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← 7 beliefs that can silence women -- and how to unlearn them

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Showing Revision 7 created 11/25/2019 by Erin Gregory.

  1. Shah Rukh Khan: "A girl
    should be seen, not heard."
  2. "Be quiet," or, "chup."
  3. These words are often used
    to silence girls right from childhood,
  4. well into adulthood
  5. and deep into old age.
  6. I'm proud to introduce our next speaker,
    a true champion of the female voice,

  7. an advisor on poverty,
  8. gender and development for the World Bank,
  9. United Nations and several NGOs
    in India and the world over.
  10. She calls herself a cultural detective.
  11. Let's raise our voices to welcome
    renowned social scientist and author
  12. Deepa Narayan.
  13. (Music)

  14. (Applause)

  15. Deepa Narayan: The goal
    of every loving parent

  16. is to raise good girls,
  17. but what parents actually do
  18. is to constrain, confine
    and crush their girls.
  19. So as they crush their girls,
  20. they prepare them for abuse.
  21. This would be so devastating
  22. that no parent would be able to bear it,
  23. so it's disguised.
  24. In India, we call this "adjusting."

  25. I'm sure you've heard the word.
  26. "Darling, just adjust a bit.
  27. Just adjust.
  28. No matter what happens, just adjust."
  29. "Adjust" trains girls to be powerless,
  30. not to exist, not to be seen,
  31. not to have a self,
  32. and it trains boys to claim power
    and authority over the world.
  33. And in the meantime we keep talking about
    gender equality and women's empowerment.
  34. After 2012, after the gang rape
    in a moving bus in Delhi,

  35. I really wanted to understand
    the roots of abuse.
  36. So I started asking
    a very simple question:
  37. what does it mean to you
    to be a good woman or a good man today?
  38. And I was so surprised by what I heard,
  39. the answers particularly
    that young people gave,
  40. that the project became a research project
    and it took over my life.
  41. For three years, I listened
    to over 600 women, men and children,

  42. educated, middle class,
  43. and it led to 1,800 hours of listening
  44. and 8,000 pages of notes,
  45. and it took another year
    to make sense of it.
  46. Nowadays, we see well-dressed, educated
    women like many of you in this room,

  47. all of you in this room, and myself,
  48. and we think the world has changed,
  49. but these external changes
    are extremely misleading,
  50. because on the inside,
    we have not changed.
  51. So today, I'm not going
    to talk about poor people.

  52. I'm going to talk only about
    the middle and upper classes,
  53. because we are the ones most in denial.
  54. We are the ones who have said
    over and over again
  55. that when women are educated,
  56. when they're employed
  57. and they earn incomes,
  58. they will be equal, empowered and free.
  59. They're not.
  60. Why?
  61. From my research, I identify seven habits

  62. that delete women,
  63. that make women disappear,
  64. but these habits persist
  65. because they're so familiar to us
  66. and we've made them good and moral.
  67. Why would you change or drop
    anything that's good and moral?
  68. So, on the one hand, we love our children,
  69. we love our daughters,
  70. and on the other hand, we crush them.
  71. Habit one: You don't have a body.

  72. The first step to make a girl a ghost
    is to make her body disappear,
  73. to pretend that she doesn't have a body.
  74. Akangsha, who is 23, said,
  75. "In my family, we never
    spoke about the body, never."
  76. And it is in this silence
  77. that millions and millions of girls
    get sexually molested,
  78. and they don't even tell their mothers.
  79. And it's the negative comments from others
  80. that leads to 90 percent of women
    saying that they dislike their bodies.
  81. When a girl rejects her body,
  82. she rejects her only house
  83. and invisibility and insecurity
  84. become her very shaky foundation.
  85. Habit two: Be quiet. Chup.

  86. If you're not supposed to exist
  87. and you don't have a body,
  88. how can you have a voice?
  89. So just about every woman said,
  90. "When I was little,
    my mother used to scold me and say,
  91. 'Don't speak, be quiet, be chup,
  92. speak softly, don't argue
    and never answer back.
  93. Jawab nahi Dena.'"
  94. I'm sure you've all heard that.
  95. And so girls become afraid,
    and they withdraw.
  96. And they become quiet and they say,
  97. "Let it go. Jaane do.
  98. What's the point? Nobody listens."
  99. Educated women said
  100. that their number one problem
  101. was their inability to speak up,
  102. as if there was a foot on their throat
  103. ready to choke them.
  104. Silence slices off women.
  105. Habit three: Be a people pleaser.

  106. Please others.
  107. Everyone likes a nice woman
    who always smiles,
  108. who never says no, who is never angry,
  109. even when she's being exploited.
  110. Amisha, who is 18, said,
  111. "My father said,
  112. 'If I don't see you smiling,
    I don't feel good.'"
  113. So she smiles.
  114. So her father is teaching her,
  115. my happiness is more important
    than your happiness.
  116. And in this business of trying
    to make everyone happy all the time,
  117. girls become afraid to make decisions.
  118. And when you ask them, they say,
  119. "Anything, whatever! Kuch bhi!
  120. Everything goes. Chalta hai."
  121. Darsha, who is 25,
  122. said with great pride,
  123. "I'm highly elastic.
  124. I become whatever others want me to be."
  125. Such girls give up their dreams,
  126. their desires,
  127. and nobody even notices,
  128. except for depression.
  129. It moves in.
  130. Another slice of a girl is taken off.
  131. Habit four: You have no sexuality.

  132. I think you'd all agree that
    with a population of over 1.3 billion,
  133. sex is not new to India.
  134. What is new is that
    more people now acknowledge
  135. that women, too,
    have a right to sexual desire.
  136. But how can a woman who has not
    been allowed to own her body,
  137. who hasn't been educated about her body,
  138. who may have been sexually molested,
  139. who cannot say no
  140. and who has been filled with shame,
  141. how can she claim her sexual desire?
  142. A woman's sexuality is suppressed.
  143. Habit five: Don't trust women.

  144. Imagine how the world would change
  145. if women came together in solidarity,
  146. but as to make sure
    that this doesn't happen,
  147. our culture places high moral value
  148. on loyalty to men and family secrecy.
  149. Woman after woman said,
  150. "I know only one trustworthy woman,
  151. and that's me."
  152. Even Ruchi, who is 30
  153. and who works on women's empowerment
    at Delhi University, said,
  154. "I don't trust women.
    They're jealous and they backbite."
  155. Obviously, then, in cities,
  156. women don't join women's groups,
  157. and when you ask them why, they say,
    "We don't have time for gossip."
  158. It's much easier
    to demolish a woman who is alone.
  159. Habit six: Duty over desire.

  160. Muskan gave a very long definition
    of a good girl, and she's only 15.
  161. "She is kind, gentle, polite, loving,
  162. caring, truthful, obedient,
    respects elders,
  163. helps everyone unconditionally,
    and is good to others and fulfills duty."
  164. Tiring, isn't it.
  165. By the time you fulfill duty,
  166. whatever little desire
    is left is also lost.
  167. And when sacrificing mothers
    have nothing left to say
  168. except talk about food --
  169. "Have you eaten? Khana kha liya?
    What will you eat?" --
  170. men like Saurabh, who is 24,
    call them "boring."
  171. A woman becomes a residue.
  172. Habit seven: Be totally dependent.

  173. So all these habits
    collectively crush women,
  174. fill her with fear
  175. and make her totally dependent
    on men for her survival,
  176. and this allows the system
    of male power to continue.
  177. So all these seven habits
    that we thought were good and moral

  178. snatch life away from girls
  179. and position men to abuse.
  180. We must change.

  181. How do we change?
  182. A habit is just a habit.
  183. Every habit is a learned habit,
  184. so we can unlearn them
  185. and this personal change
    is extremely important.
  186. I had to change too.
  187. But this doesn't change the system
  188. that crushes millions of other women.
  189. So we have to go to the roots.
  190. We must change what it means
    to be a good woman and a good man,
  191. because this a foundation
    of every society.
  192. We don't need elastic women,
    we need elastic definitions,
  193. for men too,
  194. and this big societal change
    cannot happen without men's involvement.
  195. We need you.
  196. We need men to become champions of change,
  197. to develop strong change muscles.
  198. Otherwise, it will be two more centuries
  199. before our girls, and our boys,
  200. are safe and free.
  201. Imagine half a billion women
    coming together, with the support of men,

  202. to talk to one another
    for conversation, for change,
  203. both personal and political,
  204. and imagine men in their own circles,
  205. and imagine women and men coming together
    to just listen to each other
  206. without judgment, without blame,
  207. without accusations and without shame.
  208. Imagine how much we would change.
  209. We can do this together.
  210. Women, don't adjust.
  211. Men, adjust.
  212. It's time.
  213. Thank you.

  214. (Applause)

  215. SRK: How well said, how wonderful.

  216. Everyone, Deepa, please.
  217. Listening to her, I realized
  218. that even in the simplest conversations
    that we have with women,
  219. we're actually being aggressive.
  220. For example, I do tell
    my daughter sometimes,
  221. "Yaar Tu hasti hai to mujhe
    accha lagta hai varna bura lagta hai".
  222. So sorry, I would never do that.
  223. Aaj Se main meri beti ko yahi bolunga.
  224. Whatever you're doing,
  225. mujhe accha hi lagta hai,
    aur accha nahi bhi lagta hai
  226. Toh mera kya, tum wohi karo jo
    tumhare ko lagta hai, right?
  227. (Applause)

  228. How did you feel,

  229. first listening to so many
    unfulfilled stories, desires,
  230. lack of independence,
  231. of girls that you normally would assume
    we think these girls are better off?
  232. DN: Very depressed.

  233. It was shocking for me,
    and that's why I couldn't stop,
  234. because I had no plans to do a study
    and no plans to write a book.
  235. I'd written 17 books before,
    and I thought, "I'm done,"
  236. but when I went to St. Stephen's College
  237. and I heard, at most elite colleges
    you well know from Delhi,
  238. and the young women and the men,
  239. what they said about what it meant
    to them to be a woman and man
  240. sounded not like me
    but like my mother's generation.
  241. So then I went to another college
    and another college.
  242. The thing that was striking to me
  243. is that each woman felt she was alone,
  244. that she hides her fear
    and hides her behavior,
  245. because she thinks it's a personal fault.
  246. It's not a personal fault, it's training,
  247. and I think that's the biggest revelation
  248. is that, if we stop pretending,
  249. then the world changes.
  250. SRK: Do you girls all agree
    with what Deepa is saying?

  251. (Applause)

  252. Already see that young girl saying,

  253. "Heard, heard what she said?
    You say this to me."
  254. Yeah, that's the way it should be.
  255. You, boy, you adjust.
    We are not adjusting anymore, OK?
  256. (Applause)

  257. Thank you so much.
    Have a good evening. Thank you.

  258. (Applause)