Today’s episode features author Deepa Narayan and her book, Chup: Breaking the Silence about India’s Women. Deepa is a well-known sociologist and adviser on poverty, gender and development. In Chup, she brings to light the degree to which women internalise negative views about themselves, and how society further reinforces these views. She also highlights 7 bad habits that women learn because of such an environment – habits that she says they need to unlearn. She is in conversation with Neela Kaushik, the founder of Gurgaon Moms, an online community of over 28,000 mothers that helps women network, socially and professionally. [Listen to the complete podcast here: 7 Bad Habits That Women Must Unlearn]

  1. Women are now being educated, they are given jobs, and their income has also been rising. But parallel to this, they are still being molested and raped.
  2. Loving parents are still training girls not to exist and to minimize their existence. Everyday behaviours in families actually contribute to slicing off a girl’s sense of self slowly, bit by bit. This leads to a lack of power and a sense of self and makes them vulnerable to abuse. Girls are being trained not to exist and boys are being trained to entitlement. Power is invested in boys, while morality or virtue is being invested in girls.
  3. Girls learn to hate their bodies. The people around them become something that confines them even more. When she hates her body, she doesn’t have a house to live in. Then how can she be comfortable and confident?
  4. The definition of what a ‘good girl’ means hasn’t changed for generations. Every family wants to raise ‘good’ children, but no one asks what ‘good’ means.
  5. We accept a woman’s sacrifices for men in mythology, without raising any questions (Sita’s role in the Ramayan for example). Sacrifices aren’t bad but if it’s all on the woman to sacrifice and to give up on her desires, then it’s bad. Girls are being made to sacrifice even without being asked. But on the other hand, they say: ’Aim high! You can do anything.’
  6. In Deepa’s book, she has written a plot about Sita and Ram. Sita challenges him to fight the thousand-headed brother of Ravan, in which Ram fails. So Sita takes on the form of Kali and kills him. In the end, Sita and Ram rule the kingdom together. [Watch now: Shocking statistics from Deepa’s research]
  7. 85% of highly-educated women say that they are afraid to speak up and say ‘I want this.’ Speaking up is a skill which takes practice. This needs to be supported by men or other women. Also, women often say that they aren’t aware of men’s problems. And men say that they never knew how women suffered. Women are trained not to speak up because it’s deeply embedded that it’s moral to not speak up in front of others since childhood.
  8. On the division of household labour, Deepa says: ‘Change is happening faster in lower/middle-class than upper-class. More than 50% of the women, choose not to get married as they will have to deal with household-labour.’
  9. Confused sexuality—it’s still about pleasing men during sex and not being sexually pleased herself. Their duty is placed above their desire.
  10. ‘Women in rural areas are more miserable than urban women’ is a misconception. Self-help groups improve women’s lives dramatically. In women solidarity, they are constantly challenged. Urban women say ‘no’ when asked if they have a group. If women can come together, it will break the silence and make women feel accompanied.
  11. It’s not talking but behaving with children (parenting by example). Children see mothers giving in to their fathers. So it is important to listen to children, encourage their ambitions and support.

‘My intention as a psychologist was to unpack the culture. I wanted to get into the culture and break it down and find what is leading to these behaviours.’—Deepa Narayan

Listen to the complete podcast here: 7 Bad Habits That Women Must Unlearn

Click to read Chup by Deepa Narayan


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