Thursday, August 29, 2013

Rape: Let's Unite Against The Enemy, Patriarchy

Ok, another gang rape, should we say, a reported one? If I remember right, per a survey that outlook published some time ago, for every 1 rape reported in a big city, almost 64 rapes go unreported in any of the smaller cities. In any case, I don’t want to dwell on rape, for there’s enough and much more to spare written on rape. After all, who doesn’t want to look the defender of a woman’s modesty (sic!)?
Some of the words that people use to describe the act of rape are painful, horrendous, injustice, heinous, outrageous, irreversibly damaged, etc. Simply put, all these descriptors are laughable or even expressions of our misplaced angst, because all of our responses are colored, or rather dictated by our feudal mindsets that want our women to be untouched sexually, except by the man who is socially sanctioned to touch her on the day (err…night) of their wedding! And, that’s not all. The marital bed might even be examined for traces of virginal blood the following morning by the mother-in-law, who is again a victim and a stooge of patriarchy. 

And, hence, virginity/chastity (karppu) is something that the woman guards with her life, heart, soul, mind, body, etc. A woman’s mind is dwarfed or rather mangled (like perhaps a bonsai with constant pruning, trimming, and wiring) to think that she’s around just to grow up into a beautiful young woman, who will be married off in her prime (read biologically just right to get pregnant) to a man her parents shall find, and she shall cook and clean for him and his family (and, of course, have a career if the man deems it fit or something to simply kill time or contribute to the family economy, if need be), beget him children, and raise them as chivalrous gentlemen or ladies like herself to continue this brilliant saga! Isn’t this outrageously horrendous? And, we are outraged by a gang rape!
A woman’s attitude towards anything and everything, be it her choice in clothes, career, stance, food, color, marriage, friends, etc . is influenced primarily by the societal expectations from her due to her biology. For example, even as a girl child is born, people start talking about putting money away for her dowry, make jewels for her, buy pink frocks, high heels, etc. Where is all this coming from? It comes from the basic idea that the woman is a womb, and hence everything about the girl child is only beauty (she will have to beautiful for her man), fair skin, dolls (because she will be a mother someday, so start planning even as she is in the cradle!), kitchen sets (she’ll have to cook and clean for the household!), and anything and everything that would firmly peg her to the house, kitchen, and pregnancy! Now, I ask, aren’t all these heinous? And, we are outraged by a gang rape!

I am not sure if there’s data to support how girl babies and boy babies DIFFER in their gyration towards violence or motherhood, irrespectively! Maybe they do too, but why should we as adults stand back and watch or rather applaud when your boy starts using expletives and thrash when the girl does the same thing? Why are girl children taught to cook while boy children are not? Is cooking done through ovaries, which is why men don’t cook? Why should girl children be taught to clean? Why should boys/men be handed out coffees by women every day? Do men suddenly become lame or crippled the moment they enter their homes? Or, is it the upbringing that makes Indian men take any woman to be a custom-made domestic worker, mother, and even a careerist (outside the home of course!). It just can’t get any better for Indian men, or can it? I ask, isn’t this a travesty of justice or a caricature of a just world? And, we are outraged by a gang rape!

As a teenager growing in a metropolis like Chennai, I could never venture to the beach all by myself or even partake in the all-night parties that used to happen on the mount road on new year’s eve, because I, or any girl/woman, ran the risk of being gang raped! Even if the all-night party animals on that road came from ‘good’ families or on better days would be chivalrous too, wouldn’t think twice before actually getting down and having one helluva fuck, because such wayward women could, rather should be raped! Not only that, as a young girl travelling by public transport to school/college/work, I have been exposed to stares of all kinds (the approving, the disapproving, the disrobing, so much fucking more!!) and even harassment of all hues. And, believe me, the men guilty were anything like these ‘animals’(rapists) that all ‘good’ men of today seem to distance themselves from! These were boys/men who went to colleges like the ones I went to or even came from families who were our neighbors! Even today, as a fully grown adult, I can assure you that I don’t feel any less vulnerable while taking the public transport or am the only woman in a lift filled with men! All this and much more completely strangulate a woman’s very identity and crush/stonewall her into the bloody roles that patriarchy so confidently defines for her! Now, isn’t that horrifying? And, we are outraged by a gang rape! 

The outrage in my view is in itself outrageous or even hypocritical, especially because of the sheer number of men who seem have unleashed their unbridled sense of shame at this! I ask, where are these men and women, defenders of a woman’s modesty or proponents of women liberation, when the women’s reservation bill gets shot down or women bodies are objectified in mindless fashion shows or movies or when virginity tests are conducted on women? And, how many of these men haven’t whistled at a girl, brushed against a woman’s body when the opportunity presented itself, or didn’t enjoy a rape scene? And, will this outrage be of this scale if some men had gang raped a sex worker? 

Where were all these people when the armed forces brutally raped and killed Thangjam Manorama? Where was the outrage when an entire village watched and cheered as the men of the village gang raped even the dead bodies of two women? I am sure it would be so much easier to distance ourselves from such things as ‘aberrations’ that happen in the hinterland! And, who’s going to utter or let out even a whimper when men rape men/young boys? 

Our outrage therefore is very selective: our very core is shaken and we are spurred into action (as in people who don’t give two hoots about protests/demonstrations or who even denigrate such protestors as some misguided, lazy nincompoops) ONLY when the chastity of a ‘good’ woman is outraged. It’s of course a different matter altogether if she’s murdered for dowry, honored killed for marrying outside caste, is killed because of invasive fertilization techniques, is killed because of unsafe termination of pregnancy (for carrying a female child), is killed because she defended her home and land, is killed because she refused to do menial labor and wanted to study, or becomes a mental wreck being nothing more than a glorified domestic help at her own home all her life, and the like!
A day, a blog post, or even a bill may not be enough to change this situation, and any list of dos/don’ts may not even make the cut! What perhaps is needed is for us to internalize the fact that all of us born are equal, and because of the psychotic mistakes of our ancestors (hope you all burn in hell, if there’s one!) we live in a world that’s defined by various levels and each level is equipped with its own brand of weapons to keep the rest down under. Perhaps, we need to educate ourselves about the working of our society and the brutality it hides under the grab of morality, virtue, chivalry, and the like. Maybe then, we would organize and interrogate ourselves about why we need to be outraged and what we need to be outraged about. I know, not many people will have the time for all this, because it means taking collective responsibility of violence, especially the systemic kind, and working towards a solution. And, that would mean giving up of the many, many privileges that the powerful in the society (the men) have enjoyed for several centuries now. However, it’s time for the women and oppressed men, the victims of the systemic violence, to organize and agitate alongside in the long term. And, we can rest assured that our battle has just begun, and we have miles and miles to march before we can see a semblance of victory. Perhaps, our great, great grand daughters and sons might thank us for embarking on this journey. 

On a side note, for all the privileged men, more than responding to something that’s so far removed from your immediate reality or doling out some pearls of wisdom on how women should conduct and protect themselves, please introspect! Walk that extra mile, be a human, be defined not by your biology, but by your humanity! Don’t define a woman or her role or her identity or her ability by her biology, but by her right to exist on this planet as freely and happily just as you do. Maybe then, all of us can be united against the enemy; patriarchy!

Monday, July 8, 2013

As I Mourn....

The ferocity of my unexpressed grief
shall one day
uncurl my balled fists
and get your throat
and rip that collar
of ruthless hegemony
fortified by layers of vacuousness
couched in systemic violence
that flows unabated
through your words
in your voice
spewing venom
setting my home on fire
splitting my skull
and splattering my soul
on your stealthy that love tracks
that mask your rottenness
your demonic innards
your incompetence
and the dark dark vacuum
called your heart!

That day shall
not just Elavarasan
but, Gokila
and the whole army of us
shall overthrow you
your bunch of lies
your poisoned breads
your rules of social behavior
your advice and counsel
and your justice!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Fading Façades

It feels like am almost on the verge of treading the beaten track, what with no blog posts for almost a year, and what’s the only reason? My son? How typical, right? That’s what all you guys and gals out there are mouthing mentally, I know. Well, I can even see a wry (rather triumphant) grin on a lot of faces that challenge my feminism and yea, there are an equal number of welcome back smiles. Anyway, this blog post is another birthing of sorts, if some of you can get what I am getting at. :)

Ok, in trying to steer into the unbeaten track, unbeaten, am gonna attempt things that I have never done before. One of them is writing about some of my facades, such as how I hate Gautham Menon movies (which I do, but only with some reservations), how I love shopping at the big malls, how I really do break down when I watch young moms beg on the street with very young babies, how I have a thing for very dark men (yes, dark men make my knees go weak and fair men don’t even stir me), and how I am the world’s biggest shallow, narcissist! I know by saying all this, I have miffed a lot of you out there, especially those of you who have had great ‘hopes’ for me or didn’t know me enough to have looked through the façade! 

Let’s look at the first façade. Yes, I like Gautham Menon movies, despite their clichés, their stupid nationalism, and chivalry. Let’s get to why or what I like about them. Firstly, he kind of somewhere manages to get the idea of ‘understated’ into Tamil movies. But, only kind of, because he really doesn’t make the cut; he’s perhaps too busy or distracted by the packaging, the beautiful locales, the doling up of his ladies (who are these very educated, English-speaking, all womanly women waiting to be swept off their dainty feet by rugged self-made metrosexuals in their bikes/jeeps and teaching them how to kiss! As if, kissing is something only a man can teach a woman), or panning his camera a wee bit on the higher side. Secondly, I believe he manages to create some sort of a ‘space’ for the woman, however flawed it may be. Yes, it’s quite nerve racking to see all these so-called independent women waiting to be kissed by this absolute male for the first time (Jo in Khaka Khaka) and all that. However, it was lovely to see a woman of 24 stay all by herself in a nice cozy apartment and also go out with male friends late in the night to watch a movie. Such touches can come only from a mind that believes in a truly ‘safe’ world where men and women interact as individuals with identities that go beyond the ones defined by biology. On the other hand, Gautham, it was a dagger straight to my heart when this woman was reduced to a lunch-packing housewife in one of the two endings. Now, you know, which one I chose. 

I know, a lot of you might do an internal eye-rolling, daring me to go on a similar rambling about another of his movies, vettaiyadu vilayadu! Mmm...I hated the movie totally, and this is no façade and I also don’t think it was a director’s movie at all; it was something that probably crawled out of one of the hero, Raghavan’s orifices!

Ok, now, it’s VTV’s turn now. I refused to watch it for a very long time only to stop an internal puke hemorrhage that happens to me each time I see at that illustrious son of a bear, Simbu! But, then, after NEP (neethane en ponvasantham), I took a chance just for the director’s sake. And, truth be told, it wasn’t very bad, actually. Perhaps, the authenticity of the shallowness in the characters appealed to me. I guess it takes some effort to deftly capture the depth of shallowness in characters like Jessy or even Karthik. Isn’t this how ‘real’ (or should I say, urban) love stories happen? Yes, there are problems like the language they speak in the film. But, beyond that, the movie is set in a certain ‘class,’ which is even more problematic. This legitimizes or rather essentializes the ‘success’ of love relationships to have them happen only within a restricted class (which is a just a sanitized version of caste). That’s perhaps why movies as these will never become classics like may be a Julie or a Bobby, which were also love stories that tugged at one’s heart strings, but yes, they got a little down and dirty! Something prevents Gautham from pushing the boundaries and he seems rather too happy to work within the confines of class. Me thinks, he works only for the paisa, and he goes just as far it takes to rake in the moolah and no further. After all, he’s not out to change the world or like a real artist shock it at least. However, what he effectively does is get all the single (unkissing; ugh! so catholic) women (we get your convent hangover, director) to not engage or interrogate their own independence, but wait for their princes in shining armor and slide without complaints into roles dictated by patriarchy and their particular caste. 

And, finally, NEP, the game changer for me! Firstly, yes, the setting gets straight As. Secondly, what was so endearing was the glimpse of female desire. Of course, it’s not really anywhere close to the real thing. The fact that the girl was in control of the relationship was nice for a change, but the pukey scenes/dialogues where he says I’ll only pay for us! (Barf! Who paid for her car that you drive around, dude?) and, yea, the faltu tension he so desperately tries to create after his brother’s bride-viewing actually seemed a wee bit comical! But, yea, something I liked was the fact that the heroine had two sisters, which is a welcome change to see in Tamil movies, where most of the houses will have only a boy-girl combination for siblings. And, yes, the sister bonding, something so precious and so incomparable and so rare was so deftly captured. Yes, it was simply irritating (read mortifying) to see the woman do nothing much than  wait around till the prince in shining armor could put away enough money to buy his horse to sweep her off her feet! Of course, it was unbelievable that one would carry a candle for over 4 years! I wouldn’t; not even for a month, especially after such a ghastly breakup! Despite all this, I liked the movie because the woman had some semblance of individuality and independence. 

So, ok, the verdict, I do like Gautham Menon movies, especially when viewing them in the backdrop of some milestone Tamil movies like Nadodigal, Sundarapandian, or even Sethu!

More Fading Façades later...

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