March 24, 2013

BHOWMICK: A Woman In a Man’s World

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I was on my way to Baltimore with a friend in an eerie taxi. The cab driver asked us for directions, and because our geography does not really extend beyond Seneca Street in the Commons, we were a little lost.  He instantly shot us a biting retort: “I have had my experience with women and directions. When my wife starts giving me directions, I just ask her to spare me the horror.” My friend and I were enraged and wanted to shoot back a snide remark on masochism in Egypt (he was Egyptian). I am not myopic, and I do understand that all stereotypes do have a basis, but forming prejudices on stereotypical premises is a true mark of an imbecile. I am not an angry feminist or a women’s studies major — I am just someone begging for some basic sensibility in the minds of the men of the world.

I don’t think it is a far-fetched statement when I say that more than half of the problems that plague our world today would disappear if men started treating women with some amount of respect. Moreover, the degree of respect women lobby for is not something that needs to be begged for — treating a woman like a regular human being is not doing anyone a favor. It is not something extraordinary and virtuous to accept the fact that you do not rule the world just because you wear the pants.

This is not a rambling rant because I have run out of things to write about. I have reason enough to be furious ladies and gentlemen — I attended a conference on the Status of Women in New York earlier this month, and on my way to the event, I got cat-called. I didn’t get cat-called in a dingy alley in downtown Manhattan. This happened near the UN headquarters where people are ostensibly civilized. Most ministers and delegates at this conference talked about economic liberation and education as the overarching solution to eliminating gender biases and sexual harassment across the world. However, what then must be the solution to the grotesque sleaziness that women deal with in the educated pockets of the world? Sexual abuse is not something that happens only in Latin American countries, West African nations and the Middle East. It happens every single day in the subways of New York cities. It happens to women who work on Wall Street. It happens at the best schools in the U.S. It happens at Cornell University.

The problem is more than allowing uneducated ruffians to run around loose in the streets of backward nations. It is entrenched in a way of thinking. The fact that we let the way fraternities rank sororities affect our perspectives is disturbing on several levels. It is a draconian world where you cannot be “ugly” because you must conform to the fascist ideals of beauty prescribed by men, and you cannot be “attractive” because that places you in peril when you walk back home from the libraries late at night. This way of thinking is simply absurd and cannot be justified by any stretch of the imagination. There is and cannot be such thing as legitimate rape, and the legislators (who are, incidentally, mostly men) need to comprehend that. As a woman, I do not want affirmative action, legislative sub-quotas or protective curfews. All I am advocating for is for the men of the world to expand the measure of their sensitivity beyond that of a teaspoon. I ask them to see women as more than the subject of male fantasies because they are more than that. We all know that is not too much to ask for and, in fact, no one should have to ask for it in the first place.

Aditi Bhowmick is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. She may be reached at abhowmick@cornellsun.com. Abstruse Musings appears alternate Mondays this semester.

Original Author: Aditi Bhowmick

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