If you’ve ever wondered why there aren’t enough women in the Indian Armed Forces, now you know why. The Vice Chief Air Marshal P K Barbora of the Indian Air Force has just let the world know exactly how misogynistic he is.
“In a few years time, we might see this change (women getting inducted as fighter pilots) coming in with certain pre-conditions that till this age we request you to be happy, be married, but no offsprings,” IAF Vice Chief Air Marshal P K Barbora told reporters. “After 13-14 years of service, investments made on fighter pilots are actually recovered by the government,” he said in an indication that women fighter pilots will be allowed to have kids only after putting in 13-14 years in IAF.
Now, women in the age group of 21-23 years are inducted into the flying branch and may be allowed to start family after crossing the 35-37 years age bracket. The IAF Vice-Chief said if a woman pilot has to take pregnancy leave, she will be off-flying for around 10 months, which will not be fruitful for both her and the service.
I was indignant when I read his remarks, but I realize I am looking at them in completely the wrong spirit.
For one thing, Mr. Barbora did say women pilots can be married, which is better than the case with air hostesses and some airlines. He does not say that women pilots should not even marry until they are 35, see ? Shouldn’t we be rejoicing at that concession ?
Legions of unmarried daughters who are being forced by their mothers to get married before they are 30 should also applaud Mr. Barbora. For isn’t he propounding the theory that women can (and should, if they are IAF pilots) get pregnant only after 35? So much for the biological clock bugbear that mothers constantly warn about. Of course, at age 37 and above, some women may need fertility treatment, but I am sure Mr. Barbora will pay for any such treatment at his own expense.
Or maybe he has a secret opinion (reserved for airing at a later date) that IAF women pilots shouldn’t have children anyway. If they are making all those sacrifices for the nation, why not just add not having children to the list? That way, he can save on those 10 months of leave (though I wonder, how does he arrive at that generous figure of 10 months?) And somehow, I can see the IAF has no concept of paternal leave/ family leave. So male pilots are free to have children whenever they want – it’s not as if they’d like to help with the baby anyway.
Mr. Barbora also seems to show off his chivalrous gentleman personality:
Citing reasons for services not inducting women into combat arms, Barbora said, the armed forces “feel that it is not right to have a lady or a woman exposed to a conflict where she can be a prisoner of war.” “Secondly, psychologically, are we fit? another factor,” he added.
What consideration! Women, obviously, are fragile creatures who need to be protected and safeguarded, and the best way is to confine them in the kitchen – they would be safe there, won’t they? What if they go to war and *shock* get captured ? They might be imprisoned !! Which is why we should confine them to the kitchen.
The last line, of course, is the coup de grace – women aren’t psychologically fit? I did not realize that all women were raving lunatics. Can Mr. Barbora elaborate on this? I’d really like to know more about his er, very interesting thoughts.
I wonder, though – Mr. Barbora said “are we fit?”, so did he include himself in the psychologically unfit category? Nah, it can’t be a Freudian slip.
A couple of days after those remarks, Mr Barbora issued a clarification today, saying that the remarks were “his own personal opinion” and not that of the IAF or the Defence Ministry. He did not, obviously, feel the need to apologize, but merely to “clarify”.
That’s really comforting to know, I suppose. Women pilots thinking of a career in the IAF will be really happy to know that the IAF itself is not openly and unapologetically misogynistic, only the #2 guy in the IAF is.
And yes, I am still waiting to hear about any reaction/ action against Mr. Barbora from the Defence Ministry/ IAF.