While preparing an introduction for an event at school my stepson was told not to reference his stepmother because it is “inappropriate” to do so. In India we encourage secrecy about everything that deviates from the norm but teaching children to hide divorce hurts them more than you realise.
We have all heard that India is a sex-negative country but it also has the much more dangerous distinction of being a love-negative country. The right to fall in love in India is shrouded in constrains of religion, caste, lifestyle and wealth, and even when we aren’t forced to marry within the norm, we do it. Why do we do it?
Women are taught pain very early. Whether that is in the form of cooking accidents, puberty, self-sacrifice or childbirth, pain is an integral eventuality of womanhood. Men on the other hand feel comfortable complaining about even the slightest discomfort, and as a woman that causes me a certain amount of resentment. This is why.
A lot of times in India, we live in secret. Some of those secrets are small like drinking only when you’re out of your house, and some of them are bigger, like being gay or polyamorous. My secrets are bigger and so are those of many people, and while some of us learn to have a “real-life” where we don’t have to hide, growing up having had to hide parts of you that you were still learning to understand is not impact-free. I am the loudest person I know, but I’ve hid parts of myself for a long time, there are those parts.
Last week the Chief Minister of Uttrakhand criticised mothers for demeaning our culture by wearing ripped jeans, and at the same time India saw the opening of its first brick-and-mortar sex-toy store in Goa. These two pieces of news do not belong in the same country, is it possible we’re all living in two countries at the same time?
While all women are subject to a certain degree of sexual harassment, some women are often treated to inappropriate behaviour from men they know at a much higher frequency. These men will often tell you that you are “open-minded” and therefore sending them signals, but what do they mean when they call you that? Why do men think they can be as inappropriate as they like with “open-minded” women? In our latest piece, I detail my personal experiences to figure out what an “open-minded woman means to a man.
We often tell young girls they are fated to “grow up faster” than their male peers, and to enforce this lesson a disproportionate amount of household responsibility is put on girls. From cooking to learning sacrifice, we deem that this enforced precocious behaviour is “maturity”. In this we discuss whether this “maturity” is inherent or just another enforced code of gendered behaviour?
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.
Growing up in India, most of us never saw our parents express any physical affection to one another and very few of us are comfortable displaying affection to our partners in public. This may seem like a personal choice but it speaks to a much deeper culture of shame, taboo and violence.
Pornography has existed for centuries, as has the censorship that tries to control it. Over the last few years the Government of India has instituted several bans on pornographic content claiming it causes rape and immorality. Have the bans made things better? I argue, they have made them worse