Sometimes women can be their own worst enemy. Particularly when it comes to falling prey to the stereotype. For instance, it’s a generally held belief among women (forget men for a while) that ‘women are dull, uninteresting and stupid’. At most, they are ‘shrewd’ and ‘bitchy’. It hurts me when I find educated women holding the view.
I wouldn’t say all educated women harbour this notion. I know many women who judge people, whether men or women, on their individual worth, untarnished by prejudices, stripped off of stereotypes. Nonetheless, I’ve come across women, working and educated who have a rather negative opinion of women.
“Women bore me,” one told me with disdain, “they only talk of dresses and jewelry.” You might have forgiven her and let it go by sticking a label ‘so-called intellectual’ if you’ve ever heard her talking about things like Kant’s Criuque of Pure Reason or Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Autumn of the Patriarch or watched her falling into a heated argument over USA’s foreign policy in Latin America or the games politicians play in Pakistan.
Though I didn’t find her talking to me about dresses and jewelry, she didn’t let me know either if she knew who the hell Marquez was or whether she gave a damn about Americans invading Grenada. I wonder if she was doing that kind of talking with men only!
Then there was another girl who disclosed to me she didn’t believe in ‘having women friends!’ “I don’t have any except you.” She was courteous. “You can’t trust women. They are jealous of each other and selfish. You’ll find it’s always women who hurt women.”
I later found out why she doesn’t have any women friends: she backbites. For that matter, she doesn’t have any meaningful relationship with men either. It figures.
So it really hurts me when educated women become victims of negative thinking. Because education should enable one to pursue the path of knowledge — a knowledge to understand the world. Education should make us think clearly and logically. And the logical approach is to (at least attempt) understand the relationship between cause and effect, between events and outcomes.
For instance, take women who talk about dresses and jewelry or such other ‘frivolous things’. First, you should know ‘frivolity’ has a subjective criterion. While you think a woman’s buying the latest shade of Helen Rubinstein’s lip pencil and Revlon’s peachy blush-on as ‘frivolous’, that very woman considers your desire to get a copy of Rushdie’s Shame as equally frivolous.
Each of us gives meaning to our life through our own value system based on individual interests, ideals and desires. You can’t judge other people’s life through your narcissistic, tinted glasses. I mean, we can’t put a lesser value to the life of women who are different from us.
Even if we consider, unashamedly, our own criterion as absolute, how can we say for sure the woman who lives a life filled only with homely things would have never dreamt of a journey like Sally Ride’s if she had the stimulating environment, had all the opportunities, to discover her other inherent potentialities?
Avoiding the company of women whose interests we think are different than ours is one thing but deriding them just for that is another.
And for those women who think women are not trustworthy and not worth a deeper and ever-lasting relationship. I would just heave a sigh and say, “Baby, you are missing something in life, for sure.”
Because women are capable of a deeper bond between themselves — a bond which provides emotional sustenance in the time of crisis and enhances their capacity to love others — men included.
That’s another thing – the importance of friendship between women has not been realised either by men, or women themselves. “From the days of Homer, the friendships of men have enjoyed glory and acclamation, but the friendships of women have usually been not merely unsung, but mocked, belittled and falsely interpreted,” writes Vera Brittain in Testament of Youth. “Loyalty and affection between women is a noble relationship which, far from impoverishing, actually enhances the loves of a girl for her lover, of a wife for her husband, of a mother for her children.”