India, sexism and the media
On May 27, the Globe and Mail, Canada’s National Newspaper, ran an article by the paper’s India correspondent Stephanie Nolen entitled, Female face of power reflects change in India. The story is about how Nolen sees it is a paradox that five of India’s leading political power brokers are women. Nolen says, “…it is startling in the context of the intense discrimination against women and girls that permeates every aspect of life across class, communities and geography here.”
I find “sweeping, ethnocentric statements” like this depressing. Nothing against Nolen, who is a top-notch reporter and an excellent writer; and I realize that there’s lots of evidence to support this charge. Here’s my problem. This statement makes India sound like a bleak and dismal place, full of gloomy women chained to their stoves. It dismisses the MANY cheerful, accomplished, successful and outspoken women in India. It overlooks the strengths and advantages of traditional culture, such as strong family bonds. It’s written by a western reporter (from Canada), which makes it sound as if the west is free from sexism. It fails to understand the diversity, complexity and fluidity of India. And it reinforces the worst stereotypes about India.
It’s also not my experience. This is the reason I’m not working in mainstream media (though I have a degree in journalism). I don’t believe in so-called “objectivity” and I don’t want to write “sweeping, ethnocentric statements.” I like to write in a subjective genre — creative non-fiction or personal narrative — because I believe truth is in our subjective experience of life.
I am only a traveler, I have only spent about 14 months in India, but when I am there, I live in an Indian household. The women in that household are strong, expressive and, in my experience, rule the roost. I found the same to be true when I lived in Japan. Women have power, but it is largely private, not public. And I have met many strong, independent women all across India. So, in response to the statement that sexism permeates every aspect of life, I would like to celebrate the women of India. Continue Reading →