I watched Lincoln (link), a movie which I have been wanting to watch since long. One particular scene struck me the most. I think the director intended it to be that way to make us digest a true picture of the then American society. I'm referring to a scene where a Congressman is shown to be mocking the proposed 16th amendment abolishing slavery. He explains about the dangerous consequences of the proposed amendment, arguing that it will not end at freeing slaves but enfranchisement of these slaves and blacks and then women suffrage will follow - in that order. The disapproval expressed by the representatives against each of these also increases in that order, with the highest disapproval being expressed at the idea of giving equal rights for women. How telling this scene is of that mindset! That scene summarizes it: slaves first, blacks next and women last. That's the priority. That generation could contemplate freeing slaves, and extend it to giving voting rights for blacks but women empowerment they couldn't bear to hear about. Please do watch the scene - it gives a very poignant picture.
That scene left me trying to evaluate if and by how much we have evolved now. Slavery has been abolished even though other forms of servitude called 'modern slavery' do continue in India (link). But women empowerment has been long overdue and we still need to go a long way in truly understanding the fact that women are human beings to whom human rights such as equality, dignity and freedom apply. Back then, the inalienable rights which Lincoln has talked about (life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness) didn't seem to apply to women as women didn't have equal voting rights in all the states (link). It is so ironic that a country based on strong democratic foundations didn't consider giving voting rights to close to 50% of the population. Coming back to India, we have small mercies which we can thank for but they are not enough. I can't help voicing it out: Why is it so hard for some people (read patriarchs and misogynists) to accept an ideology which is so simple, intuitive and just? How many centuries of decay did we undergo to enable this kind of resistance against basic humanitarian values?
Slavery is a taboo today though 'modern slavery' is prevalent (link). I wonder if and how our future generations are going to judge our generation for its mistreatment of women, the same way we are judging our ancestors for mistreatment of slaves. Shouldn't we learn from history and take up the responsibility to create the change which we know is just and inevitable? Shouldn't we try to live up to the expectations of our next generation and give our daughters the kind of life they aspire for and is rightfully theirs? Will we be able to give our girls better and complete empowerment offering them true choices and controls over their life, beyond gender stereotypes? Is it possible to isolate and struggle for this change only for our children without ourselves embracing the values which that change is going to represent? Aren't we at some level betraying our girl children in their struggle for empowerment if we choose to not stand up for our own rights and yield to patriarchal values in our own lives?
1) An excellent post by Madhu Trehan on how we let this generation down:
2) Blind faith and what history teaches us: