Dr Quleen Kaur Bijral
“If insults, cruelty, and violence happened to me, why should I make it easier for you?”
“Aurat hi Aurat ka…” Pathetic it is, to hear this platitude echo at home, at work and almost any place where one woman is up in arms against the other.
Is it the truth?
In day-to-day ventures, it has been my personal surveillance to check if there is truly a lack of sisterhood in the community of women. Enriching, compelling and insightful it has been to notice how a woman at the top treats a woman under her in hierarchy. The sentiments female friends have for one another – are they genuine, transitory or can they stand the test of mutual rivalries. The very element of unity, is it present among the female employees, female students, female workers, female family members and so on. Men fight wars and street fights, and are responsible for almost every form of violence infecting this world, true. One commendable attribute that men share is taking a united stand. Barring exceptions, majority of men folk can be observed articulating such brotherhood which is indeed laudable.
Strictly speaking, this article is neither entertaining stereotypes nor making sweeping statements but an analysis into why some women are apprehensive, timid, aloof and rather averse to amicably working together with other women while men on the contrary fare well in this domain of brotherhood.
The substantial evidence of this state of affairs can be sought from diverse institutions be it universities, offices, home and so on.
Mean Hostel girls, fact or fiction?
In reviewing the common stance of girl hostels, one can observe cliquish groupism which is, of course, perceptible in boy hostels as well. What is perplexing that the very group itself is fragmented, disunited and not an organic whole. It is fraught with hidden scorn, rivalry, loathing and a superficial level of unity which begs the question – why this jealous dislike even for those of the same group?
The air of jealousy floats where one girl is envious of other girl’s hair, dress, talent, boyfriend, and so on. One can, in fact, sense a miasma that keeps the bonding among girls susceptible to trifling fights, petty rivalries, foolish trivialities due to which the scope of sisterhood is slammed out of the door.
In comparison, the unity in the boys’ hostel is an epitome of brotherhood. If caught by the warden, no one rats out the other no matter a close friend or a stranger. The unity is swift when faced with issues that concern raising a united voice for improving food quality, laundry, and any other hostel issues. Whereas, in girls’ hostel, the custom is – the one who speaks for the girls is sent with a promise that the rest would join in but in fact she is sent as a sacrificial goat who no one supports in unison. Naturally then, even the most committed girls feel defeated and think twice to crusade for the rights of the fellow girls.
To add more, the female wardens and caretakers who are meant to supervise the hostel can be observed to be intentionally or vindictively more vicious than the job requirement. Unnecessarily restricting movement, imposing dress code, spewing highly impertinent commands and foul language, taking out their ire at docile girls in an exemplary case of power abuse.
These and other aspects suggest the deplorable lack of sisterhood among girls.
KNOWING WHY- Authorities are afraid of boys so they surrender to their demands. But for the girls, their compliance or sensitive position in the society is taken advantage of due to which stricter laws are imposed in lieu of any opposition. There is always the fear of punishment, shame, stigma, backlash which boys can endure and even confront but for the girls, it immediately becomes a matter of their character. This breaks any platform of sisterhood and deters any scope of unity among the girls who then vent out their anger by bickering amongst each other.
The Office Queen Bee
In the office, working under a woman boss is strangely equivalent to a master-slave relationship especially if the employee is a female. If the female employee is brilliant, then she is further victimised, undermined, scoffed at while her works and services are blatantly plagiarised.
The same-old dumping of long-hour duties, scornful demeanour, and subjecting the employees to degrading services which are not at all in the job description and so on. All is done to suppress the worker as the boss feels insecure due to her inadequacy fearing she might be overshadowed. Certainly, this callous relationship is true even for male bosses be it cases of sexual abuse or politics of domination.
KNOWING WHY – It, but, appears more shocking in case of a woman boss as a woman exploiting another woman is apparently seen contrary to her womanly attributes of compassion, empathy and so on. To appraise this situation, it can be safely said, a boss is boss – his/her being a tyrant has little to do with their sex. With the growth of their tenure, their self-righteousness is cemented with insolence be it a female or a male boss.
In case of a woman boss, the brazenness is augmented as she is in a constant need to prove she deserves to be the boss, should remain the incumbent boss and so she hides her shortfalls by deriding her inferiors especially the fellow females.
The Family Saga
At home, a strictly patriarchal home, one would hope the mother-in-law after bearing the brunt of radical orthodoxy would support the daughter-in-law against the vicious diktats of the male members. But such is not the case. She becomes even more viciously instrumental to campaign for patriarchy.
Donning the role of a mouthpiece, she crusades for its draconian dogma by pleasing the male members and flaying the women left and right. Perhaps to vent out her grief-filled hate of being served the same poison before. The cycle of violence then certainly continues over generations until one woman says enough is enough.
Conversely, the daughters-in law who fortunately find good homes, are but determined to wreck the peace out of the house.
How is then sisterhood going to prevail?
Knowing Why- The justification which one woman up in hierarchy takes to justify her cruelty is – “If it happened to me, why should I make it easier for you.” Evidently then, the cynicism which binds to the woman under suppression infects her empathy so much that violence against other women does not make her support the victim.
Women Against Women?
Is it a myth? An urban legend? Or is it merely a human eccentricity?
A woman boss would never plead guilty. A mother-in-law would not confess. Girls as friends with each other wouldn’t even know why this aversion exists.
Is it a trust issue? Or inferiority complex that makes women insecure seeing fellow women rise in their stations? Or women against women seems shocking, like stated before, as it goes against the apparently feminine attributes of compassion, empathy, kindness and generosity of character that women are supposed to have. Could it be or could all these reasons serve as palpable factors abetting women to exploit other women most fiercely.
Conclusively or not, we need to realize women can be as nasty as men even to their own fellow sexes. So it is futile to exclaim – how a woman who is an embodiment of empathy do this to her fellow sex! Yes she can as crime sees no gender or religion or creed, right.
Nevertheless, when it comes to the urgency of sisterhood, it is seriously a gaping hole. We need to actively seek answers to this sorry shortcoming among us. First we honestly need to realize it exists. Living in denial over it exacerbates the issue even further. Secondly, to find collective ways to address it. Finally to reconnect with our humanity and nurture sisterhood. If not as women, at least as humans.
Dr Quleen Kaur Bijral