Our public intellectual spaces are women free

BY DEVAKI JAIN| IN Media Practice | 26/08/2014
Why does the media never invite women to comment on publicly debated issues such as the reform of the Planning Commission,
asks DEVAKI JAIN. Pix: an all male poverty line debate

Public platforms, especially those which are supposed to debate critical, upfront policy issues, systematically do not include women.

They are invited when the issue is a concern for women, the most common being sexual violence. The other instance is on the issue of quotas, as in the matter of   reservation of seats in Parliament for women. Then there are instances of public causes where Bollywood stars are pressed into service, as in the case of Vidya Balan coming out to persuade women to build toilets.

Women, who may not only be spokespersons for women, but for all the other publicly debated issues, the latest being the reform of the Planning commission, are not there. 

Mint has posted opinions on two occasions, if not more.  The Hindu also carried opinions and I guess others did too. But , no women were asked. It is assumed that women may not have any really deep comment to make, except for the inclusion of women in the new set up – a song women have sung from time immemorial . And usually one woman is include , and if possible she has to represent two  excluded categories, women and dalit,  or muslim – pack it all in , in one human  body.

Women political scientists, development economists, members of planning boards, of  the governing council of think tanks,  apart from University folk are not considered to be qualified !! Incredible myopia , but truth . If women are invited it is as spokespersons for women and this can be extended to the Dalits.

Women scholars , feminist scholars especially,  have ploughed the turf on every topic in the world  - especially science, technology, governance as well as theories in the social sciences. And they have come up with extraordinarily useful analysis,  but different from the masculine mind’s.  ..According to psychologists, apart from biologists, women tend to interrogate the given, question as well as reconstruct  to ensure practice.

Be that as it may, the total neglect of the other gender on intellectual public sites has another spin off --- it perpetuates the traditional perception of women as mindless, and limited to wifehood, motherhood and the household. It thereby perpetuates the undervaluation, which in turn leads to ill treatment , subordination , violence .

This picture and analysis, in some ways can also apply to other groups who are seen as mindless bodies and ill treated, such as Dalits, and even tribal peoples.

This evil, this total blindness, these blinkers, this superiority complex  has to be removed , and since justice never comes without struggle, this voice , this shout for redressing this exclusion has to come from the feminist movement . But it can also be enabled if those who set up these panels, those who invite “persons " to comment, namely the print and electronic media, the think tanks, the policy committees and commissions do their bit too.

Devaki Jain taught economics in delhi university, then moved into feminist studies .She was awarded the Padma Bhushan for her dedication to women's empowerment. 

devakijain @gmail .com

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