Hi. I am saying hi to you because this article is going to offend a lot of self proclaimed feminists out there, some of whom voice their concerns about the issue everyday essentially – by including a ‘#feminist’tag in their bios on Instagram or by yelling at the security guard of an ATM for not having a ‘separate queue for women’. Oh, these are amazing women. Believe me!
So, anyway, I am writing this article today because I have been witnessing a lot of weirdness these days, and I have no place else to vent out my emotions. I am turning twenty one in three months. Officially. Most of my friends are in, what I call the (-5+10) category, which means that they are up to five years younger, or up to ten years older than me. Bahhhh, I am going off track.
*meanwhile, writing a mental note to myself: “Meditate. Hibernate. Eat. Sleep. Do whatever. But FOCUS”.*
Umm, where was I? Yeah, having some two-faced people around me. I am going to bullet ten incidents for you, that have happened to and around me in the last one month. The story follows the list, if you still continue reading, that is.
1. I am walking back to my room after dinner. I meet a friend. We meet after a month, and so, I hug my friend in happiness and do the ‘how-are-you-how-is-life-how-is-everyone-at-home’ convention. My hostel warden somehow manages to see this, takes me to the hostel director and narrates the incident, after which this happens:
Hostel Director, Male: “Toh isme kya ho gaya, madam?”
Hostel Warden, Female: “Par sirjee, woh ladka tha”.
Apparently, boys and girls cannot hug. I wanted to tell them that my parents never taught me that, but then I didn’t want to waste my breath. Actually wait, there was a movie that said it right. Ek ladka aur ek ladki kabhi dost nahi ho sakte. You see what they are trying to say here?
MORAL OF THE STORY #1: The only male friend that an Indian girl is allowed to have is the guy who can make babies with her. At least, so say the Indian women. Also, the men. But let’s only talk about the women for now.
2. I am sitting in a local bus. 10 am, just enough people to fill every seat, moderate weather. All the passengers were seated, except three girls (probably my age or a year older) and a fairly young boy (seven years, maybe). The girls start berating the conductor. Statements like ‘Ladkiyon ko kaise khada rakh sakte ho aap?’ and ‘Kaise dinn aa gaye hai’ were in the air, until the conductor forced three men to vacate their seats for them. Same day, 7 pm, brimming with people, freezing winters. Loads of men standing, including an aged sixty year old man. No one gives a damn, before my friend and I noticed him and offered a seat.
MORAL OF THE STORY #2: Only women get to sit, at any time of the day. Men do not have a say here, even if they are old, crippled, weak, or dead.
On a serious note – unless you are elderly, handicapped, injured or pregnant, what makes you think you deserve the seat more than a man does? I rarely see a woman getting up and offering her seat to anybody. Forget their battles to grab every seat they can, for a second.
3. My friends and I go to the city to grab some food. We decide to go to the ATM first, but are warned against it because of the whole demonetization crunch. But we do go, end up drawing cash in a matter of minutes, eat loads and return to the hostel. We (I went with three girls) tell our male friends because of course, we want to act cool. We get taunted in return because they stood for hours together in multiple queues the previous few days, and didn’t even manage to draw a single penny.
MORAL OF THE STORY #3. First-come-first-serve is a myth. Women need separate queues everywhere, because they are fighting for equality. Men don’t get to complain, because hey, men have all the time in the world. They can wait a few extra hours. So much unemployment in the country anyway!
How is this equality in any sense? Women get to stand in a separate queue for certain reasons, AGREED. But I believe that the first-come-first-serve policy should be implemented on parallel lines.
4. I am at my mom’s friend’s party. It is a weird get-together of some sort. There’s a barbecue thingie in the backyard, but somehow, everyone turns up in gaudy clothes to this evening party, and I don’t even get to eat kebabs by the fire; because I’d only be stared at for my inappropriate behavior. Suddenly, the guy gang walks in out of nowhere. They are all dressed in shorts. So, I go ahead and jokingly ask Shruti (the host’s gorgeous daughter who happens to writes feminist columns for a local magazine) why we don’t get to chill in our shorts and pajamas, only to be sneered at with a “we are girls and we are here to party, so obviously we need to doll up; and anyway, we don’t need to provoke those guys with our sexy legs, hahahahaha” comment.
MORAL OF THE STORY #4: Shruti thinks she is funny.
MORAL OF THE STORY #5: Shruti has a poor sense of humor and an almost rotten brain.
MORAL OF THE STORY #6: Some Indian women tell other Indian women not to wear shorts and pajamas to a barbecue night because the guys at the party have hormones that run faster than Usian Bolt. Why isn’t the probability of girls checking out the guys’ legs ever considered? Ohh, wait. I don’t think we are ‘allowed’ to do that.
5. I am at a startup meet. It’s the flavor of the season, no. Startups, ideas, meets, conventions, conferences. How can I not be there? I am sitting in a room with 1500 people in it. 1996 people besides my friends and me, that is. (I like maths, but hell, what am I doing). One random girl walks on to the stage. Short hair, nose piercing, khadi kurta, typical feminist. Oh, yes, I am stereotyping. It’s good to joke once in a way, but people these days have self esteems the size of an ant, and they get offended. Not a good era for jokes, really. So, anyway, as expected, she kick-starts her incessant rant about feminism in the contemporary world: about how she meets women experiencing so much suffering, about gender inequality still prevailing in the country, about pay gaps, etcetera. All great points. Cent per cent true. But I’ll tell you when the whole scenario escalated to Mars.
She tells the crowd that she is open to questions, and a guy asks her, “Mam, your lecture is very inspiring, but don’t you think Indian men face a lot of discrimination too; and that their voice needs attention because they don’t even get to speak their heart out?”, to which that goddess replies, “Indian men have it easy anyway. Good wages, good dowry, good wives, no sexual assaults on them. What else do you guys want? You don’t have a right to complain. Haha.”
MORAL OF THE STORY #7: Indian men never get victimized. They never get raped. They are never misbehaved with. They don’t care about their sisters or daughters being assaulted. They never score low on their internals because their male teacher is a pervert. They never get chided for not being chivalrous. They are never expected to pay the bill, even if the girl earns more. So, why should they crib? I mean, who wants to hear them anyway? People will only laugh because mard ko dard nahi hota, remember. Indian men are heavenly bodies. They have no problems, and they don’t get to cry about it. Quite literally.
6. I am at a pre-wedding celebration. After much contemplation, I turn up in my favourite sea green kurti. I team it up with a pair of silver-cut jhumkas, and my leather jaipuri jootis. I am neatly dressed. It’s beautiful out here: the decor, the ambience, the food (read FOOOOOOOOODDDDDDD with a hundred megawatts excitement), the couple, just about everything is right.
Until Madhuri aunty (name changed for obvious reasons) walks up to me, opens her over-the-top-red-lipstick-clad-mouth (it’s important to pay attention to these details because she is paying some to mine) and says jocularly in Telugu, “Why are you wearing such a simple dress? And no make-up also. Did someone force you to come here? And why aren’t you wearing something in your neck, beta? Girls should always wear something in their neck. Oh god, where is your mom?”. I casually joke and tell her that my mom is poor, so maybe she could buy me some gorgeous, expensive clothes the following weekend; and also that I develop rashes when I wear a neck piece because the skin around my neck is allergic to metal (although, I slapped her a million times in my head, and was dying to tell her that it was only the PRE-wedding celeb and not the wedding itself for me to dress over the top. Wait, why does she care anyway? I dunno why people can’t just mind their own business).
MORAL OF THE STORY #8: I can’t attach Madhuri aunty’s Facebook profile link in this space, for reasons known. But her bio reads:
Rotary Member. In my 50’s. Like movies, cooking, parties. Believe in the philosophy: ‘You educate a man; you educate a man. You educate a woman; you educate a generation’.
With the kind of education she gave me in five minutes, I have no choice but to believe this.
7. My classmate. Avoiding controversies by not taking her name. She walks hand-in-glove with feminism. Eats it for brunch too, actually. She is also considering volunteer work at a local feminism club this year. The day I am speaking of, was results day. Our internal marks were out. She looks at her screen, and her eyes pop out. 26/50. She walks out in rage. Next day, I log onto her email id (she gives me access to it because she needs me to get a printout for her), only to see a mail from my professor that read “Done. Check Amizone!” in the subject field. (Amizone is the student portal of my University. That’s where the life lies. Attendance, event updates, announcements, circulars, worksheets, course material, online library; name it.)
Me being me, I ask her what the deal about it is. She replies: “Dude, that asshole gave me a pathetic 26 on 50. So, ABC (one guy, can’t take his name either) and I went to him to discuss that. I made a cute face and cried. Begged him to spark up my score a tad bit. That’s when I received the email. Seedha 41 kar diya ab gadhe ne. Hehe.”. Upon inquiring from ABC about the status of his score, I learn that his marks remained the same. 23/50.
MORAL OF THE STORY #9: Feminism is a complaisant concept. So much so that women talk it into a speech when they need to, and forget about it when they don’t want to. For instance, feminism = victimization. It’s okay for women to cry and have their way around things they don’t deserve. But it’s not okay for men to do the same, because they’d be ridiculed for crying, let alone the consideration of a solution to the matter.
8. University gate rules: “Bags of students to be checked before entering the campus”.
University gate rules implementation: “Only boys’ bags to be checked”.
My male friend casually asks the guard one day, “Bhaiyya, ladkiyon ka bag kyun nahi check hota?”. Guard replies, “Aree bhaiyya, kyun madam logo ko pareshaan karna. Waise bhi daaru-sutta toh aap sab laate ho”.
MORAL OF THE STORY #10: Some rules only apply to men, and none of the so-called feminists on campus seem to have an issue with this. For example, women are cultured, they cannot sneak in beer into college; only men can. So why cause them inconvenience by checking their bags, right?
MORAL OF THE STORY #11: Feminism is about fighting for equality, but only on issues where women need to be treated at par with men, not vice versa.
9. Local bus. Hyderabad. 6:30 pm. My favourite spot for being acquainted with feminism in daily life. About 30 percent seats are reserved for women in APSRTC buses, if I’ve done the math right. The reserved seats are usually in the front.
Scenario at the front: peaceful, half the seats empty.
Scenario at the back: chaos everywhere, multiple men standing for hours together, some even hanging out of the bus.
In fact, I have seen this policy being implemented in a whole lot of places. Mumbai Local Trains, Delhi Local Buses etc. The move was made with the right intent: to avoid groping, inappropriate touching, and other forms of physical assault that women usually face in public transport systems. However, in reality, a lot of women tend to take advantage of it. I have seen so many young girls in each of these three cities. I’ve witnessed them yelling at old or physically disabled men to vacate their seats, stating that it is reserved for women. I am not against the reservation of seats for women on public transport, all I am saying is that women need to be willing to offer their seats to people who need it more than them. The aged, the disabled, the handicapped, the weak, the pregnant, the injured. And also that, men need to be allowed to sit on those seats if they are vacant.
MORAL OF THE STORY #12: Contemporary Feminism = Women Reservation, not Women Empowerment.
10. I am sitting at my desk. 3 am. Studying for an exam. Random chick on the floor walks into my room. She has come to meet my roommate. My earphones are on, but she doesn’t know that I play my music on extremely low volume – so, I can hear. She asks my roomie, “Ye didi itna kyun padh rahi hai iss exam keliye? Inko bolo na itna load na le, aaram se shaadi karke settle ho jaaye”.
MORAL OF THE STORY #13: Solution to an Indian girl’s stress: MARRIAGE. And they say, women don’t have it easy.
MORAL OF THE STORY #14: Indian girls are advised not to work, even if they want to. Indian men are expected to work, even if they don’t want to.
MORAL OF THE STORY #15: Some guys are cute. They are like Arjun Kapoor in ‘Ki and Ka’. We need to understand, acknowledge and appreciate that; not ridicule and mock. Especially, if we call ourselves feminist.
OK. I am done here. And I am telling you one thing. I am not the anti-women kinda person. I completely believe that women are not free, even in the twenty first century. We think we have progressed, whereas in reality, we are only coaxing ourselves into believing in the ideology; which makes the whole scenario all the more scary.
Men who let others know about their accomplishments are confident. Women who do so are insufferable. It is alright for men to get away with abusing because that is their nature. Women cannot do the same, because who knows? Men who are direct are confident and forthright. Women who communicate in a direct way are bitches and desperate. A 30+ successful single man is an eligible bachelor. A 30+ successful single woman is unwanted and tiresome.
Pretty equals dumb.
Smart equals ugly.
Confident equals bitchy.
Sexually active equals slutty.
Shy and reserved equals arrogant.
More so, as an Indian woman, I feel unsafe. I feel insecure. I fear being groped in a crowded market. I fear being stared at, if I wear a sexy dress that I really like. I fear not returning home before the streets are vacant. I fear being the only woman in an isolated restaurant. I fear being victimized. I fear that my talent would not be appreciated because people will eventually say that I got the promotion because of my body, because I am a woman. I fear that my good looks will make people stereotype me as a ‘dumb’ girl. I fear earning more than the man I love, because of course, the quintessential male ego and the social stigma. I fear not being in shape. I fear not receiving the pay hike I deserve. I fear all of this, and a lot more. But I don’t let my fears control my actions. Neither do I let my fears make me extremist.
I am a normal human being who is entitled to be a victim of certain gender stereotypes that the society bestows upon her. All I am saying is that men have that right too. The right to feel victimized, the right to feel used, the right to voice their concerns, the right to cry, the right to emote, the right to call a woman wrong when she is, the right to fight for their fair share of unbiased equality. They do, and we just need to let this thought sink in. Is this too much to ask for?
The men in my life are amazing. As amazing as the women in my life. My father, my uncles, my brothers, my boyfriends, my male professors, house helps; who not. This is a shout out to them. Break the stigma. Breathe a little more. Be yourselves. And do not hesitate to voice your concerns against a wrongdoing, even if the doer is a woman. We need to stand up for feminism, but we need to remember to fight the right battle.
At the end of the day, we don’t make hate, do we? We make babies, we sustain the very existence we are here for, we give birth to a whole new generation, we help mankind thrive, and how does that happen? When two ‘equals’ make love! On a closing note, I would like to mention a quote that truly inspires me:
“For a woman to get half as much credit as a man, she has to work twice as hard, and be twice as smart. Fortunately, that isn’t difficult for a woman.” – Charlotte Whitton.
Here’s to strong intellectuals. May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them. And with that, the sequel is lurking around the corner: “Why Most Indian Men Have Double Standards Too!”. Coming up in the next post. Ciao until then! Have a sunny sunday!
Continuing the tradition, and attaching the link to this super cool song, which I’ve loved for more than ten years now. Hey, it bears no relevance with the article. JFF! Especially, 01:22 to 02:09.