Indian Women and Independence

Point 1 : I didn’t have a better title for this post

Point 2: This post was in the draft mode in an open Chrome window for more than 2 months.

Point 3: A phone call with my cousin made me realize that the post is in draft mode

Few weeks ago I was analyzing the web content, its relevant data and the investments in the TV and digital channels for advertisements. Eventually I ended up watching the old advertisements from India in 90s to reminisce the good old times. Even Lithuanian writer Giedra Radvilavičiūtė agrees with me that Happiness is reminiscing. One thing that was very stark in those ads and even the ads that surface today was men were shown purchasing cars and taking loans for the houses while the women were shown happy in the kitchen and taking care of what goes into family members’ bellies or how white the shirts are. The competition among women wasn’t about who will write better python code but who will produce whiter shirts. Shifting the focus to movies and most of them fail the Mako Mori test ( film should have at least one female character who isn’t supporting a man’s story and she should have her own narrative). Almost all of them were rarely ambitious beyond getting married to someone they loved, no career, nothing. Jewelry is sold under the pseudo emotional statement that it makes a woman happy and having gold is associated with domestic stability. Being in a couple is the only approved way to live.

What else can you expect from the patriarchal, myopic society of India where women have been marginalized for centuries and have played only certain roles in the society barring a few outliers. Few days ago I was at Vasa Museum in Stockholm, a museum of Viking ship from 1626. The ship sank and so did women and men aboard. The women were identified as Beata and Yvla(made up names given by Archaeologists). I learned while sati was the only ‘chaste’ choice for a widow in India, Svenska women enjoyed far higher rights and sort of absolute freedom post the death of their husbands (Beata was probably a widow)

Clearly, we have a long way to go.



Men are from Mars and Women from Venus – False

Being from analytics world, I enjoy keeping myself abreast with the problems that can be solved with data. Psychology is one such field that finds its roots in mathematical techniques employed to make predictions and test the foundations of assertions propounded by the society or the hypotheses of social experiments. Designing the experiments is of utmost importance and should be done meticulously as the outcome of the experiments makes the prediction for the entire population based on the sample selected.

Last week I skimmed through a book called Experiments with people by Abelson, Frey, and Gregg and I enjoyed reading the premise and the conclusion of various social studies conducted in the 20th century. One of the study was by Matthew Ansfield and the conclusion was if you want to sleep and someone is playing loud music then the rational thing to fall asleep early is try to keep yourself awake. I will definitely try this one when my juvenile delinquent neighbor will have a late night party. Another experiment conducted by Solomon Asch in 1955 dealt with the idea that how people change their behavior to conform to the groups. A group that knows the right thing to do ends up making more mistakes if there are agents present in the group who want to take the wrong steps. The desire to be liked is a dangerous one and as French sociologist Gabriel de Tarde said “Social man is a somnambulist”.

There was one very interesting experiment conducted in 1990 that caught my attention. It was called “Ackmians Are From Mars, Orinthians Are From Venus: Gender Stereotypes as Role Rationalizations”. Curt Hoffman and Nancy Hurst tried to show that gender stereotypes can arise as a direct result of two groups taking on different social roles ( jobs, household care etc), even when the members of those groups share similar traits. The chapter started with an image of a man and a woman both with stethoscope around the neck and a question in subscript, doctor and nurse or nurse and a doctor? Very keen and interesting question it was. Alice Eagly had studied in 1987 that the underlying differences between a woman and a man are typically small. They become magnified, however, because men and women tend to take on or be assigned to different social roles. The researchers claimed that the differences between men and women are too small for people to detect them. In the society, agentic roles that require assertiveness and independence are attributed to men while communal roles of nurturing, social care are attributed to women. This role assumption has given rise to gender stereotype despite there being a trivial difference between a man and a woman. When it comes to assuming an agentic or a communal role, each gender can perform it with utmost perfection given a chance.

Why do such stereotypes exist? In short – they are explanatory conveniences that allow people to justify the social status quo. Researchers exposed the participants to fictitious species from a planet and they named the two members of the species – Ackmians and Orinthian. They were told that the members of the two groups were either child raisers or workers involved in high tech business etc. The result from the experiment – Ackmians or Orinthians were considered agentic if most of them had a job such as business, high tech etc, or relatively communal if most of them were child raisers, even though no group personality differences existed to corroborate such biased impressions. Not only gender but racial stereotypes also have no roots but they are there and segregating and hollowing the society for ages. There were many extensions of this research and it turns out that gender stereotypes were unaffected by ethnicity. In a study by Niemann and others in 1994, women irrespective of African, American, Asian, Latin American descent were found to be gentle, pleasant, and friendly by the participants while men were taken as tough, alpha creatures.

The book “Men are from mars and women from venus – by John Gray (1992)” amplifies these differences to preposterous proportions. It obsesses with gender differences. Had Phyllis Schalfly read it, she must have been overjoyed for she found another follower of her conservative thought process. Let’s take height as an example, on an average men are taller than women but there are many women who are taller than men. Do we go on and make the unwarranted conclusion that all women are short while all men are tall? No, we don’t. Then why is there a black and white stance when it comes to jobs in the market? The recent incidents at Uber show how sexist the workplace can be. Susan J Fowler’s blog will tell you how a typical male chauvinist, sexist work culture might operate. The number of CEOs in the job industry is highly skewed towards males; people say that CEO is a high risk job that requires certain skills females don’t possess while the truth might lie in the fact that women have been assuming the communal roles for too long and that’s why they are not taken as assertive and strong.

This is a classic case of the logical fallacy – post hoc ergo propter hoc ( after this therefore because of this) and it is high time that we abolish such hypocritical stance and build an unbiased society.

Domestic Violence – Stats don’t lie

So , few days ago I was trying to learn a new computer language. Not voluntarily though, office work it was !

The language R is used for statistical and data analysis. After learning the initial pieces on how to play with the data , I thought of playing with some real data and I started scouring the internet. I saw Stanford’s website but the data needed a lot of cleansing. I was not in mood of that and I wanted to have few insights . It was already 7 pm and office was deserted. If any Indian is reading this blog then he will say “big deal, 7 pm is common “. But here its not , also not in few other int’l locations I have worked at. So anyway, I thought of a friend of mine who was an officer at United Nations , I immediately opened the UNICEF’s website and here was my treasure. I looked at myriad datasets related to economic, social, scientific  areas. It was a huge data bank.

I stumbled upon the data pertaining to women and children, it said the domestic violence and stance of women towards it. I thought “what kind of study is it, of course every woman will be against domestic violence!” . But may be I clicked on it by mistake and the first spreadsheet opened up and there were few high values. It startled me a little. How can 70 % of women of a country can justify domestic violence, there must be something wrong with this table. I skimmed few more pages of the data and decided to write a small code for data analysis and plot the graph.

The results were preposterous  I couldn’t believe it.

I am attaching the chart here.


Just look at few countries, they have approximately 90 % of the women justifying the violence by their partners. What on earth is wrong with people. Why ?

I reflected upon the results for a long time and then came to conclusion that most women put up with the violence due to various reasons and then come with a reason to justify it. Why they put up with it? There can be many factors, social stigma, not confident enough to voice against the atrocities, lack of support, not qualified enough to support themselves financially or may be they sacrifice for their children. There cannot be any other reason for this. Violence of any form be it sexual, physical, mental is detrimental and has far reaching consequences. Wounds heal but the internal healing of the soul takes years. It not only affects the psyche of the person but also the outlook towards life and in many cases pushes them towards depression. Children growing in such homes fight a battle with themselves and develop psychological issues.

A friend of mine , Geeta Athreya, who used to work at UNICEF said to me on this “This is interesting and valid. This is a global phenomenon. As to why women do not leave partners who are violent and why they put up with it is a very complex subject. Because they put up with it they have to justify it . it is cognitive dissonance. But it is an area where affirmative action is needed. So many help centers catering to different strata of women are required. Assuring women there is no shame in seeking help and it is not their fault at all. “

PS : If anyone wants to check the raw data , then its available at http://data.un.org/Data.aspx?d=SOWC&f=inID%3A229