Some time ago I came across this beautiful film, The Battle of the Sexes (2017), which portrays the phenomena primarily in the tennis world during the early 1970’s. In this period, the women’s liberation movement was gaining ground. Patriarchy was being challenged and the face and nature of society were gradually being turned.
In such a circumstance, Bobby Riggs, a retired tennis player and compulsive gambler backed up tennis officers’ decision to pay women less than men. He publicly declared that women were weaker than men and their game was not even half as exciting as that of men. Besides, very few people went to watch them. He embodied the popular doctrine of the time, male chauvinism, and even went as far as calling himself a”male chauvinist pig”. The film neatly brings out the battle of the sexes; the battle of opposing ideologies: male chauvinism and women’s liberation and the clash of civilization: modernism against traditionalism.
Riggs challenged the then, women’s number one, Margaret Court and conquered her with ease in straight sets. In doing this he believed he’d once and for all established male supremacy and demonstrated that girls were in fact,’lesser’ than men. If a woman in her prime could not conquer a retired sportsman, then no female athlete can claim equal recognition, pay or anything when compared with men. Riggs however, grew overconfident and challenged the pioneer of women’s equal status in tennis, Billie Jean King. Billie agreed to face him with great hesitation.
Even though that infamous tennis match was dubbed’The Battle of the Sexes’, the real battle was raging probably since Man’s fall from Original Grace. When God created people He left them complementary to each other (Gen 1:26-28). He ordained that man should dominate woman.
In the past 60 years however, because of motions like women’s liberation, issues like equality of the genders, respect for women, wages and so on, have come before public consciousness and have increasingly grown as a subject of discussion and debate. Progress has been terribly slow, but has nevertheless happened. The current case of the Weinstein scandal only serves to reiterate my point of this snail-pace of progress.
In India – a land of varied cultural and religious traditions, each with its own method of honouring or subjugating women – the situation isn’t very pleasant. In fact, it’s quite appalling. The Nirbhaya case among innumerable others are still fresh in our minds. What could possibly be the cause of all this insanity?
In order to answer this question I think it’s very important that we ask and answer another question:”When does a man child realize he’s superior to a female?” It may seem odd but it’s critical. A child is unable until a certain age to differentiate between male and female. Even if it does so, it is only able to identify differences and similarities. The child has no idea of superior or inferior. When and how does he begin to realize that he’s superior then? Obviously socialization and upbringing play a significant role. By observing the way his family or the society or community into which he is born and raised functions, he begins to form ideas, mould character and layout behaviour.
A child is likely to treat women in a way that he has seen growing up. And so, I think that treating a woman as you would treat your grandmother, mother, aunt, sister, relative or partner would solve half the issues. But a huge barrier arises: what about those who don’t treat their grandmother, mother, aunt, sister, relative or spouse well? If a person is unable to relate to women who share his blood in a healthy manner, it is very improbable that he will treat other girls nicely.
The Indian male psyche is corrupt. Thanks to media’s unbounded desire to”sell”, women have become objectified in nearly every field of life and this denigrated picture of women is often splashed all around commercials, billboards and the like. With so much negativity around it requires a determined effort to ditch the alienation of women and regain the primary relation. A detox of the mind is the need of the hour and stringent and binding legislation will do much to help the process. Apart from breaking down stereotypes through education and conscientizing people regarding the media, stronger steps have to be taken. I think actresses would send a strong message if they decided that they would not do”damsel-in-distress”, item songs and carnal appetizers at all. If the public do not want to see them to the character they play but just for the skin they show, then no amount of money could compensate for the objectification they experience.
The status of women in India is rising but aside from outside forces, girls, particularly those with power and capability must stand up for their rights and dignity. It’s not enough that male chauvinism be condemned, female helplessness must also be equally condemned. It’s only then that we have hope of regaining our Original Grace and settling the”battle of the sexes” once and for all.