The five things that still bother Indian women and why we need to speak about them.
I was standing at a small kirana shop on the Delhi University campus when a young man in his 20s stopped by for cigarettes. The shopkeeper advised him to give up smoking. Good advice, no doubt. If only he had stopped there. But of course, he had to ruin it by telling the guy that if he had been getting married his potential wife would have made him quit, but alas, women nowadays are smokers themselves.
A few days later in the same vicinity, a college student came to a paan shop looking for rolling paper. A Delhi uncle couldn't wrap his mind around the fact that being a girl, she was doing "such things." The girl walked away but the rest of us were subjected to a tirade on society's dismal condition.
It would appear that women are the guardians of the social fabric and indulging in vices is not a personal decision but a demonstration of moral degradation. Funny, then, how society rewards its guardians — with vulgar jokes, lewd comments, and disrespect. Here are five things that really bother Indian women even now:
Being stared at
This is something any Indian woman will tell you without a second thought. Stepping out on the streets is like being on display at a zoo — there is just no stopping the stares, the lecherous looks. One thing you have to give them is that they don't discriminate — whether you're in a burqa or shorts, Indian or foreigner, you will receive the same unnerving stare.
How do you stop it? Although staring back sternly helps, it isn't always effective. Most women just try to ignore it and go on with whatever they were doing, but this is seriously frustrating.
Stereotypes set in stone
"Immoral" and "promiscuous" are just two of the words women who are modern, drink, smoke, party, and hang out with boys are used to hearing themselves described as. There is this constant message that the gatekeepers of society's morals send out — good girls are traditional, docile, and domestic and to be anything else is shameful.
The recently released Patanjali ad about a Saundarya cream plays out like this — the sister who wears makeup and western clothes and thinks like a modern woman eventually ends up with bad, blemished skin. Things change when, like her sister, she opts for the traditional way of life and the Saundarya cream.
The way indian men stare when they see a female buying cigarettes. Leave off guy, I can do what I please.
Even the Indian movie industry runs by these standards — it's okay for women to do item numbers but the one the male protagonist marries is always the one he can take home to mom. Remember the character of Deepika Padukone in the movie Cocktail? While any guy would have given his right arm to be able to call her his girlfriend, there was no such enthusiasm to make her a part of the family. That's not just the only example.
There is a general understanding in Indian society that if a woman gets raped, assaulted, or harassed, it is because she in some way "asked for it." It could be her behaviour, her attitude, her actions, or her clothes that made her "deserve" it. In all the different cases of brutality, the common thread is that the woman somehow invited the trouble that befell her. But how exactly is it that even infants bring these horrific situations upon themselves?
The inherent patriarchy in the Indian society that elevates the male over the women not just physically but also intellectually is the root cause of mansplaining. It just makes men patronising towards women because they feel superior regardless of the credentials the woman holds.
All the marriage jokes are targeted at wives. Endless jokes about marriage or men's status in marriages do the round on social media channels. Time to bury the jokes!
This is not about male bashing or pointing fingers at all men. We understand appreciative looks and jokes that are actually funny, but there is a line that cannot be crossed. The victim blaming and mansplaining need to stop. Women have the right to make choices and the mentality that dictates otherwise needs an overhaul.
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