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17 year old climate activist Greta Thunberg has been trolled incessantly by men who want her to shut up. While she handles it like a boss, it is a sad reminder that when men have nothing else to criticize a woman about, they will infantilize her or talk about her looks, to hide their own insecurities.
If you are a woman who is successful, good at your job, or have ever been in a situation where you ‘won’ against a man, you know what happens next. A snide comment about the clothes you are wearing, or about your age; or if the man is brazen enough, a shameless insistence that you are wrong and that you are not intelligent enough/aware enough to know better.
It has happened to me personally plenty of times. Every time it happens, I rejoice, because it means that I have already won.
Anyone who has spent any time in the internet lately, cannot have missed reading or hearing about 17 year old climate activist, Greta Thunberg. Her recent speech to world leaders, demanding that governments and corporates take action on climate change, in which she thundered, “How dare you?” has received as much vitriol as it has received praise.
There are those who have posted pictures of her eating out of a plastic box and accused her of hypocrisy. Others have shared pictures of other activists and their work, in an attempt to discredit Greta’s efforts.
The worst of the lost however, are those scum, who think it is appropriate to call a young woman (technically still a child), “mentally ill”, a “cyborg”, “scary,” “weirdo” who needed a “spanking”.
They do this because her core message – that climate change is real and that we must do something about it urgently, cannot be debated or disproved logically. Climate change deniers are in a literal state of denial, because ecological events around the world are solid proof that something is indeed very wrong.
Many have pointed out that part of the reason why men are so triggered by Greta, is not just what she says, but how she says it. She refuses to bend to the male gaze and sexualize herself. She does not smile, she does not behave like an innocent child, she does not “perform” femininity.
Greta, on her part, knows exactly how these trolls must be handled. She recognized, quite correctly, that the trolling was as much about distracting from the issues, as much as it was a reflection of hurt male egos.
In a tweet thread, she wrote, “As you may have noticed, the haters are as active as ever – going after me, my looks, my clothes, my behaviour and my differences. They come up with every thinkable lie and conspiracy theory,” before adding, “It seems they will cross every possible line to avert the focus, since they are so desperate not to talk about the climate and ecological crisis. Being different is not an illness and the current, best available science is not opinions – it’s facts.”
Greta isn’t alone.
Throughout history, whenever women have challenged the status quo, men have retaliated by attacking their body – either literally, or metaphorically via rape threats/ death threats, or comments about their clothes/ age/ sexuality.
This is because patriarchy attaches worth to women only for their bodies. To a man, insulting a woman’s appearance or other physical attributes is the worst insult imaginable. Little do they realize how wrong that is.
Back in India, Zaira Wasim was also just 16 years old, when she was trolled and sent death threats for meeting with Mehbooba Mufti, an unpopular female politician, to the point that she had to make a public apology for a mistake she never made.
Many female politicians have been insulted by their male colleagues on the basis of their looks, including former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who was called a “goongi gudiya” (dumb doll) and her granddaughter, Priyanka, a 47 year old woman, who was referred to as a “child.”
Captain of the Women’s Cricket Team, Mithali Raj was told that her “sweaty armpits looked odd,” to which she responded, “I’m where I’m because I sweated it out on d field! I see no reason 2 b ashamed f it, when I’m on d ground inaugerating a cricket academy.”
Not to mention the abuse directed at celebrities like Parvathy or Swara Bhasker who speak out against the powers that be on a regular basis.
The examples are many. The message they want us to hear is one. “You are a woman. Don’t be too smart, don’t be too loud, don’t think too much.”
The real message we hear is this, “We are scared of you. You make us feel ineffective and weak. We cannot challenge you on facts, so we will insult your looks instead.”
Image source: YouTube
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My house-help asked excitedly, “I am going for wedding. Can you let me wear your red & black saree? To be honest I was stumped for a moment; I didn’t know what to say but I still said yes.
I lent a gorgeous saree to my house-help for a wedding in her family. Soon I stated getting questions if I would wear that saree again or if I was okay to be seen wearing the same saree my house-help was wearing?
We are all so conditioned to give our used clothes to our house-helps but are we okay to wear the clothes they were wearing?
A few days ago she came excitedly to me, “I am going for a family wedding. I want to wear your red & black saree, Ill wash and give it to you after the function. Please can you let me wear it?”
Sivaranjiniyum Innum Sila Pengalum (SISP) is an ode to all of the lost women, who could have been sports stars, singers, bankers, lawyers, doctors, just... happy, if they hadn't been enslaved in matrimony, and then forgotten all about.
One of the cool things about my mother was that she was an ace athlete and a champion sculler as a young woman in the 1950s and 60s. I only found out about this side of her a few years ago. I imagine her in a paavaadai dhaavani, taking on the mighty Kaveri river so many decades ago.
I recently watched a Tamil film anthology on SonyLiv that she would have liked to watch – Sivaranjiniyum Innum Sila Pengalum, (SISP) that has 3 stories of 3 different women – Saraswathi, Devaki, and Shivaranjini.
Like all the heroines in the anthology, my mother’s talents were sacrificed at the altar of matrimony. She pawned her gold medals and silver cups one by one to pay for expensive textbooks for us or a gift for a niece on her wedding, money for which she didn’t dare ask my father, because it was her niece… I remember how she caressed the cups and how her face hardened as she shoved them into her bag to take to the jewellers.
Hatred against women, and especially women who are perceived as rejecting a man (or even certain kinds of women) is literally killing us.
Hatred against women, and especially women who are perceived as rejecting a man (or even certain kinds of men) is literally killing us.
Earlier this week, a man rammed van into the sidewalk of a busy street in Toronto, killing 10 people and injuring 14. The suspected driver was arrested shortly.
What kind of a person would do such a thing?
A powerful woman climbing the ladder has something to hide, and much to fear in a world dominated by men...how will this play out? Read an interesting excerpt from Rimjhim Ray's debut novel, 7 Women, 7 Secrets.
A powerful woman climbing the ladder has something to hide, and much to fear in a world dominated by men…how will this play out? Read an interesting excerpt from Rimjhim Ray’s debut novel, 7 Women 7 Secrets.
‘7 Women 7 Secrets’ is a series of stories exploring the hidden other woman in every woman’s life. The stories are woven around a rich tapestry of characters. The ruthless politician, the cheating activist, greedy malkin, the lethal widow, the fakir’s mistress, the prodigal mother or the half-dead celebrity are all connected by webs of deceit they sometimes spin and sometimes get helplessly trapped in. The book takes you on an intriguing journey into the minds of these women and the men they love and betray, trust and regret, despise and discard. Get your own copy here.
Nalini Patel was nervous. She looked visibly so. Anyone who had known her over the last few years would have immediately concluded that something was wrong, something was very wrong. For the woman was rarely nervous. At 43, she was one of the most powerful women in America’s politics; the part of the president’s youth brigade. She had a meticulous past and a resplendent future. Her win in the Texan governor’s elections next week was a given. Her story was the kind that inspired fairy tales. As the daughter of working class immigrants who had struggled to make a good living she was the embodiment of the American dreams. She was the perfect balance who lived the aspirations of the immigrants and protected the interests of the hard-working, God-fearing Americans. At the meeting with the large Indian diaspora, she talked endlessly of the struggles her parents had faced and her vows that no desi brother or sister would have to go through that kind of trouble again. At the townhall, dominated by red-necks she emphasised that she was a practising Christian. In the meeting with the corporates, she hinted at lobbying for the end of business restrictions that curbed low-cost outsourcing. In her second meeting with the Indian diaspora, she reinforced the hint. In her second townhall with the red-necks she laughed it off, attributing it to misrepresentation by elitist journalists who resisted the rise of the working-class. Her rivals accused her of wearing masks; she privately acknowledged that they were right. For her the mask was a necessity. But today it could all come off. All for a fourteen year old boy who six months ago had not existed in her life. Yet today as her legally adopted son, he threatened to destroy everything that she had meticulously built. Could she let it happen? Would she let it happen?