage the issues moved on to childbearing. Any mother who produced a girl was second best and her daughter soon followed suit in being second best too. A second best mother and daughter duo were scarred for life. If the daughter was darker skinned than an average Indian she would soon be pushed into third best position.

The Indian movies portrayed scenes of rape in abundance in the absence of being able to show romance through kissing or bedroom scenes. Sex was still part of the cinematic culture but it had to be accompanied by violence to be acceptable viewing. This may be a simplistic explanation but Indian movies did play a role in the causal link between the treatment of women and rape.

Indian patriarchy afflicts both men and women and this is where the danger lies by placing the issues of women firmly in the domestic arena rather than as an important subset of social policy. Boys are being brought up by women who tell them that their masculinity is defined by acquiring a wife who will obey them. Girls are being brought up with unreasonable burdens of expectation laced with the threat of shame and marginalisation should they bring shame to the family. 'Shame' is an umbrella term that covers every aspects of an Indian's woman's life.

The treatment of Indian women is a race to the bottom rather than an upward curve. While the class system exists, while the rich are protected the poor suffer which leads to prejudice being acceptable, while a woman's worth is judged according to who she marries and while her daughters are treated with embarrassment nothing will change.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

So even Rihanna can't have everything

My bed: Rhianna tweeted this empty shot of her bed, which looks like it is on her private jet

The pop star Rihanna has, sadly, become an icon to millions of wannabe girls around the world who think that a bit of shimmying, fewer clothes and an ability to sing will bring them a life of $$ and glam. Her excessive lifestyle of consumption and glitter acts as a beacon of hope in, what in reality, is a misplaced guiding light that leads them to the rocks.

Witness the tears and dashed dreams on programmes such as X-Factor or 'Britain's Got Talent' and realisation will quickly dawn that only a handfull will actually make it through to an expansive lifestyle of international proportions.

However, not even Rihanna can have everything by the sounds of it. The boyfriend, Chris Brown, who hit her and whom she subsequently got back with has, allegedly, dumped her. Rihanna tweeted the photograph above of an empty bed and the press have interpreted this to mean that she is alone again.  If her loyal female following can learn anything at all that resembles a real life lesson of reality it is that nobody can have anything. Money cannot buy everything.

I can't believe that I have posted something so insubstantial as a blog post on a pop star but the celebrity culture does annoy me greatly for propagating a message that is as useful as a colander in a flood. 

Monday, 17 December 2012

Can 'hysterical' women bring about peace?

I don't think Americans are intrinsically more homicidal than British people. We've had massacres in the past. One, at Dunblane, was very similar to the one in Connecticut today. The thing is, after the Dunblane tragedy the women of Dunblane, backed by the women of the UK, made such a fuss about the possession of guns and were so tenacious in their campaign to have them banned that the government gave in and banned handguns. In fact, when you look back, it becomes apparent that most moves towards a safer society (especially in respect of the safety of children) have come about because of the campaigning of "hysterical" women. It strikes me that the "hysterical" women of the USA should get their act together and change their society. They should start by getting rid of the right to bear arms from the Constitution. The problem is, of course, that in England it was really only men who were opposed to stricter gun controls, whilst in the USA women seem to have a fetish about guns as much as, if not more than, men.

This blog post was written by my favourite Christian blogger who calls him 'Mad Priest', otherwise known as Jonathan Hagger. 

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Are you a working mother facing the 'child ceiling'?

If the life of a working mother could take a form or image I think it would be of a contortionist. We leap through hoops, jump over hurdles, dodge imaginary bullets to juggle work and child and, after all that, bend over backwards to accommodate everything and everyone. If this does not demonstrate some sort of iron clad commitment to your work and career then I don't know what will do to dislodge the 'child ceiling' that exists for working mothers.

A survey has uncovered yet another prejudice/barrier that working mothers face. A company called Business Environment conducted the survey and discovered that one in four female managers would not consider employing a woman with a family or who was of child-bearing age. Male managers held the same attitude too. Taking time off to have a baby or to attend to one's children is seen as unproductive factors. Apparently an inability to work long hours is equated to a lack of commitment to one's job. Long hours, it seems, is being seen as one of the solutions to the country's economic woes. Women with children are viewed as the weakest link in the model of productivity.

This is a shockingly short-term view of the female success factors that could be harnessed in the process of  modernisation of an ailing economy. Women who work are tireless advocates of commitment and hard work. We want the best for our children and realise that our incomes are crucial in enabling us to do this. Never intentionally would most working mothers jeopardise their jobs.

However, it is important to challenge views and to point out that working flexibly or having to take emergency leave to tend to a domestic situation is not the equivalent of taking annual leave to sit in the park. It is the perception of others that distorts the reality of flexible working and part-time. If an economic lens is to be used to sit in judgment on working methods then it ought to be one of the ageing population. With more  and more people living longer a growing workforce will be needed to sustain the situation. Striking mothers off the employment radar is an economic and societal disaster in the making.