The hypocritical Indian mentality

Say the word Indian mentality and I will say the word hypocritical. Hypocrisy sadly is inbuilt in the Indian mentality. (Yes I am an Indian and I am calling Indian mentality hypocritic.) We aren’t turning our back to the ancient cultures and are also not following the west completely and thus we land face-first in the puddle of hypocrisy. In a common man’s language, hypocrisy is double standards.

The comfort level of Indians while talking about “the S word” (I am a true Indian. I don’t say the word SEX) is inversely proportional to the size of India’s population. We will soon be the youngest country in the world. We face a population boom and yet somewhere in one corner our nation a father just changed a channel because a condom ad was coming on the channel, a mother just answered bhagwan ji se laye on being asked how are children born. Why do we even claim to be the land of Kamasutra?  I think no economic or foreign policy but proper sex-ed is the answer to how to not outnumber China in terms of population in the coming years. Don’t you think we will successfully go past the issue of depleting availability of basic resources for all if we educate our population about sex?

We had put up rainbow display pictures when America legalized gay marriages but we still kill our youth in the name of honour killing if they dare marry in a different caste. As many news reports say – Honour killing in India increased by almost 800% from 2015-16 to 2016-17. Let’s solve our own issues first? Our politicians are caught watching porn on the internet during Parliament sessions and interestingly, that is what they end up banning for the population.  Practice what you preach – Heard of it? In India, if counted, the cases in which the police arrested people kissing in public will surely be more than those in which people were arrested for peeing in public. If you show your affection in public, or kiss in public, you will most probably land in jail. Peeing in public might not land you in prison. Welcome to India.  What do we say to a man being beaten by a lady –  “आदमी होकर औरत से मार खाता है।” What do we say to a man beating a lady? “आदमी होकर औरत पर हाथ उठाता है।” Poor guys!  On one hand we proudly take part in protests against women harassment and on the other what do some of us do there? We inappropriately touch the women present there. (case in point – protests against December 16 rape case accused). Our society and law doesn’t even give due consideration to male rape cases because “MEN CAN’T GET RAPED.” We refuse to accept that women can inflict sexual violence on men. When was the last time you read about a male rape survivor’s case being reported in an Indian daily? When was the last time we made a rape accused feel ashamed of the act and not the victim? Our society looks down so much upon a rape victim that this factor at times prevents cases from being reported because ladki ki izzat ka sawal hai. We are anti-dowry but pro-alimony why? We are anti dowry because “why should a woman pay a man for marrying her?” I support that but then let’s be anti-alimony too. Why can’t a woman earn on her own after a divorce? If you are not together anymore why do you expect money? Stand up, use your educational qualification and earn for yourself. Amir Khan says ye karykram samaj ke prati mera kartavy hai but charges in crores per episode. Pehle lakshmi pooja fir kam dooja? #SamajSeva

I am not asking you to change your notions about things or your societal beliefs. All I am asking is that whatever you believe in, make sure that belief doesn’t change from time to time and from person to person. Your belief should be the same no matter your girlfriend is standing in front of you or your colleague. Let’s practice what we preach. Let’s support inter caste marriage first and then think of supporting gay marriages. Let a crime be a crime no matter the gender of the victim. As Tennessee Williams quotes, “The only thing worse than a liar is a liar that’s also a hypocrite.” Let’s not be liars. Let’s accept that somewhere in all of us is a hypocrite. With acceptance will begin the change.

– Paranjaya Mehra

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Defining jobs – The gender way

What image comes to your mind when I say the following words – a school teacher, an army officer, an app developer, an entrepreneur? Aren’t you guilty of imagining a female school teacher, a male army officer and also a male app developer? I am sure majority of you are! Ms. Indu Jain (Chairman Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd), Ms. Kiran Mazumdar Shaw (founder Chairman and MD, Biocon Limited), Ms Indra Nooyi (CFO and President of PepsiCo), Ms. Punita Arora ( first female Vice Admiral of Indian Navy), Ms. Divya Ajith Kumar (first female to be selected for the ‘Sword of Honour’), Ms. Gunjan Saxena (first female Indian Air Force officer to fly in a combat zone.) – This list has many names ranging from varied professions which break the society’s notion of categorizing a job for a certain gender and hence are a tight slap on our faces.

Nursing – like teaching – is among the occupation that economists call “pink-collared job,” or profession long dominated by women. While more and more men are donning the pink-collar and facing the social stigma associated with “women’s work,” numbers tell us that we have a long way to go when it comes to evening out representation in certain fields. One of these occupations is nursing. Nine out of 10 registered nurses are female. Other occupations where women are highly concentrated include human resources manager, social worker etc.
 Men in characteristically female-dominated occupations tend to value the social aspects of their career over financial rewards, says a study. “Men who work in typically female-dominated occupations value success in ways that goes beyond salary and promotion,” said one of the researchers Kazia Solowiej from University of Worcester in Britain. For the study, the researchers interviewed a total of 34 men including 15 primary school teachers and 19 university administrators.The interviews revealed that their definitions of career success included features other than pay and promotion such as building friendships with colleagues and flexible working that enabled time for family and social commitments.The study was presented at a conference of the British Psychological Society in Nottingham.

Nobody knows the scenario better than those who are a part of it or those who aspire to be in that scenario someday. Although there are a lot of professions which today are being gender defined, from here on in this post I put forth the views of an army aspirant, an app developer and a school teacher about the skewed gender ratio in these professions. Read on.

Army Officer

I asked a male final year student (armed forces aspirant belonging to an army background) about their gender being the dominant one in armed forces. On the condition of anonymity, he came forward with the following reply. On being asked about his view regarding male domination, he said that the society has always perceived men as the stronger ones and that is why they are in majority in the forces. He says that women themselves believe in this. It’s not that males stop women from coming up and being a part of the forces. Women themselves don’t consider this as a job suitable for them.  He adds that the job is being done by those for whom it is meant.  He says no to the question that is there an imbalance in functioning due to the gender domination. He adds, “There is no imbalance but I surely do believe that if more women are given core duties then it will have a positive impact on the efficiency of work being carried out in the forces.”

School teacher

Mrs. Mamta Sharma has been working as a TGT in Apeejay School Pitampura for the past 17 years now. She has an overall experience of 23 years as a school teacher. On being asked the reason for the highly skewed ratio of males and females in school teaching, she says societal perception of school teaching as a job is responsible for this to a very large extent. According to her, there is a mindset that the job of a school teacher is a good option for girls because of proper timings. Girls can look after their families too with this job. When asked that how can this ratio be brought to a balance in future, she says that there should be a fixed number of males and females that are employed as teaching staff members. Say if you have 20 members in the teaching staff, schools should make sure that they at least employ 10 males as staff members. This will help balance the ratio. A balanced ratio according to her will also lead to a better ratio tomorrow in the profession. She explains that seeing almost equal number of males and females in the teaching staff will help break the perception of students that only girls can turn to teaching. If students will find male teachers in schools only then will they believe that even males can take up this profession. Only then will the male students consider it seriously as a profession.

App Developer

Ask him the name of the app which he developed and proudly comes the reply, “College Assistant. It’s available on Play Store.” He says he has three more apps “currently under construction”. Interestingly, he is still a final year computer science student of Jamia Hamdard University. He started with app developing so as to practice Java for future job purposes. When asked about the male dominated app development industry, he replies on the condition of anonymity that yes, the industry is totally male dominated. He further added, “In my batch in college there are a very limited number of girls since it’s a technical course and those which are there prefer going for masters and then getting into teaching.” According to him, this industry is male dominated only in our country and not overseas. He supports his point by saying that “when you search for projects online or post questions online regarding the problems you are facing while at work, you will find that there are a good number of females replying to your questions. Google has female tutors giving tech tutorials.” When asked that what according to him is the reason for such low numbers of females in this field, he lists quite a few. Firstly he says that the job of a software developer is extremely challenging. IT sector throws constant challenges which majority of the girls don’t prefer facing because we bind them with the notion that their career isn’t the only thing they have to concentrate on. Software development requires 24*7 dedication and as you move up the ladder in the organization, more and more is expected from you. Another reason can be that if you decide to stay in India and work in this sector then you have to settle for comparatively lesser pay because there are only a handful companies which pay the deserved salary at lower posts in the ladder. It’s going to take ample number of years before you finally reach the 45k-50k pay bracket. On the other hand, this is the bracket you will begin with if you take up teaching at the university level. He concludes by saying that a lot needs to be done before we finally see a balanced gender ratio in this industry.

There can be nothing worse for a profession  than to be associated with a gender tag like a “pink collar profession” or any such gender related tag.Neither is a penis your ticket to a successful career be it any profession nor is a vagina a determining yardstick of your professional interests. I would conclude by saying that if he wants to teach in a school, let him. If she wants to join the army, let her! If she wants to rule the business world, let her! If he wants to be in the nursing job, let him! Let interest and passion be the yardsticks. Not gender.

– Paranjaya Mehra

Fairness creams: An unfair obsession?

“Want a tall, handsome and a well placed groom for a fair and well educated girl.” Turn to the matrimonial page of any Indian newspaper and the line I began with summarises what you are expected to come across on that page. Yes, the obsession for fair skin is that deep rooted in our society that we mention fair skin as an attribute in a matrimonial ad along with our educational qualification. We long for partners with fair skin tones as if we don’t want a life partner but a trophy to show to the world.

I believe that our obsession with fair skin began when the British invaded India and slowly they made us believe what they themselves believed in. They established their superiority and hence the fact in our mind that fair skin is superior and dark skin is not.

Today we are crying about the fact that brands selling fairness creams are being racist. We blame them for narrowing our understanding of beauty to just “White Beauty”. Campaigns like NDTV’S campaign #FairnessCreamsRacist, Banjara Herbal’s campaign #ProudOfMyColour, Women Worth’s campaign #DarkIsBeautiful against the brands are all over social media. Yes, I agree that fairness creams are propagating a very racist idea of beauty. At the same time we can’t deny the fact that the problem lies in us.We as a society have been obsessed with fair skin since time immemorial. Ask your mother’s mother and she probably will tell you tales about how for a major part of her childhood she was suggested to not go out in the Sun and rather stay indoors, use desi beauty treatments regularly and so on. This hasn’t died down even today in some cases.

Remember the song dhoop main nikla na karo roop ki rani, gora rang kala na pad jaye… Yes, that’s a song probably propagating the fact that you aren’t worthy enough to be wooed by a man if you don’t have fair skin.  I hope you haven’t forgotten the lines aja piya tohe pyar du, gori baiyya tope var du…Isn’t the saiya interested in dark skinned baiyya? Let’s turn to the recent past. White white face dekhe dilwa beating fast sasura dance maare re… This song was there in the movie Tashan released in 2011. Yes, only a  white face can make a heart beat fast as per our beloved Bollywood. Hum kaale hain to kya hua dil waale hain… Isn’t this line shouting that only people with fair skin have a good heart and hence if you are dark skinned and have a good heart   then please shout about it because that is something we don’t categorise as normal. Remember the scene in the movie Vivah where the lady is annoyed and tells her husband that she has been trying to get good rishtas for their Choti but she has not been successful because of choti’s dark skin tone. Cut to the small screen and we can easily find people of dark skinned girl of marriageable age worried for their marriage because of their colour.

The above paragraph is a mirror to the fact that bias towards fair skin has been celebrated in our society since the very beginning. When we didn’t object to racism that was served to us in the name of entertainment, we can’t solely today blame fairness creams for propagating it in our society. Yes this can’t be denied that these brands used our mentality in their favour and created a 2000 crore market out of it. In 2010, India’s whitening-cream market was worth $432m, according to a report by market researchers ACNielsen, and was growing at 18% per year. In 2012, Indians reportedly consumed 233 tonnes of skin-whitening products, spending more money on them than on Coca-Cola.

I am not saying that these creams have not aggravated the problem , they surely have but the boycotting and objection should have begun long back. We woke up when we realised the unfair obsession with fair skin is going out of our hands. Had we kept our minds open long back, situation would not have been what it currently is.

I conducted an online survey about the notion of beauty created by fairness creams. I received 61 responses for the same from people both employed and unemployed as well as from children studying in schools and colleges. From hereon in this post, I would state responses from the survey to support my views from time to time.

Now, let’s flip the coin.

Today these brands don’t just associate fair skin with getting a good partner in life but  also with a successful career, societal acceptance and so on. They play with our desire to succeed, our desperate need to fit it. One reason for this can be that the youth of today, which is a major part of these brand’s consumer base is a victim of low confidence, self doubts etc. We aren’t confident enough of our capabilities. There are so many factors around us which make us believe that we won’t make it big in life. These brands just use our skin colour as one more factor on that list. Which means that yes, we surely need to stand against them but more than that we need to turn into a mindful consumer base. We need to develop the sense in one and all that we don’t have to fall prey to every single advertisement we see on any media platform. We need to understand that rather than acting as a cool and open minded individual who admits that he/she desires a fair skin, we need to be open minded enough to be comfortable with our natural skin tone. I had asked the same as a question in the survey that on a scale of 1-5, how would you rate the advertisements of these brands on the basis of the mental impact their content has on their viewers. The reply was –

new

This shows that they are able to leave a huge impact through their content. We should not be this hard hit but rather hardly hit. Don’t accepted everything that is being fed to you. If we are able to feel comfortable with our skin tone then I believe that this industry will collapse.

Long back I came across a clip on YouTube where a debate was being carried out on Barkha Dutt’s show We The People about India’s skin deep prejudice. In that clip, Prahlad Kakkar, a leading ad film director says that there is a very deep rooted bias. He further explains it that if there are two equally attractive girls standing together,  one with fair and one with dark skin tone then  the one with fair skin is the one you would take to your mother and the one with the dark skin is who you would take to a hotel room because  she would provoke a sense of eroticism in you. The video also gave birth to this thought in my mind that we prefer to bring foreign models to walk on our ramps for shows. I believe we should favour Indian models  because these shows can act as an influential medium to convey within our society and to the world too that let’s be proud of who we are and be comfortable in our own skin.

Legal Take  

Another strong way to bring an end to this industry is the legal way. According to the recent regulations by Advertising Standards Council Of India(ASCI), ads should not show dark skinned people as unhappy, depressed, disadvantaged in any way by skin tone and should not associate skin colour with any particular socio-economic class, ethnicity or community. The catch here is that I think  there needs to be an  immediate action against the brands which don’t abide by the regulations so that an example can be set that offence won’t be dealt with lightly.

Bollywood to the rescue

It was recently brought to light that Kangana Ranaut denied a deal worth crores because she does not believe in endorsing these brands. I think that those in the entertainment industry should take in on them too because they stand in a position to bring a change. They too should join the bandwagon because they have the power to influence millions. I had asked the same as a question in the survey that do you think public figures and particularly those in Bollywood should stand against these brands?  The reply was –

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I had asked a question in the survey that what do you think is the reason behind these brands being able to do a good business in our country?  The reply was –

fair

The pictorial representation above brings me to the last and the most important thing – we need to change our definition of beauty. We need to change how we view beauty for I believe there is as much beauty in a black rose as in a white one.

Let not beauty become a concept. Let it vary from person to person because beauty has a “u” in it. You are beautiful only till the time you value the “u” in beautiful. Be you! Be beautiful!