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Men know it well – Indian women won’t risk their ‘honour’ and hence they take advantage. When honour is still so dear to us, how can #MeToo ever be a success?
Indian women have a chequered history when it comes to equality, discrimination, abuse etc… In fact, we don’t quite get most of it. We have a pretty straightforward approach – if we are good, so will the world be. From our childhood, we are conditioned to believe in sitting correctly, crossing our legs, behaving properly, because if we are ‘decent’ then we are safe – else beware of the consequences. Since safety is seen as a consequence of our own behaviour, we’re often reminded that we are women, so don’t cross your limits.
It’s no surprise that any #metoo campaign has its limitation into becoming a movement, in a country like ours where ‘decent people’ don’t protest or speak of any form of abuse, leave alone coming out. In fact, abroad, you have A-listers carrying the movement forward which would be difficult to replicate here. I doubt if Bollywood’s established and famous stars, designers, models would risk their name by coming out. It’s always the middle rung who have got stories to tell, but they don’t find many takers to listen to them.
The reason for this silence among the elite is their carefully constructed image – those with a successful a career cannot risk speaking up. They prefer to believe that it’s happening to everyone else, and not them. The same pattern follows for most women all over the country. What’s the use, we say… tomorrow it’s a forgotten story. We would rather lick our bruises and hide in quiet than speak. This is exactly what men know about us – Indian women don’t dare to risk their ‘honour’, because we’re told honour is our one and only precious possession since childhood.
I recently read an article on how gender discrimination and sexual abuse exists in many government departments. But women won’t speak because government departments, banks, corporate middle rung are all full of middle-class women, who believe family honour is above all.
We know of men who brush against us in trains, buses, crowded markets, malls, cinema halls, roads, and staircases. We know it happens every time we see the lecherous smiles of our bosses who brush past our chairs, bends low to check the cleavage, stare at our breasts even during handshakes. He would ask personal questions about our families, trying to sound concerned when in fact, he is scratching himself. He would make us sit over chai just to delay our leaving work, forced to stay back alone in the office with the lone old peon who stayed back feeling sorry for us educated girls.
We wouldn’t speak but want to be known as someone who faced it all during our careers. We would rather forget it at the end of the day but we don’t forget the humiliation even after 10 or 20 years. Nobody forgets the hurt and pain of having to hold back because even if we speak, we wouldn’t be believed. The superiors pretended as if it’s just another middle-class problem related to the stupid values of dignity.
Why can’t women just be easy about it? Why do they have their knickers in a twist as the boy gang believes? Because they failed to understand that women have their rights to defend, deny or make their choices. All of which are male prerogatives in Indian society.
Image from the movie Lipstick Under My Burkha
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