Female Empowerment in Mumbai

Marinic, Borislav, “Stigma Word Cloud”, 123RF,
87400469 , 123RF Stock Photos

D R I V I N G Q U E S T I O N :

How does the lingual bias effect female empowerment in my school?






C U L T U R A L C O N T E X T :

Imagine wearing your favourite dress or shorts to school and feeling the eyes of classmates violate your body. Imagine hearing your classmates talking about others and calling them “sluts” or “hoes”, but they don’t mean it, it’s a joke. For some people, this is a daily or weekly occurrence, and for others, it’s a shock.

In India, it is common that girls are reduced to their romantic/sexual worth, and not to their intelligence or ability to manage anything, which significantly impacts empowerment because by being reduced to one aspect takes away your authority in a society. In school, locker room talk and teachers not having as high expectations for different genders is still prevalent, and the aim of this project is to spark conversation to change the way girls and boys are treated in school.

The fifth Sustainable Development Goal is to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. The purpose of this project is to increase awareness about how certain biases in language affects women and increase empowerment. In my school, there are a lot of girls who don’t feel like they are capable of achieving what they want, or don’t feel confident in who they/what they are doing. By raising awareness and meeting with girls in my school, this project will help advance this SDG by picking up on language and opportunities for our school to improve.


F U R T H E R U N D E R S T A N D I N G :


  • Gender Essentialism
    • The belief that men and women have biological differences that determine what role they play in society.
  • Hegemonic Masculinity
    • A practice that enforces and legitimising male dominance, while creating an ideal way to be masculine and marginalising those who don’t fall into that description.

Before this project, my view of India was a place that discriminated against women and violated them. Through this project, it has become evident that through the enforcement of gender essentialism and hegemonic masculinity in religion and daily life, it has been hard for women to be equal.

To begin, the language in a society doesn’t reflect the rules but instead creates the rules. For example, in India, if many people did not go around saying that men are better than women, then the course of how women are treated would’ve taken a completely different path. The text, “Theory and Practice of Women’s Movements in India: a Discourse Analysis”, states, “language structures various ideologies and is a place through which we represent to ourselves our lived relation to our material conditions of existence” (Akerar, WS-4). Therefore, the way that language is used affects the way that ideologies and expressions form in society. Without words, there would be no way to communicate these ideologies effectively. This is relevant to my project because depending on where someone is from or grew up, their use thoughts/opinions of language will change to express the rules of that place, and so it shapes how they think of others. Hegemonic masculinity is demonstrated in this example because it shows that language is used to create and enforce ideologies. Language is used as an accelerant or an amplifier to push out ideas that someone has. The more people agree and implement those ideas, the stronger the word becomes. Also, this source shows how language can enforce gender essentialism, because the ideology is being spread, and there might not be other options in society because of the rules the language has created. Using language to spread societal regulations is a big reason for gender essentialism and hegemonic masculinity to survive and become strong in Indian culture.

Kalianpur, “India Map, Map of India“,, 2019

In addition, gender discrimination in rural India can be attributed to socio-economic factors, and not just religious or societal factors, which was something I didn’t think about. The text, “Disappearing Daughters and Intensification of Gender Bias: Evidence from Two Village Studies in South India”, states, “where no institutional alternative to the family as a source of social insurance has emerged, parental decisions are likely to be powerfully motivated by their concerns about their security in the old age”(Sekher and Hatti, 115). From this, we can understand that even though it isn’t right, based on the society that has been created demands men to support families. Gender essentialism is present in Indian culture because it demands men to be breadwinners and to be strong, while women are weak and are meant to be married off for money.





F I R S T I M P R E S S I O N S :

The password is CatalystConference2019

Before you read the data, I would like you to reflect on how you would respond to a woman who is loud, falls for people easily and lot, and maybe wears revealing clothing or a lot of makeup. I would also like you to reflect on your response to a man who is loud, falls for people easily and a lot, and cares a lot about his looks (hair, clothes, shoes, etc). Does your language/response change based on gender, and did your culture influence your response?





C O M M U N I T Y I N P U T :


The demographic for my interviews were mainly students, but I did end up also interviewing one teacher. Since I was studying culture and language in Mumbai/ASB, I interviewed mostly Indian students, some of whom had lived abroad, and some of whom did not, and some of the students I interviewed were from different parts of Asia, like Turkey and South Korea.



Would you have said something different?
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H O W A M I M A K I N G C H A N G E I N S C H O O L ?



C A L L T O A C T I O N :

Here are some links that go to different organisations dealing with female empowerment around the world so that you can help if it’s possible.

Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund :

The Times Up Legal Defense Fund is a US based organisation that works to help survivors of sexual assault, mistreatment in the workplace, equal pay, etc.

School Girls Unite

School Girls Unite is an organisation that works to expand freedoms and opportunities to women and girls around the world through education. Through this, they aim to tackle prejudice against females.

The Share and Care Foundation

This organisation works to help women in rural India by providing self-defence classes, financial management help, etc. They hope to provide education and opportunities to women in those areas.


The MADRE organisation works with local leaders around the world to help women. Since they work with local leaders, the focus of each project they endeavour is different. For some, it is gaining access to clean water and for others it being provided with access to art therapy.

Works Cited

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