Feminism is the radical notion that women are people said someone famous. That sums up feminism better than any long winded definitio...

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

O Father, Dear Father!

So Bollywood biggie Amitabh Bachchan has decided his granddaughters, one of whom is probably four years old now, must get married and has proclaimed it to the wide world - in a letter in which he advocates the virtues of choice and independence! Of course, he's only telling them to choose whom to marry. We all know that in the Indian context that's a huge deal. Because of course good Indian girls only marry the guy their parents pick for them. Nice touch, Mr Bachchan!

In the letter released to the public, the repeated refrain of their pitiable womanhood is a jarring note - that it may be a difficult, difficult world to be a woman. Don't we know it, sir? But the allusion to length of skirts and its linking to the measure of character is a smart pick from an internet meme- we'll give that you Mr Bachchan! If only you'd picked up some feminism too! Too much to ask? :(

What is most infuriating in this platitudinous epistle is his allusion to legacies, specifically those of the girls' patriarchs. In one stroke his words erase the names, the lives and the her-stories of the women of the family. It's no secret that women put in the hard physical and emotional labour in child care, while men don't lift a finger. Yet, it's the men's name that counts while women's work as well as names are erased.

Such paternalism from Indian men isn't unexpected. Many such sickening instances were on display soon after the recently concluded Rio Olympics. The medals and stellar performances of India's women athletes were usually credited to their male coaches. Worse still, their victories were held up as sterling examples of why we should not kill our girls. One such example on social media, from popular sporting icon Virender Sehwag 


Yes, we have a huge fucking problem, we kill girls in the womb. We kill 2000 -yes, you read that right -WE KILL TWO THOUSAND GIRLS EVERYDAY as per the minister of women and child development herself. But how is holding up examples of high achievers going to end female foeticide? These are outliers, women who fought the system and won against huge odds. Does every little girl have to now mould herself into an Olympic champion so she can earn the right to live? Girls don't need a fucking reason to be allowed to live!

 A similar poem by ad guru and writer Prasoon Joshi was also widely circulated recently.
In the moving piece he shames men for having doubted their daughters and not celebrated their births. Now that those daughters are bringing us laurels and will continue to do so in future, we should be ashamed, Joshi tells us. The stirring poetry is juxtaposed with snippets of the Olympians. Yet again. Repeatedly, these men remind us: you are worthy if you win. The corollary seems to be: otherwise you're fit to be killed. Not so different from the cosmetic giant asking you to notch up your own worth using its products, is it?
Not to forget the cringe inducing paternalistic tones of the Prime Minister's tweet.                                        

One basic fact seems to escape these men- women are people too. Regardless of body shape and size and gender, they have a right to life, and to dignity. Irrespective of what they do for you, for your honor. Respectability is a concept whose time is up, it's time to discard it.

A desire to have one's children children further our legacy is a human desire. In Indian society those children can only belong to one gender- male. Lineage is passed on from father through to son. Understandably, daughters' share in ancestral property is denied. Even though the law allows it, parents balk at the thought of passing down dada- pardadaon ki zameen to girls. The family name doesn't pass on through the girl, her surname changes upon marriage.
These deep seated beliefs are what we are fighting against.

One swallow does not a summer make, and the lone Sakshi and P.V. Sindhi-god bless their souls- will not bring about a change in the hearts and minds of Indian parents. Nor will cash incentives, such as those promised by Haryana government. Haryana, while being one of the most prosperous states in the country has the dubious distinction of having the worst sex ratio in the country. According to the national census 2011, Haryana has ONLY 879 WOMEN PER 1000 MEN.

This is the state where the chief minister blames women for rising rapes because they dress provocatively. The man makes disparaging, regressive remarks towards women, inviting them roam around naked . All because women asked to be free. The horribly skewed sex ratio doesn't sound so strange now, does it?

From the obviously conservative to the apparently liberal, we have one patriarch too many.
You know what can be inspirational without being preachy? Watch this advertisement featuring another athlete, Geeta Phogat's story. She's a gold medallist at the 2010 commonwealth games. The video talks nan apparently patriarchal tone and turns every cliche on its head. Brutally. Watch!

                                                                            Geeta Phogat's story

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