Women and men are treated not as biological groups, who naturally embody feminine and/or masculine traits, but rather as groups created culturally and bound socially. It is this cultural construction that limits for women the socially permissible range of expression and also conditions the nature of her response to experiences. The oppression that results from unequal gender practices is inscribed on both the minds and bodies of women.
Gender, then, is a complex phenomenon not amenable to simple analysis. It is socially defined in a variety of ways, though cultural practices, symbolic representations, legal frameworks and prescriptive work divisions. Gender oppression occurs in a plurality of sites – the home, the workplace and educational institutions, and yet gender relations never work alone, but are interwoven with the other prevailing hierarchies of the society.
The interpretation of gender has been male centric. Culture, religion, education and history have been interpreted by men. Man is the norm, the rule; women is a derivation and as such is included in man. Men are granted the power to define, interpret, judge and represent the world on their own terms, while women are to be defined, interpreted, judged and represented by men.
Most of the religions consider women morally and physically a lesser being. Almost all religious texts have given a subordinate and subservient position to women glorifying the qualities of motherhood, purity and worship Goddesses as well. Although there are variations on the basis of class and caste when it comes to the process of socialization from birth – gendered notions about roles are ingrained right from infancy.
Right from associations with colour, toys, habits, roles, gender specific ideas are reinforced in every possible way. Due to the cultural preference in India, girls are denied food, education and the right to play considering it a natural aspect of life. This leads to an acceptance of
heinous discrimination towards women in all spheres of life.
The social conditioning is so pervasive that none of this discrimination is questioned or challenged and if challenged with little or some courage, punishment or otherwise consequences are almost inevitable. The education system reinforces this, gender stereotyping texts emphasizing specific roles for boys and girls. Eg. mother is in the kitchen, father is in the office. Fears about differences are instilled right from childhood. Girls are trained to be inhibited and boys to be extroverts. Family members, teachers and other service providers become the flag bearers of this concept.
Western popular literature, fairy tales, stereotype the male and female characters, portraying the Prince as the main protagonist having qualities of bravery, valour and protective behavior and the female character as the Damsel in Distress and the end of such misery by being rescued by such strong male character. The qualities emphasized for women are her beauty, her goodness, ability to handle domestic work efficiently for a happy marriage. History is a narrative which includes culture, religion and all other processes placing itself as both cause and effect of these processes.
Within the nationalist historical tradition there is a reluctance to view women outside the feminine context. There is constant focus on women as daughters, wives, mothers and a disregard, neglect to their other roles.
The strong wish for a male child lessened the women survival strength/rate. The non providing of nutritious food, security and education also affected the survival of women miserably. At homes, the service of a woman at every age availed very cheaply without acknowledging her contribution or existence.
At every possible sphere, she is pushed back by hook or crook, though there are some born fighters who could push themselves forward surviving all odds places ahead of them. The women whenever undertake a responsibility, many of them succeed and many of them have set examples in the ancient days as well as of modern days. Examples are so many so as not to remain ignored anymore in the society.
It is just an opportunity that makes a man or a woman prove himself or herself. The deprival of any human being of either sex from the basics like food, education and fundamental rights shall stop the growth of the affected individual as well as the society at large. If a daughter grows at home with a protected right to equal treatment in every sphere, she can become an efficient mother for the would be citizen and can pass on the message of humanity, equal treatment, sense of respect for law.
An aggrieved person with no channel to vent herself out may grumble inside with no expression of pain on the outer surface but nevertheless, it stands as a hindrance for the progress of a nation. Therefore, a home, a religion and a nation that recognizes the dignified existence of a human being including women as individuals, can present a better society full of happiness, peace and growth.