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Author Mineke Schipper explores the rise and similarities in women’s discrimination across cultures – Times of India

Admin By Admin Nov29,2023

On November 23, 2023, Emeritus professor and author, Mineke Schipper held a lecture in the India International Centre, Lodhi Road, titled ‘Hills of Paradise: Freedom and the Female Body’, which is also the title of her latest book, published in July this year, exploring the suppression of women across cultures. She shed light on how societal constructs have systematically belittled and marginalized women, leading to discrimination that still persists in families.
The essence of freedom, as Mineke said, not only makes up for the right to voice the uncomfortable truths that society often shuns but also listening to those truths. She then talked about how throughout history, European colonialism spread an ideology of supposed superiority and deemed certain cultures, particularly masculine traits, as inherently dominant.
Then, examining the global societal structure of today, Mineke highlights the level to which males have controlled hierarchies. The discrimination is so rampant that even though women have risen to occupy commendable positions that were once inaccessible to them, men haven’t stopped trying to pull them down, thereby increasing the glass ceiling. The success and competition that women have won have unfortunately not eradicated the inherent insecurities surrounding masculinity.
Going deeper into the history of stories and traditions, Mineke mentioned how oral traditions have influenced human behavior. She presented various proverbs, from different cultures and countries that perpetuated discrimination against women. She shared with the audience how she studied over 15,000 proverbs focused on women and all hinted at the same direction, oppression of women and giving them a lower spot in the hierarchy.

Mineke Schripper

Building on this, Mineke showed the audience some selected pictures depicting gods, goddesses, and normal human beings with features that would put some people in a frenzy today. The sculptures in the pictures had big breasts, curved waistlines, and even depictions of childbirth.
Eventually, as civilizations evolved, the stories surrounding creation gradually shifted towards male dominance and put a veil on the feminine role of procreation. Myths and stories, from diverse cultures worldwide, underwent changes that rewrote the significance of women in childbirth and creation.
Sharing another example, she narrated the story of Adam and Eve and how it with time changed into a patriarchal tale where Adam’s dominance over Eve became normalized. Pictures started depicting Eve being taken out of Adam as if to show that it was Adam who gave birth to Eve and that man was the first creator.

Mineke Schripper

Another example was of a man who put his sperm under the microscope and tried to tell everyone that he saw images of little humans in his sperm, just to prove that it was the man who was the first creator and woman not being in the picture was alright.
She ended the lecture by mentioning how childbirth, a beautiful phenomenon that gave women a headstart in the early universe, actually became a roadblock for their progress, in a male-dominated, twisted society later.
The lecture was organised by Speaking Tiger Books in association with Leiden University and supported by Nederlands Letterenfond’s Dutch Foundation for Literature, Kingdom of the Netherlands, and India International Centre. The lecture gave a glimpse of the author’s new book, titled ‘Hills of Paradise: Power Powerlessness and the Female Body’, published in July this year by Speaking Tiger Books.

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