Suddenly I’ve started feeling envious of all the 24 year-old youngsters. Not that I’m old compared to them, but I wish I WERE 24 today to possess the same energy, liveliness and excitement to do things. With these thoughts I was reeking in a wee bit misery last night, when I ended up reading late at night, a seminal text from 1911 written by Emma Goldman titled, Marriage and Love. It’s an unfortunate reality that society even today in the second decade of this 21st century pressures people and especially women into undergoing choices that are out of their will. Goldman writes succinctly about the institution of marriage and child rearing as these were considered the only circle in a woman’s life back then. The difference between texts and essays written by feminists from all the decades from the suffragette movement is that each one of them clearly expresses their anger and resolve to create a new inclusive world for women instead of disappointment and helplessness at the slow pace of the events that changed the course of politics around the world. Imagine this changed world with little improvements yet for women who still have to fight for legislation for Abortions, Planned Parenthood, Reproductive rights and ownership of their bodies. What would these feminists had they lived long enough think about the current state of women in the world today? Certainly, not a very encouraging scenario from how they started the movement. Isn’t it tragic in a way that we as society still link marriage and love together in a vain connection whose onus solely depends on a woman’s conduct, both inside and outside the home? What are men doing if not put us under a burden of their patriarchal diktats further pushing us away from liberation and freedom for our individual selves? Even today, as I write here, I see and hear talk of marriage as the sole highest point of achievement for women. Not even urban women are spared from the third party decisions took on their behalf for their well-being by people who perhaps don’t understand the pace of their lives any more. If only, as society we let individuals be themselves without any inter-dependence on these age-old institutions and perceived moral cages of social order, the planet would be a definite better place to live for men and women alike.
My thought trail kept on treading too many a different topics. I realised that at age 24, I did not have the luxury of dwelling on the many ideas and ventures I do now. Also, don’t we always pine for the past days and long for them in the belief that it was the best time of our lives regardless of whatever else is happening now in the present? With every bygone year, I keep an account of my foolish and wise ways, of the many good and not-so-good things that have happened in my life, my emotional strength and mental spirit that carries me through everything. In doing so, I believe that we grow in our capacities towards being better than we ever are and could be. Every change is after all an ever-evolving process towards progress. It’s a forward march always!
So this comes from an article I read early in the morning today on Medium. It’s written on the likes of Dark complexion and girls like the author who herself has one, embracing the skin and experimenting with bright colours on her body. She writes of some incident where her bright yellow outfit and bobbed hair with bright pink lipstick got censored by some women at a body shop. As I kept reading the article and came to the end where the author posted her pictures in different bright coloured outfits she wore, I thought about the need felt by us women to still justify our choices whether they are regarding make-up or our hairstyle or the most important of them all, clothes.
One recent personal experience of mine that I think is quite harmless to write about here is when during a friend’s wedding, this common girl friend of ours gave me some jewellery to wear because it went with my outfit, applied a dash of lipstick and blusher on my face while telling me it looks great on me because I am fair and also kept referring to my curls while in conversation with other friends. It’s rather nauseating to keep hearing about beautiful faces and smooth complexions at such close range. When I caught up with her in the rest room, she said with a sigh that we must make some efforts to look nice! And now that she’s been doing it for over a year, she feels great about herself. I am sure some people feel comfortable and greatly confident after doing things that boost their physical appearance and I am of the thought that everyone should feel comfortable about their bodies. This incident however, left me thinking about the way we are perceived by other people. Usually first impressions are always about our appearance right?
|Street Art in Finland
We have set for ourselves parameters to look like in public and in private. I say this, because this very friend has very orthodox views on social issues that concern Femininity, Gender Roles in society or Patriarchy for example, and often speaks with her religious intone very clearly on these topics. Now I know that I am drifting apart from what I started to write about- fascination and fixation with our bodies. SKIN is the most prejudiced about body organ. Women most specifically indulge in nurturing this fixation and beautifying their skin their entire lives since when they first become conscious about it, usually made by their mothers, female relatives and other women. Men have started focussing on their skin colour too especially what with some International brand coming up with a fairness cream meant for men’s skin! When news came earlier this week about Laxmi- the Delhi Acid Attack Survivor who gave birth to a healthy baby girl and wrote about feeling conscious of her appearance to her young child, her partner assured her that the child will see her love and not her grafted skin. I felt incredible love for all three of them. They will prove to be perhaps the first family who will engage in no stereotyping of beauty for their girl child. They will set up no standards of defining beauty or labels that only point to our outer physical appearance without caring so much so for our inner goodness. Another example that I can think of is how Nandita Das gets labelled as the champion and speaker for women with dark skin. Surely she has dark skin and has been able to carve a career in a beauty focussed movie industry in India but the choice of words usually haunts me.
How many Indian women are exactly fair-skinned, barring the North and North East? Hardly a proportion compared to the other 20 states in our Nation. Yet when we talk of physical beauty we ignore the women who tie their babies on their backs and work in paddy fields or women who pick tea leaves on tea estates or the many who live in squatter settlements and sell their wares in trains. We focus on the handful as always has been. How does being dark or fair matter when it’s nothing but just a layer covering our body?! I bet if we keep hammering this thought then will we get over with this obsession about the skin tone. If all the women in the world suddenly decide themselves to chuck ideals of beauty, I believe certain economies and giant corporations will collapse and go bankrupt. We won’t feel then the need to judge other women by their skin colour or the wrinkles on their faces or the many scars we all feel ashamed of and consistently try to cover them up using make up! THAT would be the day of liberty and freedom for women in the truest sense.
Today after reading this article by Nisha Susan, I am also reading about the murder of Allison Baden-Clay, 43, a Brisbane resident who was killed by her husband in April 2012 and now the court verdict is out wherein he won the appeal against his murder conviction instead being accused of manslaughter. So yes, such judgements get passed not only in India but everywhere in the world. A woman is murdered and all the court does is convicts her husband of manslaughter, not murder. How convenient for the judiciary! The Reeva Steenkamp murder verdict proved how blinded the legal system is! Her cold blooded murderer got away with an ‘accidental self-defence’ argument. He’ll live the rest of his life, alive and doing things while that young woman will lay forgotten. That is what is happening with women! We don’t exist- we don’t matter, unless we speak up. At least a voice is a reminder to the other gender to look around and see that there is another equal gender sharing the world with them.
Sexism is inherent everywhere! We just can’t challenge it because then us women will be labelled as bad feminists. Oh yes, that’s what we live for! Labels, given by the society. It’s a pity we trash Nicki Minaj for speaking up against her detractors or for her to justify her videos while lauding Beyonce. The problem is that we know how to pit two people voicing themselves for the same cause, against each other. More so, when they happen to belong to the same community.
It always amuses me that men’s notion of feminism is so wrong. They think women asserting their rights even when it’s not necessary is feminism. Some of my male friends go ahead and say, India doesn’t need feminism because women have equal opportunities as far as they know. That’s it- AS FAR AS THEY KNOW- and how much is that- the range of a teaspoon! I wish I could pity them, but that won’t serve any cause. The biggest joke is that India is considered to be a land of equal opportunities for women. If we could try to understand what feminism is, we really must start within our homes. Stop being dependent on your mothers, sisters, wives for things like home-cooked food on the dinner table always or finding your misplaced things during early morning office rush because, they are not your chaperones. Drill it guys, in your head! Also get away with the traditional argument of women were made to cater to the family or Kinder, Kuche, Kirche- don’t be a fool and believe your ancestors so much that you can’t place your own judgements in good light.
It’s 2015 and ending in a few weeks time. Where we have Canada’s new PM Justin Trudeau, we also have traditional leaders who scoff at the thought of Hilary Clinton for President and instead putting up with garbage like Trump. We have Boko Haram, or the Khap Panchayat super active in North India, we haven’t been able to give justice to the Badaun girls hung up the tree, or the Khairlanji rape and murder. And before we say one word about these crimes in rural areas and that women in urban are safe, think of Nirbhaya.