Saturday, May 20, 2006

What can FU do for women?

First cut thoughts.

Scarcity of something desirable often creates value in a market. So the less women there are, the more valuable each woman would become. But that essentially leads to commodification of women. For the former strand of thought, read How can we cure sexism? Limit the supply of women. For the latter strand of thought read Sthreeling. Reading both of them , it seems we are in a dead-end. Essentially a very depressing scenario if you have seen Matrubhoomi.

Now cut to a conversation that I was having with Mark during one of our sessions. And in course of the discussion he mentioned something insightful. Because kids/ teens here have a high "fallback utlity" (FU) essentially elicits respect for them from parents. So you may not have the extreme case where a parent would very often beat up a kid. For that would mean the teen can run off and start earning on his own, not very difficult compared to India. I have been personally surprised watching parents treating kids like grown-ups here. Fallback utility is a fancy term for your available opportunities given an event. An uneducated woman given a divorce has less fallback utlity compared to a woman with education. Examples that increase fallback utlity are education; economic fredom; civil freedom.

Essentially, if you think of a static scenario with women as objects, then you bow to the laws of supply and demand and end up in a commodities' market. But think of a dynamic scenario where women have increasing fallback utilities (or available opportunities), and the situation wont be so depressing. It will be a far more equal world. It will increase their bargaining power in any kind of relationship. Maybe the role for government is to encourage institutions that provide more fallback utlities to women and for women to increase their fallback utility.

My personal untested hypothesis is that even an unrelated issue that women can afford and drive vehicles of their own can lead to dramatic decrease in eve-teasing. Like Pune and Bangalore. Maybe this is an unintended consequence of the fact that you cannot import cheaper second hand-vehicles from abroad due to high government duties.

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