Published in Dawn on August 11 2016
I HAD come to believe that the gloom that surrounds trade unionism in my part of the world was a global phenomenon, and that collective bargaining negotiations were dying practices. Not so in New York.
The public transit union, called Local 100, which represents 42,000 workers and retirees of the city’s public transportation system (subway, buses and surface trains), is currently gearing up its campaign for a new charter of demands with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), due in January 2017. The union holds elections every three years and negotiates a collective bargaining contract every five. In the first week of August, the union held a two-day workshop to discuss campaign strategy in order to win a fair deal.
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.
“In women,” Bertrand Russell said, “zest has been greatly diminished by a mistaken concept of respectability”.
Zest is an in-born human capacity to enjoy life, to be interested in the world and the varied and the beautiful things it has to offer. In our society, I think, this basic human instinct is, to a large extent, killed in women not only by a mistaken concept of respectability but also by a distrust of men inculcated in women by men themselves.
Take for instance travelling. Not till very late, a woman’s going out of her house for pleasure was considered a horrible, ignoble act. Times have definitely changed. The women who have the opportunity and desire to travel in-land or abroad, do travel. Still, by and large, conventional thinking persists — that it’s dangerous for girls to travel unless they are duly chaperoned. Girls who do travel may have to face raised eyebrows and sarcastic remarks.