An event full of contradictions
An uneven and tardy playground of a government school, a bunch of male teachers, a female Sarpanch, a young woman as the organiser and thirty young and high spirited girls had gathered for a football match on a windy Wednesday morning. This match was organised by Innovators in Health (locally known as Aahan) as a part of their work in the domain of women empowerment. Yes, it was an all girls’ match being organised by a woman with a woman Sarpanch as a chief Guest. An invitation to such an event was genuinely as intriguing as it sounds, considering the region it was happening in i.e. Bihar, a hub of patriarchs, be it men or women.
“Don’t shove more air in the football; let it be light enough for the girls to be able to play. They will get hurt otherwise!” said one of the male school teachers, one of the first few statements uttered during the day. The misogynistic vibe that was passed on, was a treat to my ears.
I thought to myself, “Of course, what was I even thinking? Did I imagine a situation completely devoid of all the misogyny and sexism women go through on a daily basis? Or the image that the news of such an event that sounded so politically correct and hence powerful, made it difficult for me to look past it? Was it so difficult for some tardy patriarchs to understand that these girls had been playing the game for at least three years and weight of the ball or the amount of air in it would not even be an area of concern for them?” Dejected and disheartened, I moved ahead, to just make sure that I do not forget the purpose of this invitation.
The girls appeared to be a little out of practice. Nevertheless, just the idea of running around for ninety minutes was my take away; I wouldn’t be able to muster the courage to run even for five minutes. The match ended with Aahan’s blue team winning with a goal over the Aahan’s red team. It was followed by a prize distribution ceremony and the prizes were also distributed by women, as was the closing speech given. By now, the air seemed lighter with everything ending on a good note. As the match concluded, everyone began to congratulate the young woman from Aahan who had organised the match.
There came another statement flying at her, “You did a good job even after being a woman!” The voice seemed familiar to my ears. I turned around to find that it was the same man who had talked about keeping the football light, pitying the efforts of a woman.
The reality of unreal contradictions
There were exactly two things that I took away from the game:
- The smiles that drove not just the match but also my zest to be a part of the match
- This was closely linked to an expectation that I had out of the game, of everyone being supportive, specially because it was displaying women power, supposedly, but it appeared completely otherwise
As mentioned previously, this game was more of an misnomer, something that is often done for such politically correct events. But, the bigger question is ‘What makes these men actually feel the way they do?”. As Simone De Beauvoir rightly quoted, “No one is more arrogant towards women, more aggressive or scornful, than the man who is anxious about his virility.” Indeed they are scared of these young, docile women. The arrogance in their tone is a product of the hidden insecurity of not being able to do as well, even after being given all the opportunities. Thus, undermining a woman’s capability by saying demeaning things gives them an immense pleasure and confidence to satiate their own egos.
It is funny to rub off these men on a day to day basis at almost every space in Bihar. Indeed, there are gendered spaces that have been created by men and women in homes, workspaces or in other public spaces. Sometimes, it’s hilarious to see the way people are hell bent to undermine capabilities of a woman and on other days it’s frustrating to let go of even your own self-respect. Nevertheless, all I have concluded in this journey of eight months is that we need to gulp these instances down our gut and probably that’s the only way of survival. I wonder if there are more meanings associated with Darwin’s statement on survival of the fittest!