Monday, January 14, 2008

Womanhood, circa 2008, a.k.a. kis namaakool ne kaha hai ke kudiyo.n ka hai zamana?

According to the 2001 census, the population of India was 1,028,737,436 - more than a billion, of which 496,514,346 was female.

I (and all the other women I know) am a literate Indian woman, which means I am in the top half segment of the female population of this country - 53.7% female literacy according to the 2001 census.

In fact, I (and all the other women I know) am more than literate. Over 50% of girl students drop out after the fifth or eighth standard. Only 28,028,205 girls make it to the secondary exam level. Which brings me to the top... (help, if somebody can do a more precise job of calculating), roughly, 5.6%? Have I got it right?

Now, according to a story in India Today, "In 1950, there were 14 women pursuing higher studies per 100 males in India. The ratio is now 68:100 (Report of Consultative Committee of Parliament, 2006)." So, the ratio is definitely getting better, although the actual number of women who go on to become graduates is only 12,136,839.

If you add to this the figures for technical and non-technical education which does not amount to a degree (the total sum of which is less than a million), it can be rounded off to about 13 million.

Since I do have a degree, that would place me roughly in the top 2.6% of the women.

And since I (and many of my friends) also have some sort of post-graduate education, whether or not it amounts to a degree, and since many of us have computers and net access and a job, you could safely assume that we must be in the top one percent bracket of the women in India; possibly even the top half-percent.


Of the girls I went to college with, we've recently heard that at least two marriages fell apart because of dowry demands. Harassment, physical abuse, the whole shebang.

One of my batch-mates (she has an MBA degree) has recently filed for divorce after her husband broke one of her bones. And it wasn't the first time he'd hit her.

One particularly nasty episode a batch-mate told me about: one of our batch-mates had been in the process of putting her clothes on when her mother-in-law yelled for tea to be served to some visitors. A little delay, and the girl was dragged out of the bedroom and forced to serve tea to a bunch of strangers in that state of undress.

This is us. The top one percent.

In all these cases, it was only after a few years of staying put and wondering what to do and where to go, that these women finally left the marital house. All of us are in our twenties.


Now, let us go back to this story, where it says:

"You grow up being told that you can be anything, do anything. You get a good degree and get yourself into your chosen career. By your mid-20s, you are on a six-figure salary, forging a path in a male-dominated world. You own your own flat, you look great, you feel great, you sleep with men—experimenting physically and emotionally—before finding the right one.

You hit 30. By 35— because you can't spare the time now— you'll decide that you want babies. You'll move to your downtown apartment, be a fabulous mother while running a couple of successful businesses. Oh, and you'll write a novel. An autobiography.

Whether it happens to you or not, the truth— that you are free to live your life this way—is telling."

I couldn't help wondering - who is this 'you' that the story talks about. The Indian woman? The top one percent of women in India?

Like they say, nice story; tell me another.

Update: Have corrected some of the calculations in this post. And it does seem that piece was never written for Indian women in the first place. Look in the comments section for details.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

Since you ask so explicitly - your percentages are off by a factor of two. The secondary school exam puts you in the top 5.6% of women, while the degree places you in the top 2.4%. There are only 500 million women, not one billion in our country.

Ravi

Sneha said...

I didn't really go through the math. I am just assuming your math is correct.

I wonder though, if there is any significant correlation between formal education and a living a dignified life, specifically in women. Does higher education imply a better life? It probably makes you formally aware of your rights as a human being, as a woman, but does higher education make one exercise those rights more often? I have found my role models in my household helper, who takes drastic (drastic as I see them) decisions effortlessly to guard her self respect.

xanadu said...

Contradiction (probably typo):

1. The ratio is definitely getting better, but even so, the actual number of women who go on to become graduates are 12,136,839.

AND

2. ... but the total sum is less than a million.

??

Both can't be true (12,136,839 is approx. 12 million)

Any online source for all this info? Was unable to access http://www.censusindia.gov.in/

Also if your aim is to highlight that women in particular are not getting enough educational opportunities compared to men, you could substantiate it by providing same data for men (or equivalently same date irrespective of gender).

RU said...

God bless you for writing this. I love the title! Many educated working woman I know ...still bear an abusive/non functional marriage...

Anonymous said...

The India Today's article's introduction reads eerily similar to another one by Louise Carpenter in the Observer (March 11, 2007). I reproduce it here (Strangely enough I read the original only today, so that's why I remembered it):
*****

Imagine this: as a young girl, you grow up being told by your parents and teachers that you can do anything, be anything. You are the best. You go to university, get a good degree, lay down the foundations for your chosen career, leave, get yourself into your chosen career. You've got a decade of indulgence ahead of you. By your mid-twenties, you're on a six-figure salary forging a path in a previously male-dominated world.

You own your own flat, a Mulberry handbag and a Marc Jacobs frock. You look great, you feel great, you sleep with around 40 men, experimenting physically and emotionally, before finally finding the right one (who happens to have been there all along), a man who knows exactly who he is, is talented and creative and who supports you in all your life decisions. You hit 30. You've got it taped. In the next five years, you'll decide you want six babies, but because you can't spare the time, you'll go down to the IVF clinic and ask for a multiple birth. That will be a success, too, and by the age of 35 you'll have your apple-cheeked brood. You'll move to the country, be a fabulous mother while running a couple of successful businesses. Oh, and you'll write a novel.

(Carpenter, Louise (2007), "We've never Had It So Good), The Observer, 11 Mar, Women, pg. 36.

*****************
And the beginning of the article by Damayanti Datta reads:

You grow up being told that you can be anything, do anything. You get a good degree and get yourself into your chosen career. By your mid-20s, you are on a six-figure salary, forging a path in a male-dominated world. You own your own flat, you look great, you feel great, you sleep with men—experimenting physically and emotionally—before finding the right one.

You hit 30. By 35— because you can’t spare the time now— you’ll decide that you want babies. You’ll move to your downtown apartment, be a fabulous mother while running a couple of successful businesses. Oh, and you’ll write a novel. An autobiography.

Datta, Damayanti (2007), "Sex and the City," India Today, Dec 20.

*************


n!

dipali said...

Kya khwaab hai, kya haqeeqat hai, kahaani toh khushnuma hai!

Annie said...

ravi: you're right. my calculations are wrong, since I based them on the total population figure instead of the women's only. will correct.

sneha: there is supposed to be a connection between education and jobs and women's empowerment. but i'm not sure it can happen unless social/moral norms change first, or at least, simultaneously.

xanadu: that one million figure was meant for the non-degree technical education estimate, but clearly, the way I've put it is confusing. will change the sentence too. and no, i was not making the point that women's education is suffering. the point of the post was that even those who are educated and hover at the top of the economic chain, are nowhere near the sort of liberation described in the article.

ru: sigh! pity, yes.

anonymous n!: ah! AH-HA! now, I see why it is so completely off the mark. it wasn't written for 'us' originally.

dipali: haan, kahaani hi sahi. like ghalib said, dil ko khush rakhne ko ye khayaal achha hai.

threedrinksahead said...

Hi!
Erm...not a comment on your post...just a Blog Meet alert:
http://threedrinksahead.wordpress.com/2008/01/15/calling-all-bloggers-in-delhi/
Hope you'll come. :)

bluespriite said...

Fantastic!! and who cares for statistics.. it never affects any one even if they hear actual numbers.
Yes let's wait for the next story.

xanadu said...

Thanks for clarification regarding your aim though its still looks in contradiction with

'I couldn't help wondering - who is this 'you'. Who is this 'us'? The top half percent?'

If you are emphasizing that 'half-percent' is a small number (and it is), then it is a result of lack of educational opportunities (almost by definition) which is a gross discrimination. The fact that some of the educated women also face harassment is a non-issue in comparison.

As far as that article goes, if you wonder that women haven't achieved that kind of liberation, that's like saying that 'female squirrels have only two eyes'. That article is blatantly dramatized.

Rachna said...

Annie- been a reader and fan for a long time! Just to say here that I fervently (and unfortunately) believe you are right!
I am doing my PhD in the US (so that probably puts me in the minutest of percentages of Indian girls)- was asked for dowry and etc etc by my in-laws.
Being educated doesn't change anything- one is still an INDIAN, and a woman- so dowry will be asked for. A woman is a woman is a woman- no matter what level of professional success she reaches.

Its silly to even expect different in India- and that makes me very very sad...

Nisha said...

Annie,
love your blog. For a take on womanhood (or really motherhood) in the USA read:
"Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety: by Judith Warner. What we grow up believing in has no bearing to what we get to do in our lives, no matter where we live.

Anonymous said...

Difference are there 'coz they were introduced by the nature, so no one should blame male society for that.

Male dominance is present not only in India but all over the globe and it can only be corrected by the change in the thinking of whole society (both male and female).
One should respect other then only can there be peace.

Zyborg said...

this is undoubtedly the reality, but why is it so? Why do women who are supposed to be educated, not liberated? what are they waiting for?

IVF Clinic India said...

Great Post.....

I found your site on stumbleupon and read a few of your other posts. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed to my Google News Reader. Looking forward to reading more from you down the road!

Thanks for sharing....

An Insider said...

This Damayanti Datta is shameless. She thinks it's her birthright to plagiarise (she does it all the time in her workplace also). And she does not even have the balls to admit it, leave alone apologise for it!!!

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