Sometimes, the process is so overwhelming and so tough that we cannot see how it is ever going to matter.
In the darkness, a tiny spark looks like something too inadequate, too feeble, too inconsequential.
Sometimes, the spark fails to inspire confidence that there will be light, and that we will conquer the darkness.
Let me give you an example: I was speaking with a scientist yesterday. She was complaining about how in the world of science, especially in India, women are not taken seriously!
They can have the exact same or even more qualifications than male scientists, but they are generally outnumbered in most workplaces, and it is assumed that they may not be as good as a man in science.
That was quite sad to hear.
It reminded me of the time when I was a school student and my biology teacher, whose day job was in pathology, would tell the girls studying with us that women get a lot of unfair advantage in the workplace, apparently. According to him, professors give women more marks if a girl is good looking! Apparently, that is even truer for a viva voce. And good looking women get promotions faster and more easily.
He had these elaborate stories about how women took advantage of their gender and sexual appeal in his office.
I even believed those things as a kid, because I knew no better. Now I think those are jealous comments of a man who found it hard to accept that women were doing well in the workplace because, in his mind, women could never be as good as men in science.
Women are supposed to stay at home and look after kids.
He always talked about how he would not want his wife to work. Or at max work as a school teacher which he thought was a relatively easy and safe job.
Now I know that is just casual sexism. My teacher was reducing the career of his colleagues to their looks because it justified his belief that he was better than a woman at work just by virtue of being a man.
I have heard similar things from women lawyers who practice in various courts – that clients and lawyers sometimes assume that a man would be better at fighting a case than a woman. Or they would suggest that women should take more interest in “female friendly” cases like family law and adoption while they should avoid more “masculine matters” like criminal law.
Would you be able to cross-examine a rape victim without any shame in open court? I heard a friend’s lawyer brother asked her when she said that she wants to be a top criminal lawyer.
That’s just sad. Women have to face a lot of hardships to do simple things that men can take for granted. It is hard for men to even fathom what women have to go through. In many district courts, it’s very hard to find women.
I must say things are a bit better in law firms and courts in Delhi, where I sometimes see women outnumbering men at times. There are so many female general counsels these days. Still, the scarcity of women in the top of the profession is very worrying. How many female judges are there in the Supreme Court?
However, I told my scientist friend that I am not worried because I am clear that things are changing for good! The change is afoot, and there is no going back.
How can you say that? She asked me.
There was a time when discrimination happened, and women accepted it. They bought this logic. Even most women thought or accepted that men are better suited for science, or criminal law, while women are more suited to teach in schools or take nursing jobs!
This is not the case anymore!
When such things happen, women protest! They refuse to be a victim of sexism. They call out partiality and casual sexism.
There was a time, not very long back, when if a woman faced unwanted sexual advances, even she thought that there must be something wrong that she did, or women around her will ask her to behave differently. No more! At least, not as often.
I see women now speaking up and rejecting such social norms and pressure that favored sexism.
The ideological battle has been won. In media, in social circles, in the mind of men and women. The rest is just about how fast the idea will spread, and be adopted. Many people, men, and women, are still resisting it, but it’s getting harder by the day.
Even if I assume that just 10% of women refuse to play deaf to casual sexism today, the number is going to increase constantly. This process is irreversible. The tipping point has been achieved.
The work is not all done, but it’s in a process now. We have to stay steadfast and resolute and trust the process. And of course, we must fan the fire.
Now imagine, there was a time when few rebellious women, and of course, men, had begun this revolution. If today this is a small fire, there was a time when the feminist movement was just a spark in an ocean of darkness. There was a time when it was hard to believe that the spark will ever win over the darkness, ever.
Quite unlike now, there were hardly any supporters or allies.
It was easy to give up then, but some people didn’t. The pioneers dreamed of a world that was unimaginable back then.
The beginning, no matter how small and apparently insignificant, is no less important. In the spark, there is a possibility of enlightenment of the entire world.
What are you not starting because you are overwhelmed by the adversity and the smallness of the change your every action brings?
What are you not committing to?
What seems like an insurmountable challenge?
What unfairness are you quietly accepting because fighting seems futile?
How about your dreams that seem unreachable today?
Believe, persevere, take action. Beginnings are small, but they are everything we have at the beginning, and they are enough if we do not give up, if we trust the process, if we just stay the course.
Are you overwhelmed by the level of your unfitness? Do you give up because you cannot work out much because it is so painful to continue?
Are you afraid of studying because it is so hard to concentrate?
Are you not starting your own practice or business because you are afraid of starting from scratch? Are you afraid of being too small a player in this big marketplace?
Do you care about a cause but you are scared to commit to it because it seems impossible to change anything?
Remember, there was a Simone de Beauvoir who wrote The Second Sex in 1949, when feminism was not acceptable but ridiculed and reviled, and in most countries around the world women did not even have voting rights, and women were assumed to be weaker and dumber than men by the vast majority of humanity.
Even in India, women began to vote only from the 1951 general election. But still, women joined politics and demanded equal rights much before. They were sparks in the darkness.
Will you have the courage to be the spark in the darkness?
LawSikho, for me, is a spark in the darkness too. We believe that legal education should be very different from what is imparted in law colleges, and we have stood up to make the impossible happen. We have been joined by many from the industry, and we are together lighting a fire of change.
Nothing will be the same when we are done, and the legal profession would stand forever changed, that is our big promise.
We are here to create extraordinary lawyers and business leaders. Join us, strengthen us, be a part of the revolution.
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