Genders’ Roles were Reversed!
By Akhtar Mahmud Faruqui
From Purdah to Parliament signified
a landmark for the fair sex of yesteryear. If one
were to go by the latest research findings a century
or two hence some gutsy male author might chronicle
his gender’s startling turnabout in an equally
stimulating repertoire: From Parliament to Purdah!
Should the prospective author happen to be truly
futuristic, he could succeed in mirroring the confounding
phenomenon of the times: Wobbly Man: Seldom Forward,
The foreboding appears too presumptuous to be seriously
taken. Yet, Brian J. Whipp and Susan A. Ward of
the Physiology Laboratory, University of California
Los Angeles (UCLA) suggest the unpalatable prospects
in a not-too-recent issue of the prestigious science
journal Nature: women athletes are improving so
fast that they might overtake men in some events
in the not too distant future!
“We are not saying that is what’s going
to happen,” Professor Whipp says, but unless
there is some change in the progression rate that
has been going on for over a century, then that
is what is going to happen.”
The findings seem to find favor with some coaches.
Ernie Gregoire who has coached both male and female
Olympic athletes, believes women could achieve parity
in the marathon but not too soon.
True. But on the basis of such evidence a reversal
of roles for the genders cannot be summarily ruled
out. The plight of man on the track and off the
field as a ragged, rundown gender with attendant
social ramifications is, hypothetically, not all
that a distant prospect. The transition could unfold
in a tale encompassing many cities – oriental
as well as occidental.
The fair sex
could assume the role of parliament’s patron
saint to tax its mind about the serious “affairs
of the state.” The Iron Lady rarity of the
century past becomes the commonplace reality of
the 21st century. Men, meanwhile, are glued to their
immediate surroundings, the more afluent cozily
perched at home to debate the ‘Fall and Winter
Ready to Wear’ collection from Paris over
midday coffee parties. For some, the green and gray
tartan tweed jacket worn over a green jersey blouse
and gray flannel dancing skirt has a special appeal.
Quite a few fancy the dangerously low-scooped necklines.
And only a handful admire the long skirts, high
necklines, and conservative colors from the house
of Jean-Louis Scherrer, Yves Saint Laurent and Christian
Household management in such a balmy spirit is a
reminder of the century past when Begums of the
illustrious upper class were overburdened with gossip
and retired to bed, and eventually from life, without
once peeping into the kitchen! In their mold, the
21st century privileged hubbies marshal the home
front with matching dexterity.
As the wholesome scene unfolds in its entirety,
female dramatists, novelists, poetesses, painters,
and intellectuals give an amazing display of gray
matter. A feminine renaissance, so to say. Taming
of Man is followed by My Fair Gentleman. The work
becomes an instant hit as harried hubbies look askance
to the searching feminine probe: Why can’t
a man be more like a woman?
By-and-by, male contribution in the field of journalism
is restricted to the Letters to the Editor brooding.
News comments and interpretative reporting become
the exclusive preserve of female journalists who
trot the globe as pathfinders, a role vividly reminiscent
of the Gulf War media extravaganza. It takes a good
part of the 21st century for a man to recapture
an editor’s seat but to his utmost discomfiture
the paper’s circulation nosedives, advertisement
rates drop, and its finances remain precariously
perched! Finally, the responsibility is entrusted
to a charming hard taskmaster possessed of the grace
and poise of present-day Julia Roberts.
At about the same time, a Broadway production The
Mischievous Husband becomes an instant hit with
its Lahori rendering Sharir Shahor launching domesticated
husbands on a misguided course. A belated enterprise,
Sex discrimination of a new kind is the order of
the day. Huge corporate houses and public sector
corporations buzz with the rattle of buxom female
CEOs and managers. Less forgiving and less forgetful
than their once-upon-a-time male counterparts, the
headstrongs’ involvement with male staffers
is restricted to an admonitory grunt on sloppy canteen-management
or mundane receivable/dispatch duties.
the Annual Nobel Award Ceremony in Stockholm turns
out to be a pompous all-female affair with males
excelling in the not too unfamiliar eavesdropping
act. Mathematics, once a hard nut for the fair sex,
too has come to enjoy primacy among female academics.
Confusion worse confounded, a New World Order makes
an unceremonious beginning in America with the fair
sex abandoning schools that spell out the do’s
and don’ts for prospective parents. The all-man
faculty for an all-man class is food for thought
for concerned members of the docile Man Action Front
(MAF) thousands of miles away who revert to Bacon
as if in a state of abstraction:
Domestic cares afflict the husband’s bed,
Or pains his head;
Those that live single, take it for a curse,
Or do things worse;
Some would have children:
Those that have them moan;
Or wish them gone:
What is, then, to have or have no wife,
But single thralldom, or double strife?
Internationally, disarmament acquires a new meaning.
Star Wars “born in deception and raised in
cynicism,” to quote American scientist Aldric
Sauncier fired for his plain talking, are reduced
to cosmetic battles over satellite networks. Missile
plants have come to excel in making consumer goods.
The trend set in 1992 when the Soviet Union split
up and its biggest rocket factory at Dniepropetrovsk
(Ukraine) started producing a wide array of consumer
goods such as plastic toy guns, sausage machines,
kitchen appliances, music boxes, and umbrellas!
The world of sports presents many stunning surprises.
At Wimbledon, greater ignominy is in store for men
each succeeding year. Venus William’s granddaughter
crushes Aggasi’s grandson with an unparalleled
drubbing: 6-0,6-0,6-0 in the year 2040 AD.
The cricket scene is agog with equally exciting
prospects. Imrana Niazi, a formidable find from
Pakistan, gives a convincing display of verve and
speed as she routs the Australians in the 2025 World
Cup Final at the Oval. Lyrics, she inspires, and
with gay spontaneity:
You are on the edge of your seat
Feelings running high
She’s the best in the world
She makes the white ball fly;
It’s the dream of every man
To play the best that he can
Yet she bowls them all out
Her pretty arm lands the clout
They are sent back reeling
Their wickets cartwheeling
Who will be, who will be the Queen
Who would rule the world?
The bony fighter goes on to cap her field achievements
with a tally of 479 wickets, a marked improvement
on Sir Hadley’s past century feat.
The social spin-offs of the change are many: in
the mindless surge of honking cars and ramshackle
mini buses on the roads of metropolitan Karachi,
the female drivers calmly wind their way to cement
closer ethnic bonds.
police force also scores many successes. Street
gangsters turn into heart-broken dullards drifting
aimlessly from thana to thana with the burning desire:
Allah karae too bhi ho bemarae mohabbat
With no time for such levity or the fanciful ramblings
of Agatha Christie, the SHOs fancy the regimental
Italian damsels standing guard at the Pope’s
Vatican residence whose Jane Bond image, contrasting
with the Swedish guards attire of the past, has
a special appeal.
Can such a fanciful futuristic sce nario ever unfold?
An article from England titled Battle between Sexes:
Women are Winning is some testimony: “Not
belonging to the women –on-top-of-the-kitchen-sink
school of thought, I would love to see more women
electricians, plumbers, window cleaners and truck
drivers. What do I see instead? Women manning (or
should I say womanning) every store and supermarket
counter, every bank/building society window/till
and every estate agency/advertising agency office.
It is, in short, their monopolization of the service
sector that somewhat unnerves me….I seem to
be developing a peculiar sense of belonging to some
second class sex (!)…” The harried author
goes on to make the horrific claim: “I am
convinced that the days when wars were fought on
account of successions, religious beliefs, territorial
gains, or ideologies are over. In the future, wars
will be waged between sexes and races…”
Some hazy portent dot the horizon. Remember former
Texas Governor Ann Richards’ quip to skewer
President Bush: “George Bush can’t help
it; he was born with a silver foot in his mouth.”
Her stratagem is well defined: “We need more
women in government. They are good managers with
flexible viewpoints. We need their stamina and their
kind of imagination.” Authors like Joan Smith
(Guardian) already see “evidence of a trend
towards change, driven by feminist ideas, which
will eventually transform countries like even the
US , if it is not stopped in its tracks. Some of
them are even writing books about it, denouncing
the threat of a ‘totalitarian’ feminism
which is said to be exercising an insidious influence
No empty words.
The home scene? A few disquieting trends, though
of a totally different nature. In the good old days,
as any angelic bari boorhi would confide, “Har
mard do tin bewian hazam kar jata tha. Aaj jis ghar
maen dekho, aek bewa barjaman hae!”
More. Some boys are ditched in their own home and
forced to play the ignoble ghar damad role by invading
in-laws. Luckily, the phenomenon remains an aberration
in infancy – neither a fad nor a norm.
And yet more. While a blue-eyed bahoo feature s
prominently in her susral, damad sahib is a lame
duck in the in-laws’ circle willingly succumbing
to odd commands to oblige as a ready-to-order driver,
handy kitchen supplementary, ayah’s reliable
stand-by, and the rare two-in-one butler and orderly.
Despite a step or two backward, there are many a
step forward taken by bahoo begum.
For any starry-eyed feminist, the UCLA study could
be a pointer to a possible future course: men and
women launched on a competitive (rather than a collision)
course, a century or two hence. Exciting prospects,
howsoever remote. For competing individuals exude
enthusiasm, ideas, thrills, and a spontaneous qualitative
Should one hasten to contemplate such a scenario?
Perhaps it would be wiser to share the UCLA researchers’
discretion: “We aren’t saying that is
what’s going to happen,” says Whipp,
but “unless there is some change in the progression
rate that been going on for over a century, then
that is what is going to happen.”
Ample room for flight of fancy.