Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Visibly Invisible

Recently, I read an article about how white people negate the existence of blacks in the western world. In the story, there was a scuffle between a white and a black boy. The scuffle took place after the white boy pushed the black boy while walking in a subway. Although the white boy said "sorry," the black boy was not ready to forgive him, as he believed that the pushing was deliberate. The white guy remarked that the black boy was "invisible" to him. The writer ended the story with a comment, "Blacks are always invisible to the Whites" (No offence, please. The writer had himself used the term"black").

The writer's punch upon the word 'invisible' gripped my whole attention. I was really spellbound by the depth of meaning that was contained within a single word. I tried to relate my situation to that of the coloured boy. I found plenty of similarities between the situation of the coloured people and the females in our society, who have remained invisible since ages.

Some days back, there was a teachers' meeting in our college. The opening speech of the principal was something like, "All sirs should be aware of why we are gathered here today..." I was not happy with the address "sirs." I honestly felt that he was undermining the presence of the female staff who also had willingly sacrificed their beautiful Saturday morning to attend the meeting. Not finding me very much comfortable with his speech, the principal tried to correct himself, "I'm using the term sirs as a common term for both male and female teachers..." At this point, it was impossible to digest his bullshit. So, I retorted back, "Excuse me, but I don't agree with you, sir. It is rather teacher and not sir that is a common word." However, he, being a man molded in deep-rooted convictions did not seem to be convinced at all. How dared I question his belief system! Throughout the meeting he continued to use the same expression "sirs" to collectively address the teachers.

The truth is not only our principal but a good many male staff use what they call a 'common expression' for both males and females. Very often, a male teacher enters the staff room and greets, "Sabai sir harulai namaskar chha hai," (Greetings to all sirs). For them, the female teachers are completely invisible. In contrast, a female teacher never greets her male colleagues in this manner. Instead, she is careful enough to distinguish 'sirs' from 'madams' in her greeting.

It is true that the number of women is less than that of men in every sector, such as education, politics, law, medicine and so on. This could be one of the reasons why women go unnoticed and their voice is unheard. Our cultural malpractice that considers women inferior to men could be another reason for such gender discrimination. If these practices continue, the male folk would feel hard to accept the equal existence of females, even at the workplace.

(Published in an English Daily The Kathmandu Post on Wednesday, June 15, 2005)

Letter to the Editor (17 June): 
Invisible artists: 
Thanks to the article titled 'Visibly Invisible' (June 15) that reveals how women are discriminated in the workplace by the educated 'sirs,' the male workers. Women are discriminated against not only at workplaces, but also in every sector of Nepali society. For instance, the 10th Five Year Plan of the government has accepted a mere 8% participation of women in civil service, 10% in land ownership, 5% in house ownership and a whooping 60% in agricultural production.

Don't these figures reflect the precarious situation of females in our society? On top of this, women have always been devoid of active participation in society. They are victims of violence and discrimination at all levels ranging from family to state.

Strong patriarchal values, gender-specific roles and religious superstition have reinforced stereotypes about women's role in our society. Women are victims of the most heinous crimes including polygamy, domestic violence, rape, child marriage, witch-hunting, trafficking of women etc.

It seems to me that the discrimination against women at the workplace is just a tip of the iceberg. The country needs more women activists and writers like Byanjana Sharma so that woman could also have an equal place in our society.

Kedar P Badu
Gongabu, Kathmandu

[The pictures on this blog are posted here with permission from their owners or have been gathered from various sources on the Internet. If you are the copyright-holder to any of the photographs herein do not hesitate to contact me. They will be swiftly removed if desired so.]

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I would appreciate any and all suggestions on making improvements (as long as they are viable).