Saturday, May 02, 2015

Feminism in 8 minutes

There's much talk going on about Barkha Dutt's rebuttal, when she was trying to defend India at an international conference. 
Is India safe for women? 
Yes. It is. If we go into the statistics of reported rapes, India fares much better than some developed countries. But is safety the only thing we aspire for? We must be safe. It shouldn't even be a point for statistical analysis. But more than safety, it is the perception of a woman's role in the society that desperately needs a change.

The link above is from a Marathi movie released in 1937. In the 8 minutes above, one gets a lesson in how domestic violence against women works in India. It's not just a man Vs woman fight. Sadly, women also encourage violence against other women. In the clip, the aunt in law instigates her nephew to beat his wife, convincing him that it is okay because she got beaten up by her husband too. And when he hesitates, he is considered "weak". 

The movie tells a story of Nira, a young orphaned woman who is married off by her relatives to an old man. She rebels against it in ways which would be considered too radical even today. But it is a fight on principle. She wants people to be terrified of marrying old men to young girls lest they all turn out to be like her. 

The song following the scene is one of my all time favourite songs. So glad it has subtitles. 

First of all, women have to stop playing a part in holding other women back. I think when older women try to push men to control their wives, it stems out of envy. Sometimes it hides under the mask of religion or traditions. At others, it is just a psychological power struggle. 

Last week, one of our neighbours in the adjacent complex heard a woman wailing out of pain. It sounded like someone was hitting her with sticks. My mother was called immediately as she is the secretary of the complex. The person who called her left when the wife beater opened the door, leaving my mother alone. Inside, she found a man and his mother, next to a crib with a two month old baby. When she asked what was going on, they said nothing. She asked them to call the mother of the baby into the living room. When she came out, she was shaking. She looked like she had been crying all day. When asked why she was crying, the husband replied that they had got into a fight because her parents did not pay for the delivery of the baby. When asked if she had been beaten, she started sobbing helplessly. Then the husband took her inside and when she returned she said, sobbing all along, that she was very happy being a part of the family and she had no complaints whatsoever. My mother left them with a warning that next time they hear a similar noise, the society would call the cops. 

The bride's parents are supposed to cover all the costs of all the ceremonies from the wedding leading up to the birth of the first child. If they fail (or refuse) to follow any of the expected duties, they are met with an unexplained grumpiness (at best) to serious domestic violence (at worst). Even if the bride isn't financially dependent on the groom's family, her family is supposed to follow the "traditions" designed in an era where women did not have a separate existence from their husbands. 

The circle of suppression continues almost as a revenge. The mother in law relives the position of power that her mother in law enjoyed when she was a young bride. When a daughter in law quits her job after the birth of her child, it is also partly due to psychological pressure to follow in the footsteps of her mother in law, who never ventured out of the house. 

Why can't the revenge happen at the right time with the right people? Why should you seek it against the same gender in the next generation? Why can't to stand up for yourself like Nira? If you do that, you would never let that happen to your daughter in law. And this is exactly why victims should try to get out of their victimhood. 

And the first step to not being a victim of domestic violence or marital disrespect is to be financially self sufficient. You don't have to earn a fat pay cheque every month. But women who step out of the house to earn a livelihood are not just doing that -- they are also earning respect. And it is much better to rebel against idiots when you have your own money in the bank account. 

Another reason why women put up with this is the fear of being a divorced woman in a society full of big noses. But like our neighbor who left as soon as the wife beater opened the door, the society seldom does anything to stop your suffering. And when you start looking after yourself, you just need a few trusted friends to start over again.