Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Being a woman...

The SlutWalk has gained a lot of coverage recently with people expressing their opinions on the "skimpy clothing" to be worn during the parade, to the name "Slutwalk" itself. I thought I am a liberal feminist, who is all for women's lib and freedom, but even I was quite shocked after hearing the title of this movement. Why would any woman call herself a slut purposely? When I read the rationale behind the choice of the title, I was convinced somewhat, but not entirely. Slutwalk is supposed to express a woman's right to wear anything she wants to, without being called names, specifically, a slut. Ironical? I think so. 

However, the description on the Delhi events website brought a lump to my throat. Specifically, this part:

Language and derogatory slang have been used to shame women, to instruct them on how they should behave and what they shouldn’t do. This is what words like ‘slut’ do. They tell you that if you are not moral, that you are inappropriate. They are an insult. They are meant to shame you. 

In our society, rape is touted as an act of sex and sexual attraction. It isn’t. It’s a heinous crime of violence. It’s a hegemonic tool of oppression that seeks to ‘punish’ women. It’s a threat to the very being of women. Not the act itself, but the connotations it has. Rape is the complete refusal to give a woman the choice to her own body. Rape is a patriarchal tool designed to ensure that women are kept in check, that they always remain the ‘second sex’. It seeks to reiterate that women are supposed to remain at the mercy of men. We repeat, rape is NOT about sex or lust.  

Even so, the woman is always blamed for bringing on the rape. What was she doing alone at night?! Why was she wearing a skirt?! Why did she not have a male companion with her?! How could her parents let her go out of the house without her brother or father?! Why was she driving alone?! We cast aspersions on the character of the woman, and her morals. It has to be her fault, doesn’t it? The men are not at fault. The men are only serving justice on a platter. She asked for it; THAT seems to be there defence. We see it around us. Whether it is newspaper reports or in discussions related to rape. Women are told not to wear clothes that show their ‘enticing bits’. They are told they should learn self defence and carry pepper sprays, never mind the effectiveness of each. Women are taught, from a very early age, not to be raped. To be careful, to be on the guard. We feel the horrors and fears of being raped every day of our lives. But we are told to internalise it and live with it. Because men will be men. No, men will never be taught NOT to rape. ‘Aise ladkiyon ke saath toh aisa hi hona tha!’

I've felt like this every day of my life. And now, the fear is even more magnified in Delhi.  I get irritated when I see a man standing in the ladies compartment of the metro. No woman has the courage to scold him or ask him to get out. Neither do I. The fact that the SlutWalk has come to Delhi rather than any other city says something. Not to compare, but in Mumbai, men are literally scared of climbing into the women's compartment of the local. Why are women more scared and men more shameless in Delhi? 

And so I find myself confused by the besharmi morcha. I understand the rationale behind it, but I don't want to call myself a slut to not feel bad about being called a slut. Of course it's a good thing that women are getting a voice, but I felt it was a bit over the top. 

Till I read this article. Key point:

...the number of “missing” women has risen to more than 160 million, and a journalist named Mara Hvistendahl has given us a much more complete picture of what’s happened. Her book is called “Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men.” As the title suggests, Hvistendahl argues that most of the missing females weren’t victims of neglect. They were selected out of existence, by ultrasound technology and second-trimester abortion.
The spread of sex-selective abortion is often framed as a simple case of modern science being abused by patriarchal, misogynistic cultures. Patriarchy is certainly part of the story, but as Hvistendahl points out, the reality is more complicated — and more depressing.
Thus far, female empowerment often seems to have led to more sex selection, not less.

It’s society at large, she argues, citing evidence that gender-imbalanced countries tend to be violent and unstable. It’s the women in those countries, she adds, pointing out that skewed sex ratios are associated with increased prostitution and sex trafficking. 

 The tragedy of the world’s 160 million missing girls isn’t that they’re “missing.” The tragedy is that they’re dead. 

I was simultaneously depressed and elated on reading this article. Elated, that my parents didn't think this way. And depressed, that no matter which class of society you belong to, people still consider a female to be inferior to a male. And WOMEN do it to their own daughters.  Female infanticide is not restricted to people from lower income groups, who might be forgiven for hoping for sons as they might bring in more income. This mindset is ALL pervasive in our society. 

And now I think, hone do besharmi morcha. In a society where a female's life has such little value, maybe a hoarde of women in skimpy clothes might force "sharam" in a society that has forgotten the meaning of the word. This besharmi morcha isn't merely about being labelled a slut, it's about having the right to live, away from the labels that society thrusts upon a woman. The label of being weak, the label of being a poor income earner, the label of being weak minded, the label of being not fit to live. I am going to participate, just to reiterate the fact that I'm a woman, and proud of it.


  1. the real win will be when u don't need to arrange such walks etc...and can ALWAYS roam around however u want...
    something needs to be done to ensure that....this, i personally think, is a waste of energy :)

  2. You make a compelling point Manasi.Just a tad too long though :P

  3. @Anon: That's what u can say about reservations. We dont NEED reservations, we need to get economically and socially weaker classes on par with the elites, but yet till that happens, affirmative action is the only way.
    @Anup: Thank you, but I believe that this world doesn't give enough space for a woman to voice her opinions and feelings.

  4. @Anon: You surely can't achieve the ideals of a utopian society that you have put forth by just sitting around and doing nothing.

    I just don't think that the intended audience of the walk, the lecherous men I suppose, will be able to appreciate/grasp the irony here. As one of my friends, a very radical left wing feminist, says, cutting their(rapists') goolies off is the only solution :D

  5. @Anuj - never said that you should sit around and "hope" for things to "miraculously" improve..
    but was jus contemplating a situation where there doesn't arise the need for such ammm...weird (?) methods :)

  6. Nice article Manasi!!!

    every human should have the same right, shouldn't be biased by gender. well, these things are lot driven by society & freedom in the society.
    Places like Noida, Delhi are considered unsafe for women than Mumbai, whereas, over the globe asia & middle east is considered unsafe compared to US & europe.
    Things are improved & still improving, hopefully every place will be even, in a decade :)