Saturday, 14 March 2015

The Feminist Post

I have always had a shaky stance on all these motley 'days' that card companies, TV channels and ad firms come up with, and have felt that they are drenched in a sickening lather of predictability and a crowd-pleasing fetish.
On principle, I despise all things cheesy, even my pizza (which I honestly do believe is God's favourite food), and am the kind of person you'll find wearing all-black on 14th February merely so I don't drown in that saccharine sweet sea of pink ribbons, red roses, cuddly teddy bears and heart-shaped balloons.
Yes, I do think that it's rather sad if you depend on any one demarcated date on the calendar to celebrate love; specially so because you had nothing to do with why Valentine's Day should be any different for you and your partner. In my opinion, that very fact makes it exceptionally plebeian and unattractive to be going gaga over it.
But enough of my hatred for 'the day of love'.

This particular diatribe is dedicated to a more recently passed date.
The 8th of March, celebrated internationally as Women's Day.

Last Sunday, my brother was driving me to the mall where I was to meet someone. We were accompanied by some of his friends, one of whom wished me a happy women's day. I wished her back, because that's the polite thing to do, I suppose.
"So wait, does that mean that the other 364 days belong to us, men?" asked my brother with the kind of cynicism in his voice that instantly reminded me of myself. I guess scepticism is one of those things you inherit through blood, because in that moment alone I could see the magic of genetics and DNA.
We all laughed his question off with some men-bashing and some feminist jokes, and the day passed by rather happily and peacefully.
Women's Day came and went, and when I hit the sack that night, I found myself spending a couple of seconds in my head to dismiss the need for the day, and all this feminism that seemed to be reserved in people's hearts and minds solely for this date.
I'm a hardcore feminist, for sure, and perhaps that's why I have always found it rather insulting to feel that we deserve a red flag on the calendar to make us feel special. Just because of our anatomy?
No, that hardly seems like a valid reason.
This should be an age of equality and a time where individuals are appreciated for the person that they are and not the sex they belong to, I thought to myself in bed that night. A dreamless sleep came, and Monday morning arrived, unceremoniously and unkindly.

Midweek, I happened to gather the conviction to make myself watch the latest BBC documentary to make waves in the world. India's Daughter.
I'm not going to waste your time by telling you what it's about, because the nearly 2 million YouTube views give me the hint that anyone who is online in this day and age has seen this horrifying film. I couldn't bring myself to watch the whole thing. I must have given up halfway, or maybe even before that, because of the extremely disturbing facts that this brave documentary dared to bring to light.
India's Daughter has, ironically enough, been banned from being shown in India, which has probably ensured added publicity for the film and an added embarrassment for our bureaucracy in the global scheme of things.
I was within and without, supremely disgusted with the unapologetic disrespect for my gender that is so very prevalent in my country even in 2015 when we are busy (and proud) sending out spaceships to Mars and telling ourselves that India is incredible.
No. India is not yet incredible. We cannot take credit for the undeniable geographic beauty of this ancient land. We cannot be as complacent as we are about the gifts that Mother Nature has given our nation in such merciful abundance. These wonderful things have nothing to do with our efforts or our behaviour as passport-holders of this country. They are merely lucky coincidences which we ought to be grateful for, and make conscious heartfelt efforts to do everything in our power to ensure that these gifts are not lost for the generations of Indian children to come.
We cannot be haughty and smug about having a rich cultural heritage either, because while we have grown up in households which worship the Goddess, the same households impose different rules on their daughters from their sons. The same households have allowed their sons and brothers to grow into demons with libidos from hell and a depleted conscience which makes them believe that even if they rape and murder a woman, it is still the female's fault for having the audacity to step out after dark or for showing too much skin.
That night, after I closed the YouTube tab on my laptop, I found that my sleep had disappeared and a dormant fear I never knew I contained in my head sat up awake. For the first time in my 25 years on this planet and in this country, I felt afraid of taking a cab the next day or walking alone on the streets after sundown.
Oh, and I'm the same girl who has traveled across the globe alone. I felt afraid of being attacked, because I am a woman, and I live in India, and there's no point denying how realistic the chances of that happening are. I glanced into my bag and took out my faithful can of pepper-spray. I wondered how useful this could even be in such a horrendous circumstance, and I prayed to God that I would never have to find out.
I thought to myself in that instance that if someone like me could ever be afraid of such vile uneducated monsters and feel threatened by them, then perhaps there is indeed some relevance of the 8th of March even in my life.
I am barely any different from the crowd then, clearly.
It was a heartbreaking realization, because I find being part of the herd grossly unappealing, but this was the truth.
I am a part of the herd.
I am a woman.
With that thought, I turned on some music and tried to calm myself back into bed, pushing this uncomfortable realization to a lonely corner of my brain.

So yes dear readers, Women's Day came and went, and as this rant of mine now draws to a close, I am still shaky about whether or not I shall ever manage to bring myself to celebrate such 'days'. I do know however, that it is definitely high time that we spoke up and acted against such injustices that prevail with much gusto in our country even today. If you are a girl and you are reading this, I pray that you lead your life with courage, and that you are blessed with safety and good sense. More power to you!
And if you are a man, then I sincerely appeal to you to contribute positively to the safety and protection of the women around you, and I appeal to you to never allow yourself to objectify a woman to that terrible degree that she feels naked, exposed and unsafe even with her clothes on when you look at her. If you have friends who do the same, make them read these words if you must, but I think the time is ripe for us to be harvesting a healthy attitude towards both genders and teaching our sons that unless they respect women, they will never grow up to be men.

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