All ladies to look pretty..

All ladies to look pretty were the words inscribed on the bottom of an invitation to dinner next to the usual 'dress code'. Needless to say it made me see red. The invite in question was from highly respectable, well educated etc people. To many it may seem innocuous. To others a tad cheeky. For me it was yet another sad reflection of gender insensitivity. Women are meant to look pretty. Full stop. Never mind their intelligence, ability, skills. Eye candy, that is all that is important. I was livid. That such words should come from educated people made matters worse. What is the point on harping over gender issues if people do not walk the talk. Some may argue that I should have taken the words at face value: someone trying to be trendy. True I could have, but somehow they disturbed me deeply as they were directed at me. Gender bias had entered my home.

My mind went on overdrive. How could anyone write such a thing? In spite of women having conquered every field imaginable with success, what mattered was whether they were pretty or not. And what does pretty mean: well dressed, well groomed, well proportioned? I do not know and do not care because my canons of beauty are quite different. But I am digressing. Let us come back to the main issue: gender insensitivity.

Gender bias is rampant in our society; why else would we mourn the birth of a daughter and celebrate that of a son. I can never forget how the film Matrubhoomi was shunned by one and all and what disturbing questions it raised. When I did manage to see it I felt physically sick just as I had after viewing Leaving Las Vegas. You and I may not realise it but being a girl is a curse in large parts of our society. A girl is unwanted in the very land she is worshiped in. We even fall so low as to kill her in the womb if we can. Statistics are proof of this. And if she is allowed to live, she is never made to forget that she is only a girl. We see this every day in our work. Girls are not fed the same as their male siblings, their schools fees are not paid, they are never send for tuition and as soon as they are old enough, their childhood is hijacked and they become mother's little helpers. When they grow they are married to someone and their role widened: cook, clean but also produce children and preferably a boy. I still cannot understand why family planning programmes do not include awareness on gender determination which is the sole prerogative of the man. How many women are abused for not giving birth to a son! It is time the equations were set right but how is the question. We are trying to do this every day but it is not easy task as we need to deal with deeply seated mindsets.

One would have thought that things were different across the fence. But the words on the invite proved me wrong. In high society too women have their role defined: in the present occurrence to be pretty. True money has freed us from the cooking and cleaning roles. In lieu we have been given a new avatar that of looking good. How many girls suffer for not meeting the standards. The growth of the slimming industry is proof of that. The new credo is cosmetic surgery and Botox mornings that have surreptitiously replaced the Tupperware ones. The look pretty industry is on the rise.

I am not one of the burn the bra brigade. I like my femininity and am proud of it. To be a woman is a wonderful journey I would never trade. Yet I am a person first with hear and brains and would like to be respected for that. I guess I speak for many.