Saturday, 11 June 2016

The curious case of the judgemental and perverted in small town India

Woman….what does this word mean? Well, right off the bat I would say someone who is not a man.  The Ancient Greeks of the Hellenic civilisation considered women to be a distorted version of men, a belief, which has always baffled me. Also, I must point out that we know nothing of what the Hellenic women thought of this belief themselves. I like to think that they rolled their eyes and benevolently let the men believe in their delusions. But then, considering, how they revered the male form; it is hard to judge them, that and the fact that they lived thousands of years ago.

Now, though, in the twenty-first century, this belief in the inferiority of the female sex has spread from the men to the women. This, in my opinion, is what disturbs me the most. I live in a small town in the Indian hinterland. The mentality here is a curious mix of the traditional and the perverted. In the words of a friend, if a man and a woman so much as walk on the road holding hands; they raise eyebrows. The male gaze constantly follows women, on the road, in the market, the gym, even the temple. If you are a woman, you will constantly get the feeling of being watched. The phrase “big brother is watching” becomes literal only there are many, many brothers who have undoubtedly un- brotherly thoughts in their minds.

Then there are the women, if you so much as behave differently, or dress or speak differently, you are judged…oh sooooo harshly. If you thought that the male gaze was your only problem, you are sooo wrong my friend.  I can’t help but ask this inevitable question, when did small town India become so judgemental and perverted?

To answer my own question I would like to think that it is a combination of unhealthy attitudes of women and men of the past generation towards masculinity and femininity, that has led to this steep and unwanted decline of the mind set into the quagmire of depravity. I would like to give an example of this by something that happened to me at my gym thrice. I was approached on three separate occasions by absolute creeps whilst I was working out. Despite rebuffs and the Insta-freeze treatment I had to suffer through the embarrassment of having to go complain to my trainer and the management to tell these creeps to refrain from approaching.

This happened to me that first time!
Was I overreacting? I asked this question again and again. But I swear I got the chills thinking about acid- attack victims and other bad incidents. I am ashamed to say that I changed my gym timings. What really shocked me (as I have travelled and lived in various different countries) is that someone could find me attractive when I was all sweaty and gross, the concept of ‘women only’ timings at the gyms in the city and the fact that I was naïve enough to think that I would be safe in a small neighbourhood gym patronised by (on surface at least) reputable folks. The first time I laughed it off by saying to myself, that these things only happen in big cities and that my home town showed progress indeed, if guys here had started approaching girls at the gym!

Happened twice this week
I know what you are thinking, my naïveté astonishes me too. I know that women all over the world deal with ‘everyday sexism’ regularly, and yet the concept of slut-shaming, harassment and sexual innuendo being casually dropped in conversation in my small home town is still a big surprise to me. A friend of mine told me that some women were spreading malicious gossip about her and a male friend, which in my opinion reeked of slut- shaming.

This has become a menace. I don’t mean to say that people, especially women have never gossiped or spread rumours before. But, if something has been done time and time again by the past generations doesn’t mean that it is right. I have heard my sister feminists preach about ‘healthy masculinity’; About how, by making sure our brothers and sons learn to respect women from an early age and letting them grow up organically into their manhood will bring about the big change that society is asking for. This is really necessary; however, before we start moulding the men, it is time to remould ourselves.

After all, how are we supposed to teach the male of our species to respect the female, when we don’t respect ourselves? Therefore, we have to stop judging ourselves and our fellow women; we must try and open our minds to all the unique attributes that make us who we are. We must learn to celebrate our similarities and differences. To establish healthy forms of ‘masculinity’ we must first redefine  healthy ‘femininity ‘; Learn to love and respect ourselves, as change, does begin at home.


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