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Olympic heroes Sakshi, Sindhu are 'desh ki beti'-yawn

Shivani Gupta
Shivani GuptaAug 20, 2016 | 22:03

Olympic heroes Sakshi, Sindhu are 'desh ki beti'-yawn

Desh ki beti...

Desh ki betiyan...

How often did we hear this description of India's women medal winners at Rio?

Are you sick of it already?

Why is it that women must always be categorised vis-a-vis their relationship to men - daughter, wife, mother, sister? Is this all they are?

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Overstating of women's achievements is dangerous. All they need is applause like any 'man' would get.

The fact that heroes are categorised by their gender is exactly the problem with this kind of celebration and it is no surprise that it comes largely from men.

Abhinav Bindra was not called "desh ka beta" when he won a historic gold, so why should Sindhu be called "desh ki beti" when she wins a historic silver. What really is the difference?

The difference is the mindset that ties women to a certain role no matter what they are doing and achieving. We think this helps girls and women, but it actually doesn't. It only reinforces that their roles first and foremost are in relation to males and families. They are as much individuals as male heroes. But while we worship exactly that about our men, their individuality, we feel the need to tie women, lest they must truly look and feel equal to men.

Equally revolting is this nonsensical talk of how "women are better than men" because two women won medals, where no Indian man could. Is that to say that their medal would have been less precious if male athletes had also won? Women are not only daughters, not only sisters, not only better than men when we win. We don't even want to be "better than men". We are happy being "equal to men".

Overstating of women's achievements is dangerous. All they need is applause like any "man" would get.

No less, no more.

While both Sakshi Malik and PV Sindhu will help the cause of women overall and women athletes in particular, that's not what they set out to do. Their identities should be that of an athlete. They toiled to be an athlete not a model "state daughter". They want to be known as Olympics medal winners, not poster girls of the "Beti Bachao" andolan. The latter maybe coincidental.

Maybe even necessary to drive home the point. But let's not reduce their achievement just to this. Next time you refer to a woman athlete, be careful of how you describe her. Are you overstating that she is a woman? Is that because you feel she had it tougher than men, or is it because you want to drive home the point that she is a woman who has done it not a man?

If the latter, why is it a surprise? Did you think women don't win medals at Olympics? Who wins the women's category competitions then, men?

It is dangerous to suggest a woman should be saved because they can, someday, go on to become national icons in sports. What about crores who will not? Are we to be saved only because we can achieve something or because we deserve to live, no matter what we do with our lives? Our men saved because they all go on to become super-achievers? No. They are "kept" because they are considered vital for a family, its honour, its nirvana, its economic future.

Yes, women achievers guarantee all of that. But not every woman might earn a living. The "girl child' should be saved because she deserves to live. It's a crime to kill them. Let's stop making it sound like it is a favour people will do to the "girl child" by keeping her because she will bring money and honour to them in future.

Last updated: August 24, 2016 | 12:50
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