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Five women in very different cases and circumstances – but common to all these situations is how quick we are to blame the woman. Read on!
As I read about the furore over the word ‘RAnDI’ and the subsequent uproar over Ms.Rana Ayyub’s comments from the Indian Twitteratti, I sat down to think of the irony of the Indian Aurat* who lives in a society which is so misogynist and patriarchal in its genes.
The make-believe women’s empowerment videos made by some eminent Bollywood personalities which enthralled us, away from reality into a world where we enjoyed freedom of all kinds, where people did not make sexist jokes, where the ‘Agora’ of intellectuals did not objectify us suddenly appeared meaningless and far from the truth. The Utopian world of fantasy was given a reality check the moment we stepped out of it. The harsh realities of misogyny wrenched us from within and suddenly, all the underlying meanings of the words we are so used to using in our daily lives start giving us goose bumps.
The suicide of a young, intelligent doctor working in one of India’s prominent hospitals and coming from a well educated family background, choosing to end her life gives a sneak peek into the way our Indian society functions. I won’t judge Ms. Priya Vedi because I do not know why she ‘chose’ to live the life she lived rather than just walking out of the marriage. Marriages in India are like matches made in heaven, and these matches involves the entire family and not only the couple.
As women, we have an inborn quality of adapting and compromising. If we are the elder of the lot, we let go of our beloved toys to our younger brothers and sisters; if we are younger we compromise on an extra piece of chocolate with our elder brothers and sisters. As daughters, we compromise by letting go of our opinions in deference to that of our parents; as a companion, we compromise on our jobs to follow our husbands to their places of work, and as a mother we compromise by leaving our careers to give our kids a better upbringing and future, as if the kid’s future is solely our responsibility.
If we don’t make compromises, then we are labelled: bad sister, bad daughter, bad wife, bad mother! Then why are we blaming Ms. Vedi for what she did?
If we don’t make compromises, then we are labelled: bad sister, bad daughter, bad wife, bad mother! Then why are we blaming Ms. Vedi for what she did? She was a good daughter, chose the most respectable and noble profession her parents could be proud of; she was a good doctor; she was a good wife and daughter-in-law, chose to stick to her husband inspite of knowing his different sexual orientation. Then why do we blame her? We blame her because that is what we are good at. Unfortunately, having a biased upbringing where everything bad is blamed on the woman, this is what we are good at!
Whether it is the honest opinions voiced by Ms.Ayyub on the sexist orientation of the Twitter crowd on the usage of the word ‘RAnDI’ which means ‘a prostitute’ in Hindi, or Ms.Padukone saying that it is the choice of the woman whether to have sex in marriage or outside marriage; We prefer to hang on to each and every word a ‘woman’ has voiced, make various combinations and connotations, and give it back to her saying that whatever she has said is wrong. It is not her choice to make these kind of derogatory remarks on ‘Indian Men’ when ‘Indian Men’ choose to use all kinds of derogatory words from ‘Chutiya‘ to ‘Randi‘ that demean a woman, to show off their chauvinism and valour.
Whether it is the argument that Ms.Padukone’s ‘My Choice’ video is indeed a reflection of what women empowerment is or that Ms.Ayyub’s remarks on the acronym were too far fetched or Ms.Vedi’s choice of taking such a drastic step when she had the ‘easy’ option out of divorcing her husband or Ms.Jyoti Singh’s decision to go out with her friend just to watch a movie or Ms. De’s opinions on the ordeal of Indian movie goers due to the forced intervention of the Maharashtra governmen , the soul of the argument remains constant: ‘Blame the Woman’!
Five women, coming from different religious, cultural, and social backgrounds share a common predicament: getting blamed. This is just not the case of these five women. It is a vexation commonly shared by all Indian women. This is the ‘Curious Case of the Indian Aurat!’
Woman in the spotlight image via Shutterstock
A part time backpacker, an accidental baker, a doting mother, a loving wife, a pampered
I truly appreciate you Jyotishree, for bringing up this pertinent topic.
May I also take the liberty to ask all the women readers who are reading this now, only one thing….”ARE WOMEN WILLING TO TAKE THE BLAME?” Is the issue that some Tom Dick and Harry wants to accuse women for something which he thinks they need to follow. Or is it that women are willing to LAP UP the blames, because of whatever reasons.
If he does, then can’t the women buy a huge mirror and place it right in front of him and ask him to repeat the clauses. The reflection would reveal the truth.
How long are the women going to play the victim role? Please women, the words here may be full of anger and angst, because, when we see a lot of people (both men and women) taking time to fight against cruelty towards women, not many women are taking even baby steps. It is high time, these women wake up from their deep slumber and inactive state (not just for themselves, but for the society at large), and fight against it. When you got only bashed up when you acted coy, why are you all scared to get the same when you speak against a wrong system?
Henceforth, such women should stop advocating words as following:
1. women need to adjust
2. house is her temple and she should build it with her patience (come on, real estate is a huge business, it requires a team and not just YOU).
3. an erring family member can be transformed into a purified soul due to your love (ok, please show me living examples from the past since our grandmother’s days, when she had actually used patience and love, which made her husband throw more tantrums and a role model for his sons…had she behaved in a more self-respecting manner, her sons and daughters would have learnt from her)
5. pray for husband. (fine pray for you, your family, dog, parrot and whatever you have in your house, but in a mutual way)
The list may continue…but the crux is – Start respecting yourself
– believe in yourself
If you do, you are a better role model for your children.
Nicely said Chintu. I agree. But I think it’s a little deeper than that. I guess the problem is it is ingrained for many many generations and women tend to do it subconsciously, coz that’s what they know and it’s their fallback. Society, parents, in-las, grandparents husbands – even tv tells this is what is correct – any other way of living/ behaving means they are bad women. It would need help from both other women and men to get out of the rut. Which is why there is the feminism and their movement.
I totally agree with you Sonya. Patriarchal values and misogynist ideas are so deeply grained in us that it sometimes gets very difficult to break-free. Words like adjust, compromise, its okay are things that we do not even think twice about leave alone not doing them. This is what we have been taught and this is what we have grown in and grown into. However, I can’t agree more with Chintu too. We need to break open and break free. We do need to make a conscious effort to entangle ourselves and raise our kids with the idea of looking at things and relationship which are at par. We can’t do much about our parents or the last generation, but we can bring in change within us and in our kids. We need to become our own inspiration and then inspire our kids. I am sure if we believe in ourselves then we will be able to raise a future generation of empowered kids. Also I would like to mention that a woman is indeed a woman’s greatest friend and the greatest enemy. If the woman in the family decides not to allow any kind of injustice to another woman in her family, then I think social evils like dowry, female infanticide, domestic violence, marital rape etc can be wiped out. So just blaming the men is not the solution because these men have been raised by some woman. Charity begins at home and we need to change ourselves before we even think of changing the society.
You are right Sonya. I agree that feminists are required for making such start. But should not a few attempts at least be done by the women and men in every household to make a larger impact.
I wrote the above comment, because I find the disturbing trend in some women who are resisting or reluctant to change. Sometime back, I was expressing my views about gender equality to my friend, that it should start from the house, she in turn started suggested that I focus on my family (which i have been doing) and turn to spiritual recourse, rather than worry about such issues, which we cannot change much.
My question is, had the feminists who are protesting outside on the streets and day in and day out by meeting policy makers, had thought the same, then we would not have reached where we are now. Are the feminists, wasting their time, then? Is it that only the environmentalist should worry about the environment and struggle to keep it clean, whereas the others can litter the place and pollute it? Should only animal lovers fight for the animal rights and the others can heartlessly hurt and harm the creatures?
Should the other women just rest assured that someone outside will hand it over to them in silver platter and they just need to wait either by chanting mantras or watching some crap entertainment or just plainly follow the routine, by being subservient. Will not their contribution expedite and bring more meaning to the protestors’ cause?
I understand what you are pointing out that these women are scared to voice out. But their fear and reluctance to come out of the ‘accepted’ role is COSTING the time, effort and many more women’s lives in the form of abuse, female infanticide and dowry system. It needs to be plugged before it is handed over to the next generation in the name of ‘culture and tradition’. If the society is telling them she is ‘bad woman’ for not adhering to some codes, then does not it show that she lacks the inner conviction?
What is the use of knowledge without critical thinking. Women gain degrees only to sell themselves in the marriage market and not use it for analytical and logical thinking. This is the lacunae which we are in danger of passing on to the next generation. We tell our girls (who question about something against differential treatment in the culture with respect to her and her brother) that she just follow it because it is ‘sanskar’ and that she should not offend the sentiments of the elders of the house. But why is the same elders permitting men’s smoking and drinking, which goes against the sanskar? Why don’t women start questioning the men about wearing dothis and kurtas, when they insist us in wearing saris? Is pant, shirt and blazers part of Indian culture?
All the above questions shows that a woman does not QUESTION or SILENCED when she started questioning. At least let us instil this questioning attitude to the next generation. Apart from scientific enquiry, let us all give our kids scope to make critical thinking about our traditions, which would bring out a lot of good things we need to follow and bad things that need to be stopped immediately.
Instead of saying ‘ok’ to everything, we can start asking ‘why or why not’ questions.
Thanks Jyotishree for expressing the need to ‘bell the cat’ from our side, rather than wait for it to happen. Do write more so that many of us can break off the shackles sooner.
I really appreciate your thoughts Chintu. It is like hearing an echo of myself. Will definitely write more about us. Thanks.
I really appreciate Chintu’s comments/ thoughts about us. If only more men started thinking like u and if only more of women started really loving, helping and understanding each other- the utmost powerful and sacrificing yet sublime scene depicted in Mother India- a woman killing her own son to save the dignity of a girl- we can surely bring the utopian world based on gender equality to reality!
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