No place for a woman!

Here is a brilliant post by my friend and colleague, Hannah, on our company’s intranet blog.

Ok, another gang rape, should we say, a reported one? If I remember right, per a survey that outlook published sometime ago, for every 1 rape reported in a big city, almost 64 rapes go unreported in any of the smaller cities. In any case, I don’t want to dwell on rape, for there’s enough and much more to spare written on rape. After all, who doesn’t want to look the defender of a woman’s modesty (sic!)?

Some of the words that people use to describe the act of rape are painful, horrendous, injustice, heinous, outrageous, irreversibly damaged, etc. Simply put, all these descriptors are laughable or even expressions of our misplaced angst, because all of our responses are colored, or rather dictated by our feudal mindsets that want our women to be untouched sexually, except by the man who is socially sanctioned to touch her on the day (err…night) of their wedding! And, that’s not all. The marital bed might even be examined for traces of virginal blood the following morning by the mother-in-law, who is again a victim and a stooge of patriarchy. And, hence, virginity/chastity is something that the woman guards with her life, heart, soul, mind, body, etc. A woman’s mind is dwarfed or rather mangled (like perhaps a bonsai with constant pruning, trimming, and wiring) to think that she’s around just to row up into a beautiful young woman, who will be married off in her prime (read biologically just right to get pregnant) to a man her parents shall find, and she shall cook and clean for him and his family (and, of course, have a career if the man deems it fit or something to simply kill time or contribute to the family economy, if need be), beget him children, and raise them as chivalrous gentlemen or ladies like herself to continue this brilliant saga! Isn’t this outrageously horrendous? And, we are outraged by a gang rape!

A woman’s attitude towards anything and everything, be it her choice in clothes, career, stance, food, color, marriage, friends, etc., is influenced primarily by the societal expectations from her due to her biology. For example, even as a girl child is born, people start talking about putting money away for her dowry, make jewels for her, buy pink frocks, high heels, etc. Where is all this coming from? It comes from the basic idea that the woman is a womb, and hence everything about the girl child is only beauty (she will have to beautiful for her man), fair skin, dolls (because she will be a mother someday, so start planning even as she is in the cradle!), kitchen sets (she’ll have to cook and clean for the household!), and anything and everything that would firmly peg her to the house, kitchen, and pregnancy! Now, I ask, aren’t all these heinous? And, we are outraged by a gang rape!

I am not sure if there’s data to support how girl babies and boy babies DIFFER in their gyration towards violence or motherhood, irrespectively! Maybe they do too, but why should we as adults stand back and watch or rather applaud when your boy starts using expletives and thrash when the girl does the same thing? Why are girl children taught to cook while boy children are not? Is cooking done through ovaries, which is why men don’t cook? Why should girl children be taught to clean? Why should boys/men be handed out coffees by women every day? Do men suddenly become lame or crippled the moment they enter their homes? Or, is it the upbringing that makes Indian men take any woman to be a custom-made domestic worker, mother, and even a careerist (outside the home of course!). It just can’t get any better for Indian men, or can it? I ask, isn’t this a travesty of justice or a caricature of a just world? And, we are outraged by a gang rape!

As a teenager growing in a metropolis like Chennai, I could never venture to the beach all by myself or even partake in the all-night parties that used to happen on the mount road on new year’s eve, because I, or any girl/woman, ran the risk of being gang raped! Even if the all-night party animals on that road came from ‘good’ families or on better days would be chivalrous too, wouldn’t think twice before actually getting down and having one helluva fuck, because such wayward women could, rather should be raped! Not only that, as a young girl traveling by public transport to school/college/work, I have been exposed to stares of all kinds (the approving, the disapproving, the disrobing, so much fucking more!!) and even harassment of all hues. And, believe me, the men guilty were anything like these ‘animals’(rapists) that all ‘good’ men of today seem to distance themselves from! These were boys/men who went to colleges like the ones I went to or even came from families who were our neighbors! Even today, as a grown adult, I can assure you that I don’t feel any less vulnerable while taking the public transport or am the only woman in a lift filled with men! All this and much more completely strangulate a woman’s very identity and crush/stonewall her into the bloody roles that patriarchy so confidently defines for her! Now, isn’t that horrifying? And, we are outraged by a gang rape!

The outrage in my view is in itself outrageous or even hypocritical, especially because of the sheer number of men who seem have unleashed their unbridled sense of shame at this! I ask, where are these men and women, defenders of a woman’s modesty or proponents of women liberation, when the women’s reservation bill gets shot down or women bodies are objectified in mindless fashion shows or movies or when virginity tests are conducted on women? And, how many of these men haven’t whistled at a girl, brushed against a woman’s body when the opportunity presented itself, or didn’t enjoy a rape scene? And, will this outrage be of this
scale if some men had gang raped a sex worker?

Where were all these people when the armed forces brutally raped and killed Thangjam Manorama? Where was the outrage when an entire village watched and cheered as the men of the village gang raped even the dead bodies of two women? I am sure it would be so much easier to distance ourselves from such things as ‘aberrations’ that happen in the hinterland! And, who’s going to utter or let out even a whimper when men rape men/young boys?

Our outrage therefore is very selective: our very core is shaken and we are spurred into action (as in people who don’t give two hoots about protests/demonstrations or who even denigrate such protestors as some misguided, lazy nincompoops) ONLY when the chastity of a ‘good’ woman is outraged. It’s of course a different matter altogether if she’s murdered for dowry, honored killed for marrying outside caste, is killed because of invasive fertilization techniques, is killed because of unsafe termination of pregnancy (for carrying a female child), is killed because she defended her home and land, is killed because she refused to do menial labor and wanted to study, or becomes a mental wreck being nothing more than a glorified domestic help at her own home all her life, and the like!

A day, a blog post, or even a bill may not be enough to change this situation, and any list of dos/ don’ts may not even make the cut! What perhaps is needed is for us to internalize the fact that all of us born are equal, and because of the psychotic mistakes of our ancestors (hope you all burn in hell, if there’s one!) we live in a world that’s defined by various levels and each level is equipped with its own brand of weapons to keep the rest down under. Perhaps, we need to educate ourselves about the working of our society and the brutality it hides under the grab of morality, virtue, chivalry, and the like. Maybe then, we would organize and interrogate ourselves about why we need to be outraged and what we need to be outraged about. I know, not many people will have the time for all this, because it means taking collective responsibility of violence, especially the systemic kind, and working towards a solution. And, that would mean giving up of the many, many privileges that the powerful in the society (the men) have enjoyed for several centuries now. However, it’s time for the women and oppressed men, the victims of the systemic violence, to organize and agitate along side in the long term. And, we can rest assured that our battle has just begun, and we have miles and miles to march before we can see a semblance of victory. Perhaps, our great, great grand daughters and sons might thank us for embarking on this journey.

On a side note, for all the privileged men, more than responding to something that’s so far removed from your immediate reality or doling out some pearls of wisdom on how women should conduct and protect themselves, please introspect! Walk that extra mile, be a human, be defined not by your biology, but by your humanity! Don’t define a woman or her role or her identity or her ability by her biology, but by her right to exist on this planet as freely and happily just as you do. Maybe then, all of us can be united against the enemy; patriarchy!

Violence against women

Emotional or psychological abuse

I consider this form of abuse as the most dangerous because it breaks a woman from the inside..

Am sure everyone of us have either been a witness to emotional abuse if not a victim.. I think it is the educated mid-segment that is caught into a deep quagmire of emotional and psychological abuse. The slow erosion of self-respect, confidence, and dignity is so gradual that the very women caught in such situations don’t notice and its too late when trying to take stock..

I would like to cite a few instances of abuse without mentioning the names or relationship, but these have happened/are happening in the lives of some awesome women I know..

1. A: She had an arranged marriage and the groom was her dream-boy. But only till a few weeks into the marriage. She had clear indicators on how things were going to be, but she missed all the signs.. On the ‘girl-seeing’ day, the guy had made his expectations clear and one of them was that – wait, hold your breadth- she must not have opinions of her own!!! This, from an engineer from a reputed institute, greatly respected by many in the family circle for his intelligence, sense of responsibility, philanthropy, religiousness et al! Post marriage, he has always decided when to buy rubies or emeralds for his wife, what rituals she must observe, which parties and occasions they must attend, which places they must visit for a vacation etc… She cannot cut/trim her hair! In short- suffocation! She is still the silent partner in the marriage and has two children.. She appears to have made peace with this situation and lacks the courage or will to sketch a career for herself and be self-reliant..

2. B: Another marriage.. Both are well educated.. The girl had a slight inkling that something was not OK.. But attributed her doubts to her anxiety and went ahead.. She did not discuss much of what went on in her life even with her friends because she assumed that is how it would be and that a little compromise can be made.. Her husband, his sister, the MIL would insist that she wear a particular ear-ring, dress in a particular way, sport hair in a particular style, use fairness cream, wear heeled footwear and several petty things like this. It regressed to calling her parents names and insulting them for no reason. He would ensure that she never went to meet her parents and stayed for just a few hours even during her own brother’s wedding. She was not allowed to join the office get-together, dine-outs etc with her colleagues.. She had to skip company-wide outings of any and every kind.. He would reason saying those were places visited by people with cheap intentions.. Her calls home and to friends were policed- he would check her mobile frequently! He began tormenting her to quit her job, but never gave sound reasons.. On the days she reached home from work, he would have a long face and guilt-trip her for ‘neglecting’ her family!! It was at this stage that she discussed with her close friends and parents… When the abuse got physical and he mindlessly dealt a blow to his fully pregnant wife, she called it a day.. Her parents, siblings and friends stood by her and helped her end her marriage to the moron. Her sweet little son is now going to school and her family offers all the moral, physical support she needs.. She is doing well in her career and is respected by her peers and friends.

3. C: Another couple with two children. The wife’s parents and siblings were not welcome.. Every time she visited her hometown during vacations, he would expect the FIL to cover their entire expenses and would never ‘give’ his wife any money.. Not that the couple were well off- they were in fact hard-pressed.. She on the other hand had to visit and welcome all his folks.. She and her other friends in the colony they lived, would catch up on an occasional movie in the theater nearby.. If the husband returned home to find the door locked and the keys with the neighbour, hell would break loose..She would in fact keep his food etc ready on the table before leaving with her friends, only to come back and see all the dishes strewn across the floor.. He did not take her talking to other men too lightly – more policing.. The woman went through depression and none around her knew that she was in a bad emotional state.. She attempted suicide several times only for the husband to fall at her feet and cry and stage a drama.. She would buy all that.. And one fine day, she set herself ablaze… The saving grace was he loved his children and managed their upbringing..

4. D: She gave her marriage 4 years.. Another classic arranged marriage… In the initial few months of her engagement, she sensed some gaps and felt that their wavelengths didn’t match… But that’s too small a time isn’t it? Within few months into her marriage, she knew the guy suffered from terrible complexes.. But she waited, worked.. She pursued higher studies and enrolled herself into some courses and cleared them successfully.. Her professional life took off and that only lead to widening the gap. At the same time, her earning was equally important to him, and he never spared an opportunity to remind her that! Again, a classic case of moral-policing… Friends calls were viewed with suspicion.. She had to account for every penny she spent.. Verbal abuses increased and then something inside her snapped.. Her friends and well-wishers tried to talk sense into him and tried to help patch up differences… Nothing worked.. Both the families intervened, and of course, its all a woman’s fault.. She did not know how to keep him happy.. Her family wasn’t too supportive initially and it was all the more difficult to make a decision.. She decided that she’d waited enough and bid adieu to her marriage. There was all the drama in this case too of the husband trying to mend his ways etc.. But she was wise-enough.. Today, she leads an independent life, has a successful career, pursues her passion, is content with the way her life has shaped up, and is at peace with herself..

I know of women who have given up their career to take care of the children.. Which is alright if it is a discussed, educated, willing decision. Not otherwise. Again, the same pressure of having to worship the man’s folks and ignore hers.. To manage all the tasks at home herself because she is at home and he earns.. Sometimes manage both work and home and still not grumble or sulk for a second- be a multi-tasking goddess.. Complaining would mean giving up the job! No Facebook-ing for the wife because the whole world lacks better business and will pry into her world and their life will become ‘public’.. Only the men know what is right for the wife, which friend to invite home etc etc.. Yeah, men have to decide such things! Most pretend that life is fine and happening and magnanimously let go… And there are many more who do not even realise that its an abuse! Ignorance IS bliss.. For the women who have fought their own battles, here’s three cheers to you!!!