This week alone we’ve had the Chief Justice question women’s roles in farmers’ protests, a brutal gang-rape resulting in the death of a woman, a minister suggesting all women be tracked and another insinuating that women are only baby-making machines, but somehow any time I complain, I hear people tell me that women are goddesses in this great country. Well, I’m a tired goddess, and I don’t have the energy to pretend anything is great anymore.
Written by Aarushi Ahluwalia.
It’s been quite a week. Quite an outrageous, nerve-wracking, infuriating week for women, and before you posit that I could just be talking about any week of being an Indian woman, let me break this week down for you. The Coronavirus pandemic continues to rage while the nation debates the merits of the two vaccines, the farmers continue to protest as the Supreme Court prepares to weigh in on the matter in what many worry will be an eye-wash and while women are still recovering from the comments of Chandramukhi Devi, a member of the National Council for Women (irony, huh?), who last week said that the gang-rape in Badaun could have been avoided if the woman had not gone out alone in the evening, our politicians have continued to present us with a barrage of their problematic views.
First, the Chief Justice of India, S.A. Bobde, questioned why women and the elderly were being “kept” at the farmers’ protests insinuating either that women did not have the agency to decide to be at protests themselves or that women have no part in the farming industry. No one has ever asked why men are being “kept” at protests against rape, just saying. The insinuation that women do not belong at a farmer’s protest in India is patently untrue, women comprise a large part of farm labour and agriculture employs more women than any other industry in India, they just happen to have a very small number of land-holdings and exist in a state of disguised employment for which they are not necessarily remunerated and, you know, apparently we’re a feudal society too now.
Then Shivraj Chauhan, the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, in sparking a debate about raising the marriageable age for women from 18 to 21 also suggested that all women be tracked, especially those who have moved out of their parents house for work. He seemed quite pleased with his idea that women register at police stations and mandatorily download an app that can help the police keep track of them. For their own safety, of course, apparently the law needs to act like an overprotective grandmother in order to allow women to live freely in this country. In responding to Chauhan’s comments Congress MLA and former minister Sajjan Singh Verma asked why the age of marriage needs to be raised when doctors say that even a girl of fifteen could give birth to children because, you know, women are only baby-making machines. To cap off this absolute shit-show of a week, homemaker-turned-actress Rajni Chandy did what I thought was a really normal and beautiful photoshoot but because she’s 69-years old and posed in skirt, she was trolled for being too “obscene” for her age. Apparently older women must only wear sarees and talk about sex-appeal like a trinket they lost many years ago. Then it’s a nice book, but if they visually look it in present day, then it’s unpalatable.
That’s as much as had happened when I last checked the news 13-minutes ago and on behalf of the women of this country may I just say to the leaders, protectors and spokespersons of this country: FUCK YOU.
No, seriously. I considered writing about each of those things individually and taking apart the culture that enables them but instead on entangling myself in a mire of politically-motivated nonsense to try and make sense of these things, I’d like to, for once, discuss how they do not make sense. At least, to me. Women’s oppression has never made sense to me, not even in the way that minority-oppression makes sense (though it is not in the least justified or exonerated) due to minorities by definition being outnumbered by majority, but women’s oppression makes no sense even in that regard because women have been around, in more or less equal number, forever. I do not understand how being biologically-enabled to give birth or having squishy masses of flesh on our chests was interpreted to mean that women are weak or less deserving of rights. I literally cannot fathom how this began. I cannot. I can tie it to war, religion, patriarchy, whatever but none of those to me explains how it ever fucking began. It makes no sense whatsoever.
The other thing I don’t understand is patriotism when everything in your country is fucking broken. No, really, I love my country, right? It’s cool and weird, but my love is kind of like the love of the parents of an over-achiever. I love it, but I need it to prove to me why it deserves to be loved. I’ll be proud of it, when the pride is warranted. I’ve said this many times and I will never tire of saying it but when you belong to a place about which the best things you can say all happened thousands of years ago (or only in straight-up epic mythology), something is very wrong with the present day situation in that place.
And something is very wrong in our country today.
We can blame everyone for it or no one. We can say all was well before 2014 or we can say everything has been fine since. We can say this isn’t “real” indian culture and somehow the internet or PubG are responsible for this too. We can have many opinions on this but there are some facts we must contend with. Facts like we live
That’s where we live. That’s the truth. The truth isn’t some mythical version of this country where women are goddesses and if I hear one more person tell me how women in India have divine status, I will let my divine tongue loose on them so hard, they’ll have to look up the point at which verbal abuse crosses into verbal assault and then verbal manslaughter, realise they should be dead and die from the sheer agony of the words I launched at them. I don’t want to be a goddess, I don’t know any women who do really. I want to live in a place where misogyny and sexism and violence aren’t so rampant that I can make an entire career out of it. A place where we can’t make heartfelt movies out of a widow’s desire to put Holi colour on her skin because nothing that fucking ridiculous would ever happen there and there would be absolutely no connection between widowhood and colour. I want to live there. Where I can use my brain to contribute to the growth of the world instead of having to spend my entire life trying to correct wrongs and establish equality between the sexes for the first time since human history began (presumably).
I mean we think so much about what was done, what is being said, what policy will change this or that, what does and doesn’t have pockets, what’s been attacked et cetera but we spend no time thinking about what was really taken from us.
And our Saturday nights.
So many women have devoted our lives, professional or experiential, to fighting against or dealing with the fallout of a misogynistic patriarchy that is in control of our experiences in many ways still and if we never had to do that, what all could we have done?
That’s what was taken.
If none of it had ever happened, today could have been one of the happiest days of my life because on a personal, professional and emotional front I have had a really fantastic day of achievement, but instead of being thrilled I’m just fucking pissed off as all hell because the circus of Indian womanhood is the show that really seems intent on going on forever. Instead of relaxing with wine, I have to angry-drink vodka on my Saturday night.
That’s what was taken.
And before you tell me to find inner peace, let me suggest an experiment. Take a glass, break it, and then stand on the pieces, then jam a pencil in your eye, pick up a crying child, pacify it while doing a calculus problem with you left hand on a wrinkled sheet of paper without a hard surface under it. Then try to find inner peace. If you can, I’m really flattered you read my work Dalai Lama. If you can’t, then stop fucking telling women to find inner peace in this hell-hole.
Because while I’m all for this goddess-based beautifully safe and serene space where women thrive, I am also aware of exactly where I live.
If not, might I suggest, the news?