Monday, 11 February 2013
Seeing like a feminist...Speaking like one?
"Reading this book will leave you feeling angry all the time. Because you'll see things where you never saw them before" said someone at the launch of Nivedita Menon's book Seeing Like A Feminist.
I couldn't agree more. I haven't read the book yet but I see like a feminist. And I am angry. A lot.
My cousin got engaged recently. Sweet enough bloke living in the Americas and working for Bill Gates. The family collected for the usual round of congratulations. And then it began. The girl hasn't completed school yet, and one of my uncles sagely nods his head, saying it's good to marry young "kyonki phir adjustment karne mein problem nahin hoti". Why not just go right out and say it's better because the girl hasn't had a chance to carve out her own identity yet and will seamlessly blend into the boy's life? The mother of the groom struts around like a peacock talking about how her highly eligible son floored the family and the girl in a glance. The girl is just dying to get married and telling her family her home is now in America. Of course she is! She's 18!!! You gift her iPads and show her dreams of living in USA. So much more exciting than her life in a small town in the hills. She hasn't lived in a big city. The romance of this good-looking man coming from another country and sweeping her off her feet is all that matters. But does she have any real perception of what her life will be? Does she know what a marriage entails? Can she stand up for what she believes in and not just give in to her husband and in-laws? Does she even know yet what she believes in???
It was like watching someone being bought. Like a piece of property had been purchased. The worst was when my cousin expressed his apprehension that she'll flunk her boards because of the distraction he's causing in her life (should have thought of that earlier buddy!) and my father said " arre ab woh zindagi ke sabse bade exam mein safal ho gayi hai, baaki sab toh ho jayega, kya farak padta hai". I was furious! Really? Is that it? A girl gets married and nothing else matters? Her education, careers, dreams, aspirations? All take a back seat because she found such a good catch? She was so lucky that she married? And my own father? The one who always told me to study hard and work?
But what really got me was that I kept quiet. I didn't say a word. I who rants and raves on my blogs, goes for book launches and protest marches, sat through it all without a single utterance. Why? I didn't want to create a scene, I knew they wouldn't understand what I'm saying, it would strain our already poor family relations...any number of reasons. I see like a feminist but why can't I speak like one. Against or in favour of.
Just a few days ago I found out that my mother's sister, 43 years old, got married without telling anyone. She had her fair share of proposals in her younger days but for reasons known to her said no. She went on to study and pursue an academic career as a professor. Now that she'd found someone, she went ahead. She didn't tell anyone, including her parents and siblings, again for reasons best known to her. So the guesswork started. It must be because of her age, she must have been awkward, maybe she thought people will refuse, how would people react, maybe she was worried about disclosing it to extended family. What the hell? The woman got married for god's sake, she isn't a suicide bomber! She did it on her time, with whom she wanted and ya she did it at 43 instead of 18 but that's her bloody business. As far as I'm concerned, if she's happy and he's a good guy, kudos to her. She did with her life as she wanted.
This time I did say what I felt. Only to be given the look that says, don't be radical, you know how society is.
Good lord, this word society. How it infuriates me. Where is this omnipresent society? The decider of everyone's fate? Where is it when it's women are traded like property? Where is it when the men think it's their birthright to insult, humiliate and rape? Why does it only rear it's head when women make their own decisions?
I've sat quiet while friends and family have said the most patriarchal, inappropriate, misogynistic and down right disgusting things. I am ashamed to say that I have sat quiet to avoid conflict and to appear cool with my friends. Who wants to be the girl who has issues with things? I'd rather be one of the guys right? The one who laughs at all the sick jokes?
No, thank you. Here's my new year's resolution. I see like a feminist. And from today, hard as it may be, I will try my best to speak like one.