The ban on women working night shifts is a symptom of the poor status of women
Now its the turn of the government to be sexist. The Karnataka state government has banned women in certain industries like the hospitality and entertainment industries to work in night shifts, ostensibly for safety reasons. Instead of providing better policing, gender sensitization to stop eve-teasing and molestation, and asking companies to provide security to women employees, the government has banned night shifts! And strangely it has not banned night shifts for the IT and the medical sector! Its clear that the government is sending out a moral message to women – work in nights shifts only if you are in a ‘decent’ profession. Forget about working in shops or hotels at night, that’s not right. So if that is the case why is the government pretending that they care about the safety of women?
A viewpoint of a man on the street (appeared in the newspaper today) is that the ban was a good thing because all offices should let women go home by around 5 p.m. because otherwise they neglect their homes! This directive of the state government will come as a boon to men like these.
But what about women who are unmarried, who need the money, and those women who simply want freedom to do what they want?
If a particular man wants a woman to be at home, not work on a night shift, not kiss Richard Gere, I am sure he can find one. There are many women who voluntarily choose to be full-time homemakers and mothers and I am not at all looking down on that. I was at home myself for about ten years and lost out a great deal on my career but I don’t regret it one bit. I worked hard at home, and am proud of my kids and my home. My husband never told me to do it. I did it on my own. The freedom to choose is important.
But how is the common man to have a broadminded attitude when playing the moral police has got an official sanction like in this case of the ban?
Which brings me to the Richard Gere and Shilpa Shetty kiss episode. When it blew out of all proportion, most of us dismissed the outcry as a result of the clever manipulation of the non-event by political groups of the general hypocritical prudishness that pervades our society, the publicity seeking behavior of those who had filed the PIL’s and a misguided and an overzealous judiciary. I confess that I too tended to think on these lines.
While all of the above is true, there are other reasons too. And going a bit deeper into it after reading more reactions on blogs and in the media, I have realised that a significant proportion of our population was outraged by this kiss. I found it a little puzzling at first. Then I slapped myself on the forehead. Ofcourse. A vast proportion of our people do not think that women deserve equal treatment with men.
What if a famous woman star like say Angelina Jolie had delivered a kiss on the cheeks of a Bollywood star like John Abraham or Arjun Rampal? She would not have done it so flamboyantly ofcourse, being a woman. Richard Gere has a style of his own, and as he said, he was re-enacting a dance step from one of his films. Now, how would our public have reacted to a kiss by a foreign national who was a woman (Angelina) on the cheek of an Indian man? I doubt that there would have been much outrage. In fact many men might have envied Arjun Rampal or whoever it was that Angelina had deigned to kiss. Just like today there are many girls who would have squealed in delight if Richard Gere had kissed them. We are all human after all so lets shed the hypocrisy and the pretence that women are a different species.
In any case the kiss was so obviously a non sexual act and that too a sequence from his film! I was a little surprised that this many Indians did not know that that kissing people on the cheek is a normal form of greeting in the west and that Gere did not mean to insult Shilpa in any way. Surely after being bombarded with so many Hollywood movies and satellite television we should know that?
And yet there was a comment on a blog post (not my post) which petulantly said that it was fine if Richard Gere kissed Shilpa as long he ‘treated’ his American women the same way! That was so funny! How could Gere’s behaviour be considered as ill treatment? Well, I guess it could be construed as ill treatment if women are not supposed to be so close to men in our society, unless they are with their husbands! And never mind if women want to. They should not want to because after all its women who are to uphold all the values in our society. Illogical because if women are so priviliged as to be upholders of all so-called moral values, then they should be treated with respect, right? But no, that doesn’t happen. A woman who upholds all these values will probably be treated the worst at home as she is likely to be traditional and submissive.
And there was a letter in today’s newspaper saying that the media should stop talking to celebrities and page three people about the kiss (and the ban) and talk to the normal average Joe. The average Indian man according to the writer of the letter, was offended by the kiss. I do wish what the letter writer said is not true, but I don’t know. Its probably true.
Update May 07: The Karnataka government has seen some sense because of widespread protests by womens’ groups. They are not going to ban night shifts.