Chennai seminar discusses gender stereotyping in society

Chennai: ‘Paadhagam seibavarai kandaal
Naam bayam kollal aagadhu paapa
Modhi midhithuvidu paapa
Avar mugathil umizhndhu vidu paapa.’
A 100 years ago, Bharathiyar penned a song on women empowerment in his famous poem ‘Odi Vilayadu Paapa’ that he wrote for his daughter. In the poem, he asks her to show courage when confronted by vile people and kick and spit on their face.
CEO of Billroth Hospitals, Dr Kalpana Rajesh, quoted these lines yesterday at a panel discussion – My Girl, My Pride – organised by Billroth Hospital’s fertility centre, Adhitri, and she raised a question on why words on women empowerment, written a century ago, are still only in the books and not in practice.
“How do we bring about change?” was the question she put forth to the panelists from varied fields like sports, cinema, business and medicine. The discussions were moderated by the news editor of The News Minute, Anna Isaac.
Speaking about gender disparity in the film industry, actress Sripriya said, “Even in fights, women are used only for giving facial expressions when the hero is busy fighting 10 men. Cinema, too, like society, is a hero (male)-dominated world. Cinema, as a medium, has a lot of responsibility towards changing this as it reaches people faster. If we all come together, we can make more sensible films with women at the forefront.”
Director Arivazhagan of Kutram 23-fame said directors and actors should have a moral responsibility as to what they show or say on screen. He said, “If a hero assaults a woman on screen, his followers might follow it. Filmmakers have a responsibility. Women are also usually given silly characters. As a director, I’ve also been guilty of this in the past. This can also be avoided.”
CEO of Naturals Spa and Salon, C K Kumaravel, stressed the need for financial independence for women. He said, “The role of men and women is defined by society. It says that men should go to work and women should stay at home and take care of her child. This should change.”
Kumaravel stressed that women empowerment should happen within and it cannot come from outside. He said, ‘Of the 15 prime ministers that India has had, only one is a woman. Why are women powerful only on chess boards and school boards?”
“To change this, women should be financially independent. Financial independence gives respect. The best fashion statement you can make is to stand on your own legs. This is how empowerment happens,” said Kumaravel.
“Women are better managers of businesses, especially franchisee businesses. That is why 80 per cent of my salons are owned in partnership with women and I believe that they are profitable only because they are run by women. Today, I’ve created a lot of house husbands!” he added.
In the last few years, Indian sportswomen have been the nation’s pride, said Bhavani Devi, the only Indian to have won gold at an internationally-recognised fencing competition.
‘While growing up, I looked up to Sania Mirza. She was the only prominent woman athlete. Today, in every sport there are famous women athletes. In badminton, we have so many stars like P V Sindhu and Saina Nehwal. It is a good step forward,” she added.
“However, today, when a woman achieves something in sports, people are surprised. Women getting medals should not be a surprise. It should become a normal thing. I want to see the change happen,” she said.
Infertility specialist at Billroth Hospitals, V Rajini, pointed out that there was a change in people’s perception that women are the sole cause for infertility.  She said, “In 50 per cent cases, men are infertile. With education, people have learnt that there is no one to blame here.”