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Each time we accept all the markers of being a good woman, we accept that we are not equal.
Violence needs hierarchy, an uncontested, even mutually agreed upon, notion of suppression versus submission. When we feed into this inequality, we start inflicting violence upon ourselves much before someone else can.
We do it each time we think that as women, teaching is ‘suitable’ for us. Each time we talk of, half-serious, but only half-joking, of finding that rich guy to marry. Each time we think that unless we pretend asexuality, we would bring dishonour to our families. Each time we let anyone else impose their notion of shame and honour upon us. Each time we accept the mangalsutra and vermilion (the markers that only work on the smooth surface of women) and kanyadan (the ‘gift’ of a ‘virgin’) without thinking about what they mean. Each time we take it for granted that it always has to be the guy who buys the rum and the rubber. Each time we ask for that black bag when purchasing sanitary napkins. Each time we struggle to burrow the presence of ‘underwear’ on our person or place of habitation. Each time we think it is nitpicking to ask for ‘mother’s name’ and ‘partner’s name’ on forms, instead of the mandatory ‘father’s’ and ‘husband’s’. Each time we choose to be the ‘good’ woman over being an equal person.
Yes, doing the opposite of all that each time makes us and many others feel like we have a permanent chip on our shoulder. One knows the feeling. It is like being at war all the time. But it is. It is a war. We did not start it. The only thing we know is that we have been made constant casualties.
Now if that’s not a status we are kicked about, we better take it on. We choose how we fight: fight, write, right our wrongs—the ones we have suffered and the ones we have done unto ourselves, right to the most life-changing ones, instead of letting others change our life the way we never wanted. We choose the nature of our participation in the war, resolving to enter into and emerge out of it laughing, the stars of heaven and the furies of hell blazing in our eyes.
If not, we accept.
That we and we—the ones we have heard about and the ones we have not—would continue to be gnawed at and torn apart. Drilled into and dumped in (pebble, candles, nails, rods). Head banged, hair pulled, nose broken, face burnt. Spat at for desiring, scorned for dreaming, shamed at choosing, shown our place for being happy sans permission. Marked, tagged, sealed, signed. Groped, pinched, shoved, rubbed. Butted, busted, inserted, deleted. Required to part lips and offer sugar, made to dress them with pepper and purse them up. Ordered, through a mere glance, to swallow bellows of rage and emit screams of agony. Symbolist’s dream, cymbalist’s dream. Bang, bang, clang, clang.
Either. Or. We have a choice. We always do.
Ankita Anand has been general secretary, National Campaign for People’s Right to Information; editorial assistant, Penguin Books India; member, People’s Union for Democratic Rights and team coordinator, Samanvay, IHC Indian Languages’ Festival. She is the co-founder of a theatre group, Aatish, which, mostly through street performances, deals with marginalized socio-political issues. As a freelancer she writes, edits and translates. Some of her works can be read at Scrapbook Streamers.
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