The Personal is Political
Just a week ago, I happened to watch a 90’s movie, ‘Aakasha Kottayile Sultan’ (‘The Sultan of the Sky Fort’) that was once dear to me. I’m a huge fan of comedy. And the movie was no less. I remember my stomach aching from all the laughter. But this time, I felt different. Different, because it showed how we all perceived the notion of injustice to women as absolutely normal. Both then and now. It was only this time that I saw the deeply embedded misogyny which it portrayed. It was absolutely horrifying and unacceptable.Knowingly or unknowingly, we have enabled this system. The male protagonist, abuses and tortures the female lead throughout the movie and when the woman finally reacted to it, all hell broke loose. She was termed as ‘over-smart’ and being a woman, was told to stay in her limits. Sadly, even her father gets abused by the other characters for raising a progressive girl.
It struck me then that I need to write a post on the need for feminism. But when I sat down to write there was a rush of thoughts. It took me a over a week to gather my thoughts and pen them down. To systematically organise them so that every single one of you hear the scream inside me, the way it was intended to be heard.
What is feminism? To most of us it demands a deeper thought. Feminism has become a catchword today. The ideas of patriarchy, misogyny and sexism (PM&S) have become so deeply ingrained in our daily lives that we seldom recognise when it presents itself in daily conversations and situations. The lines between what was perceived as ‘okay behavior’ yesterday and today has slowly started turning from blurry grey to clearer contours of right and wrong. The ‘# Me Too’ campaign has shed some clarity to the discourse.But the battle has just begun and it is harder than we allow us to believe.
To the men reading this post, do these sound OK to you?
- Telling your wife/daughter to get a cup of tea for the guests, while you merrily sit and watch TV. The innate tendency to constantly ask for some form of service (usually relegating them to kitchen chores) when you see her relaxing.
- Evading responsibilities of raising a child on account of being the self proclaimed provider. Even when the mother is working and contributing monetarily. The father therefore can be approached only for the ‘important’ stuff.
- Taking pride in being the distant unapproachable father.
- Choosing a groom who is more qualified (and earns more) than your daughter rather than equally qualified/ paid in order to keep the ‘peace in the house’.
- When you feel entitled because you leave home for work rather than work at home.
Its not only the men to blame. Let me also show you a glimpse of a few everyday scenarios where women contribute in normalizing the very ideas that feminists fight against. These instances subtly indicate the workings of PM&S in our daily lives:-
- When you casually use the ‘ask your father’ statement which establishes the core value of a patriarchal family – that the mother’s opinion will always be trumped by the father’s power to take the final call.
- When you fear taking decisions without the consent of your father/spouse in order to avoid hurting their ‘fragile’ ego.
- When you silently give in to your partner’s interest every time you do things together.
- When you openly call conversations between women as ‘gossip sessions’ reinforcing the belief that nothing important is ever discussed.
- When you claim that you cannot handle driving a vehicle as its ‘too complicated’.
- When you feel like you have achieved something great when changing a bulb or shifting a cupboard since it was a ‘mans job’ that was accomplished.
I can go on with the list. But if any of these sound familiar, we need to introspect. The role of women at the home front has been trivialised for far too long. ‘Equality’, guaranteed by the Constitution has been denied at every level. THIS is why feminism is the need of the hour. The road ahead is long but we must start by unlearning what we have learned. Unless we objectively question ourselves on our acts, gestures and statements we fall prey to contributing to chauvinism.
If you look at anything a woman has to do, it revolves around a man’s needs or structured around a patriarchal society.
- We are asked to dress up ‘modestly’ because THEY will be aroused , making it our fault.
- We are asked not to stay out with friends later than 5 pm because WE could get raped. After all, THEY are justified to not have control over themselves.
- We are taught to abide by the rule that ‘men and women can’t be just friends’ because THEY may mistake friendliness for an invitation for sexual advances.
The restrictions on women have become innumerable. So much so that it has become a habit and no one questions its foundation anymore.
Put this into a different perspective. Have any of you boys/ men ever thought about not being allowed to go out after 5 PM? Go alone to the movies? Have you ever once looked at yourself in the mirror and asked yourself if you have dressed appropriately? No! I’m not talking about a butt crack view from your low waist jeans because trust me, none of us care! But even when you wore something normal, have you ever thought of asking yourself , is this ok? Before you step out of the house, do you have 100 questions popping in your head and a 1000 from around you? I’m quite confident, it’s a no.
To go through a checklist every single day and every single time before doing or saying something, anything is exhausting and it has been so for centuries.
Dear men, don’t be uncomfortable about the #metoo movement. Your fears of how to conduct yourself on a daily basis is what we as women have put up with for centuries. All the more reason why we need you to be on our side now, to educate yourself on how you could be more supportive of the cause rather than fear it.
Its time that parents take responsibility too. Don’t raise your boys to be protective of women. If you raise them right, the world will automatically be a safer place to live in. To stop subconsciously feeding them male privileges and to even admit to yourself subconsciously each time you hear tragedy against a girl, “Thank god, I have a son”.
In conclusion, I realised then that the longer we are silent for the sake of our family, friends and mental peace, WE are part of the problem. We cannot take a back seat when there are others fighting for our rights. The least we can do is to start at home. I was and probably still am, obliviously, part of the problem. But I’m learning, unlearning and relearning every single day. Having an open-mind is crucial to be the change you want to see in the world. Hoping that the education from the root, from where it has to actually begin, a family/home, will be finally done right. After-all, the personal is political.