Segregation by sex

A lady who used to live in our building, passed away today. We didn’t know her personally, probably never had even seen her, but when we heard there was a small memorial service in the community hall of our housing society, we decided to go and pay our respects.

So, we walked up to the community hall and entered to see that men sat neatly to one side of the hall, and women sat on the other side. This is something I’ve seen so often – in memorial services such as this one, in wedding ceremonies, havans and poojas – and it surprises me each time.

Of course, I don’t follow the segregation and sit anywhere. My whole family doesn’t subscribe to it either. Like, G sat with me today, and not in the men’s side of the hall. In fact, both of us sat almost in the middle of the two sides, towards the back. My father or my brother would’ve done the same too.

What surprises me though is how diligently this is followed. I saw one elderly man come in with a woman – maybe his wife, or maybe a daughter-in-law. She was looking towards the front of the hall as she walked in, so maybe hadn’t noticed the segregation, and where she was “supposed to” sit. The man she was with sat down in the men’s side, and as she was following him, he very properly and dismissively pointed out where she was supposed to go sit. And so she went and sat in the women’s side, of course.

Why the segregation, is my question. And, does it happen all over the country? Does it happen in other countries as well? It obviously started from the segregation of “one” sex, from “the other”. Simone de Beauvoir points out in her book The Second Sex that the male has traditionally been “the one”, and so by default, the woman is “the other” or the second sex. It’s amazing how such segregation becomes such a part of our everyday culture/life, and how it seeps so deep in, that it isn’t even questioned.



Filed under life, social issues, thinks

12 responses to “Segregation by sex

  1. Really? That’s so sad! I always deplore women gravitating to the kitchen in family gatherings while men sit outside and chat, but this is deplorable!

    me: It is, isn’t it? And yeah – either gravitating to the kitchen, or looking bored and sitting in one straight line of chairs at parties while men stand around talking, drinking and enjoying themselves.

  2. Have you heard of the segregation in some highly Christian engineering colleges around Madras? A rope line dividing the sexes in class and bus. Tewwible.

    me: OMG! No, I hadn’t heard of that. That is tewwible!

  3. D

    Not just at funerals, prayer meets and havans but it also happens at parties, social gatherings and sometimes, even in office. And it makes no sense at all!

    me: None at all. Conditionaing, I suppose – which is even sadder.

  4. chutneysoul

    Over the summer, I was at an informal dinner, and it was the same thing too! The dinner had been organized because one of the couples, who had moved a few years back, were in town for a weekend. And as usual, the men were in the living room, watching television and discussing cricket and politics, and the women were in the dining room, chatting. The group was mostly South Asian, except one guy who was American. He was a former colleague of the couple’s and obviously wanted to spend time with both of them. Poor guy! He spend most of the evening, between the living room and the dining room, trying to distribute his time equally between the two sexes!

  5. Oh Yes I have seen this happen.
    And interestingly, with our new found love for our ancient culture and traditions, we have become more aware of such ‘good values’. Public schools now object to girls and boys mixing, and at least in one school, they can’t sit next to each other – because it may lead to DPS RK Puram MMS kind of ‘corruption’ of characters.

    me: That’s crazy!

  6. Pingback: The gender divide at Blogbharti

  7. It happens all the time and infuriates me no end. What’s with this segregation?? I hate it when women move towards the dining room even when invited to sit in the drawing room!! I have seen the segregation even at army parties where you would least expect it. I have been asked to go in (can you see the flames??) by elders when I continued sitting in the drawing room talking!! Grr….

  8. and you know what is ludicrous…when you spend the whole day sharing a class room or work space (minus the segregation) with your male colleagues and come evening you are supposed to ‘nonchalantly’ divide into two groups…like the same group which was “integrated” in the first half of the day morphs into “bhabhi culture” come evening.

  9. well, i think its seems weird that people are segregated at such events…

    maybe it has to do with the fact that males are expected to behave differently than the females, as in females are expected to bawl out in mourning, they do the hymns, men do the ritualistic prayers, etc…its discriminatory and sexist , yes…but changing the mindsets can take a long time…

    nice blog u have there…do visit mine


    me: That’s an interesting logic, and makes sense now that I think of it.

  10. i dont know if such segregation happens in other countries. we normally dont have such segregation with we have poojas at home…but i have seen lots and lots of temples that follow this system..and i honestly dont know why…

  11. shabbeer

    its quite a common thing, and more over sometimes women wants to talk ‘women’s stuff’ and men ‘men’s stuff’ and with each other around, its quite boring to stand the other… dont get pissed at me …

  12. vinod

    well gender discrimination is really not required in some situations.
    but i think it is required in situations like poojas, prayers etc.

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