Vox Populi: Where are the women voices?
The role of women in the modern day society is unquestionable. The very idea of progress, development, equality and collective wellbeing is incomplete without women being an equal partner to their male counterparts in all respects. True that woman have come a long way and stepped out from the roles in the households to more critical roles in society, politics and administration. Yet, compared to men, there are very less women opinion writers here in Kashmir- a society that has seen turbulent times and both women and men have suffered equally. In a situation of conflict, one wonders why there is a deep chasm, an eerie silence maintained by women when it comes to sharing their views, opinions and ideas regarding all walks of life! When, everyday, opinion sections of newspapers are loaded with different views regarding socio-political, economic, cultural and other aspects of life, where are the women ‘viewpoints’, ‘opinions’ and ‘ideas’. We hear only the male viewpoints- why?
Kashmir Images reporter, UFAQ FATIMA, spoke to a varied range of people in order to look through the issue. Here are some excerpts:
Assistant Professor, Journalism and Mass Communication.
This is actually true, but it is part of the larger universal phenomenon where there is lesser presence of women in politics or even positions of power or authority. For locating the bias can we frame it reversely like why are men not asked to report on women and children issues mostly, which are considered stereotypical with women? We cannot completely cross out the implicit gender bias and stereotyping somewhere in terms of 'expertise,’ 'networking and socialising opportunities,’ and so on. Probably, women writers may also have internalised it to some degree. Additionally the status quo politics and vulnerable situation here has rendered very little scope for diverse opinions in the state as a whole despite so many women voicing issues of political and other importance time and again at multiple forums. And we can simply ask about how many women are invited columnists in our newspapers? This again can be found out by the statistics with the newspapers, where the possibility of preference given to men writers is more by the page editors when they receive articles on same political issues from both the genders.
Assistant Professor Physics.
Despite development and progress in many fields, women still are struggling hard for an honourable existence and an independent identity. We are yet at the initial stages of empowerment, be it economical, political, social or any other field, the impact of deep rooted patriarchy on our mindsets is so strong that it will take us years together to believe in our own selves. Our mindset itself has become a big hindrance in the path of positive changes. Unless and until, we are not self confident and we don't strengthen our self determination, we cannot be able to express our viewpoint or opinion. Even if a number of women try to articulate their opinions, there are not many takers. The outlook and understanding of women is considered inferior compared to men.
Aamir Ali Bhat
Journalist who reports on human rights abuses, Culture and environment
It is true that newspaper op-ed and editorial pages remain filled mostly with the columns written by male writers each day. Before explaining anything, we should accept this that we live in a conflict zone and women are the victims of both direct and indirect violence. Besides this, the highly patriarchal set-up of our society places a double burden on them. Not only opinion pages, in our valley even front, city pages of publication mostly remain filled with stories done by male journalist. And yes women are the worst sufferers of the conflict so we desperately need more female opinions because they can explain the impact of our unstable political systems on women in Kashmir far better than men.
Assistant professor, International relations.
I think most women are not interested in politics that much and even if they are, I guess they do not feel like publishing their views in the form of articles in newspaper.
The reason why we have less female opinion writers is the result of prevalent social structures and some social taboos. The social engineering which designs women psyche in such a way that they feel alien to opinion making in addition to the male patriarchy which sees women as less reasonable and seem quite skeptic towards opinions expressed by women. Importantly, the mainstream women folk do not consider it their job to be at the frontlines of opinion assertion or at engaging with the issues we face in these spheres. Hence, quite low at confidence in making their point! Also, the educational setup where the individuals, especially women, are engineered hardly impresses upon their engagement with the real social issues.
Muzafar Rasool Bhat
Assistant Professor, Computer Sciences
Given their excessive involvement in the house keeping affairs besides a probable fear of being labeled as "outspoken", a gender specific taboo in our society, very few women writers contribute to the newspapers on issues of politics and economics.
Women here are often judged and ridiculed over social media if they express their opinions. Besides this, political opinions are controversial in nature they might refrain themselves for writing such pieces in fear of landing into any sort of trouble.