This article was published in The Hindu on Sunday, Mar 04, 2007 in order to celebrate International Women’s Day on 8th March. It is written by Sowmya Krishnamurthy.

The lady drives home a very vital point with examples from her personal tryst with glaring inequalities, prevailing even today.

Read the article to see what i mean…

What we need to change is the opinion that the `everyday man’ has of the `everyday woman’

IN HER 1992 movie, when Julianne Moore uttered the words `The hand that rocks the cradle, Is the hand that rules the world.’ from the William Ross Wallace poem, I was too young and naïve to I realise its significance. Much later when I read these very words on a calendar depicting women in various eras, I had to ask myself if it was really true.

Being a third year engineering student, almost everyday I witness the glaring inequalities women are subjected to as compared with men, however small they may be. The statement may not make much sense unless you know which discipline I am pursuing — Mechanical.

During my initial days of college, almost every person who knew I was a mechanical engineering student was curious to know the reason behind my choice, or if there was a reason at all. Some of them would even offer a commiserative comment that if I did well in the first year, I would then be eligible for a branch change the following year!

Mind numbing ritual

Sitting with 85 boys in the class does take time to get used to but what I have never got used to is the look of surprise and sometimes even shock on almost every person’s face on hearing the word mechanical. The mind numbing ritual to explain my choice of discipline to everyone, right from professors in other departments to a distant relative at a cousin’s wedding recently, is something which is of second nature now.

I constantly have to remind anyone who raises an eyebrow that Sudha Kulkarni was the first woman employee on the shop floor of Telco. We know her better as the chairperson of Infosys Foundation, Sudha Murty.

I do know a few girls who are pursing the same course as I am and many more girls who have finished it. A consensus among all of them is that the reactions, like wine, get better with time. Since I still have one more year to go, I am guessing the best is yet to come.

When another friend, a civil engineering graduate, walked onto a construction site on her first day at the job, more than a year ago, one of her male chauvinistic colleagues present remarked that it was not yet time for interior decoration work to begin. Till date she has to remind her subordinates to address her as `Ma’am’ and not as `Sir’ that they are used to.

The other day when my friend was carrying her drafter and roll pack, she heard a man comment, `today drafter, tomorrow ladle.’ She was shocked at the attitude displayed.

Reality check

With March 8 being commemorated as International Women’s Day the world over, I think we all need a reality check if the commemoration is just a hype that lasts one day. To all those who disagree, here is a small example. Out of 1,895 members who have served in the United States Senate till date, only 35 have been women.

Need an illustration that is closer home? Fortyfive members out of the Lok Sabha’s 542 are women. Even in the Rajya Sabha where members are appointed or indirectly elected, only 28 out of the 242 seats are held by women. Our Parliament has repeatedly witnessed debates on the Bill for 33 per cent reservation for women but no consensus has been arrived at.

A more familiar circumstance would be travelling by our city buses where the first four seats on either side are demarcated as `ladies seats.’ More often than not, we find them occupied by men, pretending to be asleep. Fearing some form of obscenity, women generally avoid asking them to vacate the seats. It is very rare that men offer the seat on their own accord.

Although I am not denying that the face of women all over the world has changed and is continuing to change, this feminist movement promoted by various celebrities and politicians alike is yet to reach the common man, literally.

While leaders and activists might hail the importance of women and their place in today’s society, what we really need to change is the opinion that the `everyday man’ has of the `everyday woman.’

I am sure, most of us women can relate to this look. Cant we?