Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Indian Women and Political Awareness – Do They Ever Meet?

During last Thanksgiving, we went to an American family’s house. My wife and I were the only Asian guests in that house and others (about twenty) were all Americans. On the course of the dinner we had a lot of good discussion about a lot of things. Prominent among them were the war in Iraq, possibility of an American recession, the chances Hillary Clinton had in the presidential election, happenings in Africa especially in Darfur, fighting in Sri Lanka, India Pakistan relationship, issues in Middle East. We covered almost the entire world in those four hours. The most important aspect of this discussion was that most of the discussions were initiated by women especially those concerning America. They were so much interested to talk/debate about the daily politics of their country.

This is not the first time I am having some kind of political discussion with American women. Since a teenager I have always liked to be part of any political discussion and I had umpteen numbers of them with my friends/colleagues while in India. But none of the discussions/debates involved a girl. They were just not interested. But things were much different with Americans. If I am having a political discussion with Americans majority of the time women are also involved.

I am not telling that all American women are politically conscious and all Indian women are not. If you take 10 Americans (five females and five males), two men and two women may not even know who the current US president is. Another one man and one woman may not care about politics of his/her nation (like Indian women). The other two men and women will be have high knowledge of politics/governance happening in this country and are willing to debate on any issue that affect them.

If we take 5 Indian men and women each, at least 2 men will be politically conscious but I am sure 4 of the women will never take any interest in understanding the various political issues around them. They hate talking about politics. I never had an opportunity to have a meaningful discussion with an Indian woman about politics.

If talking to an Indian woman, bring the topic of politics and expect the following: “I just hate politics”; “Politics is bad”; “I have more important stuff in life than understanding politics”; the list goes on.

This scenario is diametrically opposite if the discussion is about the latest soap opera, latest Bollywood masala or about the latest fashion – their face virtually lights up! Talk to them about inflation or upcoming Karnataka election or latest Union Budget or global price rise of food grains – they will give you the most weird look as if you are talking to them in a very different language. I don’t think they understand the fact that a Bollywood movie or latest soap opera can give them happiness for a very short time while most of the political decisions made by our elected representatives may have effects on the generations to come. So I believe it is necessary from the part of every responsible citizen to understand the politics of ones country.

When Narasimha Rao and Dr Manmohan Singh brought in economic reforms I couldn’t understand anything about it. Talking/reading about it helps me to understand the vast opportunities available as a result of the opening of the Indian economy. With the help of the hundreds of discussions I had, I could understand how the stock/share market works and how to invest in that. Knowing what the government does, makes me to appreciate the good things done by the government and criticize the wrong doings of the government, that will help me to make a better choice the next time I go to vote.


Why do Indian women think that politics is for politicians and they have nothing to do with it?

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34 Comments:

Blogger bkrish said...

HAHAHAHA...I was telling one of my friends(Indian girl) to read your blog. Before even asking what the topic is about, she says "His blog is full of politics, and I hate politics".

April 30, 2008 1:42 AM  
Blogger Dr Brijesh Nair said...

bkrish,
That was a nice one.

April 30, 2008 2:34 AM  
Blogger Anju said...

Brijesh,

Would you not think that this would depend on the cross section of "Indian Women" you are associated with? A generalisation based on your circle does not seem to be accurate in my opinion.

Cheers,
Anjana

April 30, 2008 3:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good thought.
The reason for this situation in my opinion is that Indians in general loose interest if they dont have any opportunity to get ahead. eventhough India has so many women political leaders they came to politics with strong family background(indira, sonia, rabri, jayalalitha etc).

It is highly impossible for indian women to enter politics and compete with all gundas out there unless they have similar background by being a daughter or wife of a politician.

Having said that i recently read an article/survey that says indian men can be subdued easily by powerful women(imagine jayalalitha or mayavathi). How many of you really think that the ministers who touches jayalalitha's feet all the time touch their mother's feet atleast once in their lifetime? my answer is never(may be once during their marriage).

so Indian women should take cue from this reality and actively participate in Indian politics without fear. Atleast that is the wish of the people like Nair and me.

April 30, 2008 4:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Would you recommend reservation for ladies in politics?

April 30, 2008 5:38 AM  
Blogger Dr Brijesh Nair said...

Anjana,
Four years in engineering college in Kerala, another 4 years of work in Chennai, 6 years of study in US I have interacted with a cross section of Indian women from different part of India. I can definitely tell that it represents a good sample set.

Anon @ 8:04 PM
I am not advocating that more and more women should join politics. I am just talking about awareness of how we are governed.

Anon @ 9.38 PM
Again I am not advocating that women should join politics. Reservation is good but it is not going to change the outlook of majority of women.

April 30, 2008 7:38 AM  
Blogger GiveIndia said...

Good blog and a balanced point of view. Since you seem to want to eradicate some of the negative practices in the world, you may like to read about GiveIndia.org and how we are trying to end poverty in a VERY transparent and efficient manner.

Please do take a look at our blog http://blog.giveindia.org

April 30, 2008 10:40 AM  
Blogger Praveen said...

Brijesh,

Hurray... At last a blog from you that I totally agree with!!!

Even the women in so-called most politically aware state like Kerala are just addicted to soap operas(Kanneer serial is the apt word:-))

April 30, 2008 11:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes they do meet!
The cross-section of people you have met must've given you an impression like that!
And I must say though in the beginning I was like," What a biased post" later on I had second thoughts about it... something like reality bites!
I am totally confused as to whether to agree or disagree with you.
If I choose to blow my own trumpet, I'd say there are girls like me who are interested in politics.
But, when I compare with the company of girls around me I do agree most of them are ignorant.
Many a times, I've been disgruntled by the fact that conversations with them are so unproductive.
I feel its not about why Indian women think politics is only for politicians and they have nothing to do with it.
It is a sheer matter of interest be it man or woman.

April 30, 2008 12:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

here is yet another for u to delete..

Guess you never understood the fun part of the probability game OR its explanation.. OR you were worried that people who read your blog wouldn't understand probability.. But we will have to keep playing the game of posting and deleting for a while.. :D. And the chances that this post will also be deleted is 1.. But we keep trying... :D.. Thanks to the many years of graduate school in the US... :D

April 30, 2008 3:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

too many men in kerala sit around discussing politics! and do nothing!
..which is waste of their time and others! women are more bizee with the daily that they have to do..were as most men in kerala/ india think its the womens prerogative to do household chores....which shows the undeveloped male psyche! specially in kerala!
as some one said its a probability!..which can be skewed any way u want!..rather ur point is based on very weak data!

April 30, 2008 5:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi...
well i would like to may be add on or in a way give a reason for women being uninterested in politics..i truly beleive that it has a lot to do with the way women have been treated in india over centuries..women were and r still being sidelined..coming from a conservative indian family i can assure you that expression of political views of women is not exactly encouraged.even if they try to add on to a conversation they r made to keep quiet by the elders and other male members of the family who beleive it bad to be talking when men do.
When some women actually get an opportunity to discuss..men with the inherent feeling that women are uninterested fail to pay enough heed to them....
when one is brought up with glaring gender bias..the boy being asked to be masculine and women being asked to confine themselves to beauty regimes...things like wat u suggested could happen..in fact that is exactly what has been happening...

April 30, 2008 6:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh yeaa indian males and ego!
whoa!..
i doubt if theyll ever let women open their mouth!...

i can reasonably say ur theory is wrong now!

April 30, 2008 7:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Finally some women speaking out.. The finger pointing and "its not our fault" attitude; blaming male ego and the society in general, all looks too familar.. :D.

Even these women who have access to technology, are educated and who are not oppressed or confined (I believe and I hope thats the case) doesn't seem to come out and say "lets talk politics", "lets debate". If these ladies don't show that enthusiasm then who else would.

I believe anyone can now see the problem addressed in the post.:D

April 30, 2008 9:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
nobody is finger pointing or blaming anyone..
its our traditional way of doing things..which has caused this!...[who cares if women talk politics or not] issue!

VJ

April 30, 2008 10:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The only way to know if someone is aware/concerned about something is if they share their views (irrespective of gender). I assume that Brijesh has sited Politics as just an example.

One can decide (1) To continue the "traditional way of doing things"-- which as VJ implies is "not speak out" OR being passively involved (2) be actively involved which appears to be more like what Brijesh implies.

Active involvement as we all know is the fast track option for change!!! And the people (section of women) who can do that are the educated, living in liberal societies and not tightly confined by traditional family outlook)

April 30, 2008 11:05 PM  
Blogger Vijay Ramamurthi said...

^^^^^^^^^^^
you almost got me there!

One can decide (1) To continue the "traditional way of doing things"-- which as VJ implies is "not speak out" OR being passively involve

I didnt imply any thing like that...
VJ implies --> "men not letting women speak out.."

as to ur fast track method! good luck with that !

April 30, 2008 11:19 PM  
Blogger Anju said...

Brijsh - Looks like u have stirred the pot a lot :)

I still don't agree with you! Mind you, it is not based on the number of years or the different places you have been to, but rather the number of people you have interacted with :) Anyhow I'll leave it there as everyone has a right to their own opinion! :)

Cheers.

April 30, 2008 11:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Knowing that one has fever doesn't help unless he decides to take the medicines to control it. Knowing that there is a problem and acknowledging it is only the first step.

All I am saying is that one doesn't have to wait to be the last person in the society to adopt changes.. And its always easy to detach himself from the issues and blame the society for all the ailments. Thats what most people do..

Thats where active involvement comes in. Its just a matter of stepping up and chosing when to be be controlled.

April 30, 2008 11:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey dere...
its not jus abt women complainin abt male ego..its also abt man s high underestimation of women s intellect...its sad dat men once educated decides to blatantly ignore reasons like family tradition n culture 4 women being subjugated..coz they like to run away from d root cause of d problem...
one of u had given statistics comparin american women n indian women..with that itself one can understand that u r choosin an escapist s way out..u r comparin a developed country like USA with one like India ver quarter of the population is still under poverty..gender bias is glarin..female foeticide is at its worst n female illiteracy is staggerin!
even ven u r educated it takes a lot of courage 4 a woman to come up n speak unlike men who r always encouraged to...especially ven talkin abt sensitive matters like politics..
in fact in india..even today dere r families ver d male members decide which party to vote for n d whole family has to follow it...believe it or not..d women end up obeyin men even ven its clear dat votin is done in utmost secrecy!!!!

May 01, 2008 7:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Theres is a better way to look at this..

May be women are intelligent that they prefer not to waste time with the Indian Politics, and thus refrain from knowing/learning what crap goes on. Usually its crap.

May 01, 2008 7:22 PM  
Blogger silverine said...

If you were to ask me, I would say the same thing i.e I am not interested in politics, but that is because it seems to be dominated by men only! I have seen Indian men getting irritated when women talk politics! I guess in the old days, politics was a mens only domain! How many ruling Queens did we have in Indian history compared to Kings? This conditioning I think is the reason women shun politics as mens domain! Whether politics or industry, the attitude of most men towards womens participation is not encouraging. This might one of the causes I think! My two cents!

May 02, 2008 4:21 AM  
Anonymous rathi said...

Brijesh,
Firstly in india it is only tabooed thinking that only men or women from families with political backround join politics, which stops the average woman to think politics.secondly intelligent and educated women are busy in pursuing their careers along with their domestic demands.thirdly they are discouraged by the scandals and mudslinging of the majority of politicians . As you say, if it is policies only and clean politics ,every person would certainly like to participate in this field also.
rathi

May 02, 2008 3:22 PM  
Anonymous Vidya said...

Such generalizations are endless.There are some women who feel that the Indian Male's conversation
centers around : Bollywood Cinema, Cricket and Politics. And then again Politics is such an umbrella term.
Among Indians, it could be anywhere ranging from discussions on personal lives of politicians
to the washing someone's dirty linen in public. These conversations in India are typically interspersed
with swear words and references to various 'scoundrels' - a middle class person generally venting out
the power of choice in his/her drawing room. It is these types of conversations a lot
of women have learnt to refer to as 'politics' and avoid the same. That said I have participated
and know several women who have opinions on political economies, environmental and health issues,
policy and candidacy issues both in the US and in India. Heck I even had a grandmother who was
quite politically savvy and knew her Rajnarayans and Charansinghs and was one of the most politically insightful women I ever met. So it is as good as any generalization and certainly does not apply to all but most.

May 03, 2008 6:29 PM  
OpenID loneraven said...

As an Indian woman who will shortly have a degree in political science from Oxford, I would ask how large your sample is, in that you feel able to comment with impunity that Indian women, all half a billion of them, are only interested in Bollywood and soap operas. This one is certainly not.

And even if you wished to make a broader point that Indian women in general are less interested in politics than Indian men, perhaps it would be good to note that Indian women don't have the educational opportunities of Indian men; they are socialised to believe their education is worth less than that of their brothers. Is it any wonder that a significant number of them do not feel engaged with the political process? It makes no sense to indicate that Indian women just aren't interested. They probably have little choice in the matter,.

May 03, 2008 10:07 PM  
Anonymous Yamini said...

Loneraven hit the nail on the head and very clearly expressed what I wanted to say. Even if you have known a lot of women as you say you did in your college years, I still do not think it is either a diverse or large sample. You are being extremely sexist, going by established notions that women are only interested in cinema and soaps by making such a statement. Just like you I know a lot of women like me with who I can have intelligent conversation on the state of the economy, politics, literature as well as cinema.

Firstly, in college years I don't know a lot of men either who talk/discuss politics. Even today, I know a lot of men who can't talk of anything but sports, and that too only cricket. Would that make the Indian men are politically unaware?

May 04, 2008 5:19 AM  
Anonymous Neethi said...

Doesn't it seem too much of a stretch to generalize saying Indian women are not aware of politics. Wouldn't it be more appropriate to say the common man does not seem to be interested in politics. The gender should not play a role here. Just because of a sprinkling of women in your association did not seem interested does not make a case for the gender. Nor does the opposite prove that the men you talk to seem to be able to talk politics mean that men in general have a greater interest in it.

May 05, 2008 4:26 PM  
Blogger Nikhil Narayanan said...

I do not subscribe to this.
I feel this is stereotyping.
I have interacted with a lot of women with interests in Politics, so much that one of my friends(from Lucknow) wants to join politics after some years of work.
You cant generalize from how much ever interaction you have had.
I agree, men are more interested than women. Thats all.

PS: My view is as a result of 4 years of education in Warangal and 2 years in Pune and some years of work in Bangalore

May 05, 2008 4:51 PM  
Blogger mekhala said...

I think this is just generalization. As other have pointed out, what sample size are you considering? (1000 vs 500 million?) Further, if one needs to talk to women about inflation and stuff, start with your mother or the neighboring lady. Who wouldn't know about increasing (or decreasing) food prices and such?

May 06, 2008 12:44 AM  
Blogger Suchi said...

My generalisation would be that most Indians are not politically-aware, if you leave out superficial reactions to current affairs. This is true for my sample, which I also consider to be large and diverse. That's how generalisations work. :)

Having said that, I have noticed differences in a *specific* set of people that I know--my older relatives.

My uncles discuss politics because they have the luxury of spending long hours watching TV or reading the newspaper. My aunts are too busy managing the house or juggling house+work to have time to do such things.

May 06, 2008 3:47 AM  
Blogger Amrutha said...

Am sorry but I don't agree. Ypu are stereotyping women in general based on the few women you have met in life. We are not all ignorant about politics. We care, and are aware, sometimes more than the men we are talking to...

May 06, 2008 6:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brijesh; wouldn't you perhaps agree that your post reflects the relative lack of understading of a complex intellect called 'woman'? Perhaps time for some self-reflection? Best place to start may be your own backyard mate...

May 09, 2008 10:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brijesh; wouldn't you perhaps agree that your post reflects the relative lack of understading "YOU HAVE" of a complex intellect called 'woman'? Perhaps time for some self-reflection? Best place to start may be your own backyard mate...

May 09, 2008 10:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Disagree with your post.

What comes to my mind are two things.
1. History:
While women in the US found empowerment after the WWII (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Feminine_Mystique), Indian women are getting their groove now.
Women have become part of the mainstream activism, jobs in the US while in India, they just got their chance a decade ago.

2. Perception:
When you ask a woman in the US about politics she would probably talk about activism, rights, empowerment. When you ask a lady in India, you would hear things like Corruption, goonda's and stuff. Our political landscape is so very different. I am a male and I am not interested in politics. While world politics can be more interesting, I am guessing that the aversion began at home.

Think about it, while you read the newspaper in the morning lapping up all the morning news, you wife is probably making you the hot cup of tea you enjoy. While you catch up on the evening news of day, you tasty dinner is getting ready. Thats where we have asked them to excel in the past....

IMHO, you are comparing apples to oranges.

And in terms of politics, I am pretty sure that Indian men fall behind American men (Not talking about the current ipod generation).

Peace.

May 20, 2008 9:02 PM  

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