Social Matter 8 – Gender Inequality

“Madam, no need to stand in the line. Go right ahead.”, said an attendant at the Telangana RTO office, signaling me to jump the queue and go directly to the window.

The sun was as merciless as it could be in the month of AprilI and I was probably the 24th-25th person in the line. His offer was tempting, but I just couldn’t get myself to accept it.

I was as disappointed as the men standing in the line with me. I even saw one person shake his head and sigh. He was probably thinking, “Oh great, the privileges of being a woman in India.”

I was thinking the exact same thing, but with my eyes rolled.

I did not want this privilege.

When I told the attendant that I was okay with standing in the line, he gave me a very surprised look. He tried to reason with me, but quickly gave up and walked away.

Why was I trying to put up a fight? They were giving me an easy pass – a guilt-free chance to play (what some people call) the “woman card.”

The guy in front of me shook his head again from one side to another and made a weird pcch pcch or some similar sound that basically meant, “What an idiot”. This time he was probably thinking, “oh great, now she doesn’t want the privilege also. If only they ask me to go in front”

A few minutes passed by and another man came and told me that ladies don’t have to stand in the line. I could submit my document directly and then just wait for 2 minutes to be called in. I smiled at him and told him that I was in no hurry and fully fit to be standing in the line like the other people.

The man banged his palms on his forehead in frustration and walked away.

I was starting to piss of these people by then I guess.

The next person who tried to help me was a kind lady. She told me what I had heard twice already. To that, she added, “Why not use the privileges given by the government. We don’t get such privileges with other things, why waste this one ma.”

I wanted to agree with her. I mean, what she said was kind of true.  Every second day, someone or the other in this country makes me feel like I’m a second-class citizen just because I’m a woman. But then, was this really a privilege at all? I get why pregnant women or older people get these privileges – I was neither. Why was I at the receiving end of this “special privilege”?

The heat was only getting worse and these constant explaining of why I didn’t want to skip the line was taking a toll on me. I couldn’t come to say more than, “Correct aunty, but I just don’t think it is fair, thank you for informing me anyways. If you want to be fair, you should also stand in the line the next time.”

Equality one way street illus

Art by Jaishree Garg. All right reserved. Please reuse with credits to the artist.

I was very happy that I had managed to stick to my ways and got as far as the 3rd person in the line. Just then, a man with a uniform came to me and in a very hurried and annoyed tone told me to skip the two guys in front of me and give the papers to the man on the window. Before I could argue, he pulled my papers and got me out of the line.

I opened my mouth to say something, but he cut me off and said, “It’s okay you were next anyways. Next time don’t do all this, it’s hot you will faint.”

At the expense of delaying my license process further, I asked him if there was an invisible umbrella protecting the men in the line from the sun?

But the fear of being thrown out kicked in and  I immediately smiled at him and said, “What sir you think I’m so weak? I had a heavy breakfast in the morning”

He smiled back and said, “No madam, not like that. Some ladies will come and say they don’t want to stand with men, some will say it is too hot they can’t stand in the sun, so they will ask for a chair, some will ask for separate ladies line. So now we finish ladies applications quickly. Anyways only few ladies, so easy for us, easy for them, no problem.”

He saw nothing wrong with it; the women, of course, had no problem with it; and the men didn’t mind either. But I hope you see the problem.

I’ve used these privileges before, so I’m not pointing fingers at anyone else who takes advantage of the “ladies line”. I fought against it today because I just think we need to stop making the fight for equality a one-way street. If we want gender inequality to go away, then it needs to go away from everywhere. From ticket counters, from bank queues, from college admissions, and bars and discos. I don’t want free entry, I don’t want to cut the queue, I don’t want your free drinks. I haven’t earned any of these by being a woman, just as a man hasn’t earned the right to lech at me, mistreat me, or direct my life just because he is a man.

Most people at the RTO thought I was annoying and crazy. But that’s okay. There were 8 other women there, I wished they came and stood in the line with me. My message wouldn’t have looked so crazy then. But well, next time I guess?

Note – I’m a feminist and I believe in equality of all the sexes. You should understand that equality is the true spirit of feminism and that is what I fight for.