Crime Against Women

Post Bangalore, it’s time to read Simone de Beauvoir’s ‘The Second Sex’ once again

Because even in the India of 2017, women are defined by the male perception.

Let’s play a game. First, read the following words: “bluestocking”, “hysteria”, “fragile”, “frigid”, “vulnerable”, “bitchy”. What do all of these words have in common? Bingo. They all exclusively relate to men describing women. All right, I’ll give you that we use “fragile” to describe a male’s ego from time to time. Come now, we can take one sexist joke to start us off on the daunting subject of feminism, right?

If you were a European woman in the late 18th century and happened to be a thinking person, someone who asked questions and observed and articulated human existence for what it was, then you’d be referred to (with much disdain) as a bluestocking. And if all patriarchs had to identify an epic version of a bluestocking, then Simone De Beauvoir would top their list.

Well-known in academic and feminist circles, De Beauvoir was a French existential philosopher and gender critic par excellence. She also had an open relationship with the great love of her life, the well-known man John Paul Sartre. Among her many writings, the bible of all gender studies is The Second Sex, a book that deconstructs the reality of gender architecture. And you may be surprised, because she twists the normal understanding of feminism.

Let’s talk of equality

Stripped to its bare bones, feminism asks for equality, equal access to the world, equal opportunities and equal pay. The reason? We’re equal too, right?

And that’s great, except the nuances are all lost on us today. Evidently rape, assault, molestation, and character assault are all just a part and parcel of being a woman today in the world in general, and in India in particular.

Bangalore is currently reeling after the fiercely liberal, beer-guzzling city had a bunch of goons assault, molest, and grope groups of women in the middle of the city on New Year’s Eve. If that wasn’t enough, video footage of two men on a scooter violently assaulting a young woman walking home had the public fumbling for words.

The Karnataka home minister has shrugged his shoulders. He declared that “such things happen” and then promptly blamed “westernization” for the incident. It’s 2017 – are we still going to pretend that no sari-clad or burqa-wearing woman has ever been sexually assaulted? Are we going to go straight ahead and be one-dimensional dimwits who see sexual assault solely as a response to women not knowing their place?

This is where De Beauvoir’s The Second Sex comes into play. She points out that the experience of being a woman is not equal or the same, as normative feminism indicates.

A person is not born a woman but becomes one. And we become one in relation to man. In fact, De Beauvoir argues that it’s the primary way a woman is discovered.

“To discover woman, we will not reject certain contributions of biology, psychoanalysis, or historical materialism, but we will consider that the body, sexual life and technology exist concretely for man only insofar as he grasps them from the overall perspective of his existence.”

Simone de Beauvoir (left) with Jean Paul Sartre. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons
Simone de Beauvoir (left) with Jean Paul Sartre. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Instead of knotting this idea up in academic denseness, it might be more fruitful to add cultural context to this.

In India, men define women

A person born in India becomes an Indian woman based on the Indian man. Who decides this? Popular culture, of course. It is in the everyday that we find these patterns. The woman who needs to stay at home to stay safe, the woman who needs to look a certain way to bag a man, the woman who needs to get married at a certain time and then produce a child. We’ll get a little more flexible in the cities, of course, we’ll account for western dressing, for some women drinking, smoking, chatting up with men. As long as the power lies with the men, and the women are not too out of line, everything will be just alright.

This is why De Beauvoir classifies the experience of our gender binary to as object and subject. The objects being women. We are to be described, delegated, and used to cater to the whims and fancies of the reigning patriarchy culture. Precisely why, in addition to biological differences, woman and men have vastly different experiences (and the same could be said, for those who don’t identify with one gender or are transgender). We see the world differently because of the experiences we live as objects in the social paradigm.

Men experience the world with an equally profound difference as the subject.

This is dystopia, for they are unwillingly thrown into this paradigm by birth. This explains why many men (#notallmen, anyone?) get upset, and think the feminazis are hiding under their beds, waiting to pounce.

The truth is that this subject-object world hurts all of us as humans, and to erode it we must first stop being objects, and men must stop being subjects. It’s confusing because of the setup of expectations.

Popular Indian culture regards the ideal young woman as a virgin. Perhaps the essence of this imposition comes from the need to be assured that masculinity and its ability to arouse the female stays protected. Thus, a man can always verify that he is indeed virile, without any competition from women.

Historically this hasn’t always been the case. The Second Sex describes Marco Polo’s commentary on the Tibetans:

“Marco Polo asserted that for the Tibetans ‘none of them wanted to take a virgin girl as a wife’ a rational explanation has sometimes been given for this refusal: man does not want a wife who has not yet aroused masculine desires.”

The body as the perceived asset

No matter which way we flip the coin, though, the story is the same. A woman’s most essential value lies in her body, her sexuality, and her ability to arouse a man. Through the construction of patriarchy, whether she is supposed to be a virgin or not, her life is dictated by the belief system of a man in any given cultural time period.

Even though The Second Sex was published in 1949, De Beauvoir unwraps an essential contemporary truth. One that lies behind the need to keep women at a distance while simultaneously coveting a certain kind of dominance over her body.

“In all civilisations and still today, she inspires horror in man: the horror of his own carnal contingence that he projects on her.”

The answer does not lie in castrating offenders, or beating assaulters on the head with a rod. Although I have imagined it. I too, have had gory daydreams of beating the living day lights out of an assaulter. But it is not the solution.

The solution may lie instead in exchanging lenses. Seeing the world from each other’s point of view: the traps, shortcomings, and power that the ideal Indian man consciously or unconsciously wields. We must loiter on the roads, and ask, that in addition to the equality to walk our streets, we also exchange stories of being.

No matter what equality we have, a woman wearing a miniskirt or modest sari on the road will experience the architecture of the place very differently from a man. And it’s here we must come, to the streets, the public space, to collectively pass on our stories. Our stories of privilege, our stories of vulnerability.

Tell me how it is to walk freely on a street at 9 pm, knowing your chances of being groped by strangers is negligible. Tell me how you chose your career over a child, or how you chose both. Tell me how you spoke up for another woman that one time at work, and tell me when you told your friend on WhatsApp that the sexist joke forward wasn’t even funny and lacked wit of any kind. Tell me how you wrote to our political leaders, asking them to set the record straight.

And when it comes to us women caught in the trap of gender, it’s time to consider De Beauvoir’s most profound social inquiry:

“It is perfectly natural for the future woman to feel indignant at the limitations posed upon her by her sex. The real question is not why she should reject them: the problem is rather to understand why she accepts them.”

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The next Industrial Revolution is here – driven by the digitalization of manufacturing processes

Technologies such as Industry 4.0, IoT, robotics and Big Data analytics are transforming the manufacturing industry in a big way.

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Digitalization and the Indian manufacturing industry

The Make in India program aims to increase the contribution of the manufacturing industry to the country’s GDP from 16% to 25% by 2022. India’s manufacturing sector could also potentially touch $1 trillion by 2025. However, to achieve these goals and for the industry to reach its potential, it must overcome the several internal and external obstacles that impede its growth. These include competition from other Asian countries, infrastructural deficiencies and lack of skilled manpower.

There is a common sentiment across big manufacturers that India lacks the eco-system for making sophisticated components. According to FICCI’s report on the readiness of Indian manufacturing to adopt advanced manufacturing trends, only 10% of companies have adopted new technologies for manufacturing, while 80% plan to adopt the same by 2020. This indicates a significant gap between the potential and the reality of India’s manufacturing industry.

The ‘Make in India’ vision of positioning India as a global manufacturing hub requires the industry to adopt innovative technologies. Digitalization can give the Indian industry an impetus to deliver products and services that match global standards, thereby getting access to global markets.

The policy, thus far, has received a favourable response as global tech giants have either set up or are in the process of setting up hi-tech manufacturing plants in India. Siemens, for instance, is helping companies in India gain a competitive advantage by integrating industry-specific software applications that optimise performance across the entire value chain.

The Digital Enterprise is Siemens’ solution portfolio for the digitalization of industries. It comprises of powerful software and future-proof automation solutions for industries and companies of all sizes. For the discrete industries, the Digital Enterprise Suite offers software and hardware solutions to seamlessly integrate and digitalize their entire value chain – including suppliers – from product design to service, all based on one data model. The result of this is a perfect digital copy of the value chain: the digital twin. This enables companies to perform simulation, testing, and optimization in a completely virtual environment.

The process industries benefit from Integrated Engineering to Integrated Operations by utilizing a continuous data model of the entire lifecycle of a plant that helps to increase flexibility and efficiency. Both offerings can be easily customized to meet the individual requirements of each sector and company, like specific simulation software for machines or entire plants.

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Case studies for technology-led changes

An example of the implementation of digitalization solutions from Siemens can be seen in the case of pharma major Cipla Ltd’s Kurkumbh factory.

Cipla needed a robust and flexible distributed control system to dispense and manage solvents for the manufacture of its APIs (active pharmaceutical ingredients used in many medicines). As part of the project, Siemens partnered with Cipla to install the DCS-SIMATIC PCS 7 control system and migrate from batch manufacturing to continuous manufacturing. By establishing the first ever flow Chemistry based API production system in India, Siemens has helped Cipla in significantly lowering floor space, time, wastage, energy and utility costs. This has also improved safety and product quality.

In yet another example, technology provided by Siemens helped a cement plant maximise its production capacity. Wonder Cement, a greenfield project set up by RK Marbles in Rajasthan, needed an automated system to improve productivity. Siemens’ solution called CEMAT used actual plant data to make precise predictions for quality parameters which were previously manually entered by operators. As a result, production efficiency was increased and operators were also freed up to work on other critical tasks. Additionally, emissions and energy consumption were lowered – a significant achievement for a typically energy intensive cement plant.

In the case of automobile major, Mahindra & Mahindra, Siemens’ involvement involved digitalizing the whole product development system. Siemens has partnered with the manufacturer to provide a holistic solution across the entire value chain, from design and planning to engineering and execution. This includes design and software solutions for Product Lifecycle Management, Siemens Technology for Powertrain (STP) and Integrated Automation. For Powertrain, the solutions include SINUMERIK, SINAMICS, SIMOTICS and SIMATIC controls and drives, besides CNC and PLC-controlled machines linked via the Profinet interface.

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Siemens is using its global expertise to guide Indian industries through their digital transformation. With the right technologies in place, India can see a significant improvement in design and engineering, cutting product development time by as much as 30%. Besides, digital technologies driven by ‘Ingenuity for Life’ can help Indian manufacturers achieve energy efficiency and ensure variety and flexibility in their product offerings while maintaining quality.

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The above examples of successful implementation of digitalization are just some of the examples of ‘Ingenuity for Life’ in action. To learn more about Siemens’ push to digitalize India’s manufacturing sector, see here.

This article was produced on behalf of Siemens by the Scroll.in marketing team and not by the Scroll.in editorial staff.