“Would you have let me join the armed forces had I not had this slightly bad eyesight problem?”
I asked my father this question just after I watched “We the People’ on NDTV. The topic for discussion being ‘Is India’s military biased against women?’
The answer I got was a straight and blunt “Yes”
But if I know my father well, there was an underlying and very prominent tacit message – ‘I wouldn’t have let you give a 2nd thought to your decision.’
That is to say, “Do your homework first, as in self-introspection. If you promise to handle everything that is demanded from a woman soldier, go ahead. But don’t dare to insult the profession even in your dreams by regretting at any stage for having taken it up. Then you would be insulting your self, me, and your country.”
I had done my homework long back and that is why am not in the armed forces. Even though I have the mental stamina, I badly lack the physical strength required for being a part of the defense forces.
The debate has been ignited due to Army Vice Chief Lt. Gen. S. Pattabhiraman’s sexist remark – ‘Comfort level with women officers is low and the army can do without them’; followed by a suicide incident involving a woman officer.
The response included newspapers giving front page coverage to the issue, accompanying them with names in bold like – Rani Laxmibai of Jhansi, Joan of Arc, Razia Sultana, Rani Jhansi regiment of the INA, etc. all to prove that women have the metal in them to be a part of the military even in a combat role.
Following this was the emphasis on defining ‘COMBAT’ per se – you might be employed in any function in the military, there might not be access to basic facilities, you might have to share tents/blankets etc. with your counterparts (which include males), you might be captured by the enemy and in case of women, even sexually harassed, etc.
Thinking twice about such situations is what I meant by ‘Do your Homework’. The left side of my brain tells me that yes there are hurdles which in extreme cases might make a woman soldier look back at her decision. But then the right side adds, that is precisely why you need to promise yourself that you can face them. Only then you should go ahead and join the military. Don’t break the commitment.
The news channels have been flashing with debates, saying ‘The problem is with men and their mindset; which makes it difficult for them to accept a woman officer among their ranks.’
Another one said, ‘Women have grown, men need to grow up.’
But would add to that by saying, In the military,
‘If she can survive it all, Let her.
If she can’t and backtracks, Punish her’
Do your Homework girls, before falling for high-blown statements like ‘Breaking the glass ceiling’ and please don’t insult any profession.
Decide what you are made for!