Tuesday, 4 October 2016

How to Think Like a Feminist: A Guide for Male Chauvinists

After a long time, I watched a movie, PINK, that made sympathetic for its protagonist. The story is pretty generic given its subject but the screenplay was good and what some lacked in performance was glossed over by the ongoing drama. Many friends had mixed opinions. Some thought it was sub-par because of the extra dose of emotional situations which, in reality, would not have gone as smoothly (yes, they considered it smooth because, in reality, it is way murkier without a Sehgal to help you out). Others thought it was very accurately depicted. I agree that it was, to the extent it has shown female subjugation in a chauvinist society. Thus I illustrate how society has failed in its responsibility towards women with quick moral notes for those who are impatient.

When the movie started I was confused. I was merely putting together logical conclusions. It took me some time to understand its gravity. While I accept, prejudicially I never considered the man’s story could have water, but, even if it did, it was a pretty obvious conclusion. There are rarely situations where women have the upper hand in such cases of outraging of one’s modesty (one would have thought that the feminist jurisprudence would have shifted to sexual abuse by now and yet!). I am quite certain if you are a woman traveling alone by public transport, one way or the other, you must have faced harassment and have been too shy to speak about it. We are somehow too modest when it comes to speaking our problems because it makes us smaller in our own eyes. We are mostly taught to overlook such incidences as "Men will be men" and dismiss it as innocent mistakes.

Moral 1

While you complain about those who are outspoken, please consider that most silent ones are giving you the benefit of doubt and stop being posterior apertures.

As a woman who may have to work outside her hometown, I could relate to many events that happened in the movie without it ever happening to me. We have all known of situations where we met acquaintances and “hung out” with them. But we also know that unlike men who can accompany any friend anywhere without the slightest fear of at least being molested, we always weigh our options and more often than not, depending on our level of paranoia, say no to such encounters. But the point remains, if we feel comfortable enough, we do say yes, at times, hoping to be proven wrong. The problem with life is that opportunities rarely come within the safety of our homes (presuming so) and at times we submit to the temptations of the so-called "western culture" imbued in us through liberal ideas. Many bystanders never consider that character and culture are words not to be qualified as bad or good. There are choices and one must respect such choices.

Moral 2

Please respect and understand that we are not committing a crime with our choice of lifestyle and you are also welcome to join us if you promise to be liberal and not an external male appendage. Don’t make us shun society because of your notions of correctness.

Coming back to independence and living on your own, while watching the movie I realized there is no place on earth where I could be totally safe. I could only be relatively safe. As human beings, we take great pleasure in boasting our superiority over animals. Animals treat their females as similar animals but we humans, cannot treat our females as more than property. We have dehumanized half of the population. That is why patriarchs find themselves more worthy when their seed produces males because otherwise, they would not have created half a human by their conscience. Some think females have received too much wisdom and any desire of independence should be nipped in the bud and that is to be done with indirect denunciation. So whichever male possesses women in his family who indulge in liberal activities like drinking, partying, going out at night for however innocent the cause, associating with unfamiliar males in their maidenhood (the irony!) is chastised by the society in hopes that he will put a tighter leash over his females. All our vices are based on besmirching our family name, that too something we are obligated by society to change on marriage.

Moral 3

Please treat females as human beings and not objects of your pleasure or property. Fathers, please don’t impede a girl’s development because of your ignorant notions about our sex (which you wouldn’t have, had you paid attention in Biology classes instead of giggling).

Corollary: Please also stop confusing our families’ pride with our choices. I am also not the property kept in trust by my family for the benefit of my future partner (which may or may not exist).

The popular expression remains that you are born a daughter, you grow to be a wife and then a mother. But where is my consent in such social scheme? I have inhibitions because of my safety. I have prohibitions because of my safety. I have guilt because I should have been careful. Why is it always I who is required to observe safety measures? I have submitted my freedom to the sovereign in exchange for the assurance of safety as a human being. I have given my freedom to the laws of this country and refrain from killing every person that provokes me. I submit to the societal structure and norms expecting a reciprocal respect for my wishes. Why am I either a mother sister or an object of desire? If you find me attractive then admire me. If you want to court me, then court me. But stop when I say no. I will accept your madness of rejection at times because I could have felt the same. But do not make me feel like I am not a person but a lifeless being at your disposal with no right of rejection. I deliberately did not speak of clothes because unless you see the person as a human being, you cannot be bothered by her embellishment.

Moral 4

Please consider that I am a perfectly capable person deserving of your respect as a fellow being and not as your mother or sister (I may not want a brother like you if given the choice).

Corollary: When we refuse your advances, we are legally capable of doing so being fully functional human beings capable of making decisions. Please don’t assume that your undeniable charm is incapable of being rejected and such rejection amounts to the presumption of superiority on our part. While it might be true, sometimes, it just isn’t meant to be (please don’t be a creep, pretty please, unless you are Thom Yorke).

During my existentialist introspection, I often think the fault is with the concept of respect. We respect the wrong people most of the time. We do not respect the prostitute who sells her consent to undeserving scoundrels for a better life. We do not respect the athlete for her strength in the so called unladylike body. We ought not to respect those who conform to the patriarchal standards condemning other women for their conduct. We must find better disqualifications to shun “that hoe” than her joviality around men. We must discourage staunch upholders of patriarchy and make women feel more comfortable with their choices. The next time I take off my shorts to wear a pair of trousers, I want to feel that it is a choice dictated by my tastes and not the society’s gaze. The next time I feel shy about my low neck blouse, it should be because it is particularly unflattering in my opinion and not because it might make men stare. We have taken masculine garments to be signs of empowerment as in a pre-feminist society emulation of masculinity meant strength. Then, of course, clothes grew more flattering, as in such a male-dominated society, it helped to be somewhat promiscuous than masculine.

Moral 5

Please don’t respect somebody wearing a saree over somebody wearing trousers unless you have other standards to compare them. Respecting such attributes clouds your judgment of virtues which might even help others to take your advantage. If you have to disrespect us, disrespect enough to have nothing to do with us, ever (be a hermit).

Moral 6

Please don’t stare like we have magic inside and an unintentional peek-a-boo may give you a window to unlimited knowledge. It helps us be comfortable in our clothes (which we are, regardless of what you think, unless you are being creepy).

Honestly, I often wonder, from the perspective of a woman who is still constantly cautious about wild animals and depend on their tamed counterparts for protection, is this even a civilization worth appraisal? After watching the movie, when I heard people saying that the subject was extraordinary and not quite mainstream, I realized that those would be the people judging a woman by her attires habits and sexuality. They will be the ones separating them from “such women” perpetuating the notion of reverence to conservatism in conduct. Do not tell me you regard yourself outside such possibility because your circles are safe for women. We both know that ain’t the truth.

Written by Sayantani Saha
Writer, dreamer of world exploration and lover of high fantasy

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