Why oh why do we persist in being our own worst enemies?
Why, when any woman who puts her toe over the line in any way that is deemed not strictly traditional, do the auntijis of the world shrivel up in fear and then begin their collective shrieking about “Indian culture”. What is it that they are so afraid of?
That their daughters will marry a boy not from their narrowly-defined caste. That their daughters, god forbid, will not marry at all. That their daughters will turn into lesbians – oh wait, since a) homosexuality doesn’t exist in India or b) since homosexuality is a condition that can be corrected by marrying off said daughter (to a man of designated caste) as speedily as possible, this one is not a worry at all. That their daughters will not be virgins when they (as is necessary) get married. That their daughters might get pregnant before they get married. That their daughters will get married and actually enjoy sex. Oh wait, Indian women do not have sex but babies just pop out of us immaculate-conception style. That their daughters will not want babies. That their daughters will want babies and daughters at that. That their daughters will insist on naming their daughters after themselves. That their daughters will bring shame on the family and confuse legions of address-writers by keeping their own names. That their daughters will wear jeans. That their daughters will wear jeans AND go to a pub in them. That men will look at their daughters. That men will rape their daughters and then they will be forced to have abortions. That their daughters may have abortions. That their daughters may refuse to have abortions. That their maids will talk about their daughters to the neighbours and nobody will marry them. That someone will call their daughter a slut. That God will keep their daughters out of heaven. That their daughters will become too smart and their husbands will leave them. That their daughters will not cook. That their daughters will embarrass them in front of the in-laws by not cooperating. That…
Oh the list is endless. And all of it comes together in the confused jumble of BUTS that we hear from women when condemning the attacks on the women (and men) in the pub in Mangalore. And apparently, now on the streets in Bangalore too.
So, I repeat, why do we persist in pulling ourselves down like crabs? Why can’t women sort out their own petty paranoias and get with the programme? The programme I’m talking about is this – if you allow or condone a group of people, any group, even a group from your own community, violently imposing their fantasies and political ambitions (which you may happen to share) on another group, soon they will banging on your doorstep too. That is, you may not approve of girls in Western dress totting off to the pub and *gasp* drinking or *gasp* consorting with boys and *eek* touching them, BUT there are men our there who do not approve of you, dear aunty, who can read, write, vote, show your face in public, and *gasp* even exist and soon, if you persist in giving them tacit support with your BUTS they will shut you down.
Remember, freedom may not always go your way but it is the best way, because the alternative is, that one day, it might be your in that cage singing for your cuppa.
And while we’re at it, I’d like to send a grrr out to all those mother-in-laws who are forever sniping at (or worse) and putting down their daughter-in-laws, mothers who favour their sons over their daughters and women bosses who see female co-workers as a threat. Yes, your daughter-in-law/girl child/ female underling might not awaken in you that nice oedipal twang, but try for a change handing her a rose (metaphorically) and watching her bloom. It really is quite satisfying making someone else happy even if there’s no sexual frisson, and standing by your own kind always has a certain charm. Moreover, it’s really much less creepy – don’t think we don’t see how you’re compensating for a lack of something by succumbing to classic Freud. Remember, there’s nothing more unattractive than a person who can’t abide by her own mirror image, so stop acting like the Wicked Witch and channel Glenda.
Finally, girls, is it time to take up arms? Should we stop learning how to cross our legs and learn how to hit (back) hard? I am always tempting to go Gandhian and say “violence is not the answer” but is generations of submissiveness really working for us?
Oh, and yeah, I am a feminist. Before you shudder – feminism is only about wanting women to be treated as EQUAL with men (but if you start on the ‘why do women get seats in buses’ thing I will beat you). So if you went to school (which I presume you did if you’re reading this), like to go for the odd walk on your own and like the fact that you can vote (even if you don’t), you should be calling yourself a feminist because these are all things that feminists, yes, feminists fought hard for and won for you. So it’s a bit like back-stabbing to say that yes, I’d like a piece of that cake but I really don’t want to be associated with the people whose sweat and tears went into making it for me. Then again, that would be very much in character for the kind of bigoted, intellectually-lazy women-of-convenience we seem to be spawning today.
Note that feminism does not necessarily mean: a) being strident b) being gay c) being badly dressed. Though some feminists might be all or some of the above, so too are very many of those who profess not to be feminist, case in point being said aunties.
*I am not addressing men here because I can understand men clinging onto their positions of privilege for as long as women make it easy for them, never mind that subjugation doth a boring life partner make.