For the past few days, the media has been abuzz with protests from various different groups about the increasing violence against women. While the vote is split between those who want capital punishment and those who don’t; while people argue about whether or not death meant the end of woes for the brave girl; while the guy-bashing is at its prime; a thought still hounds me…
What are we, as women, doing to fight against this violence and this terror? Is it enough to light candles? Is it enough to discuss furiously among ourselves? Is it enough to teach our male relatives to behave themselves? No, it isn’t, (although the last one is very, very important)! Is it also not our own responsibility to work towards preventing such things? And NO, by this I don’t mean that we should urge women to quit stepping out in the night or wearing what they like. That is not even the last thing I would ever dream of telling women to do. I am talking about how we need to change our mind-set. Because the fact of the matter is, we may scream our lungs out about how men should change their mentality, or how they should be punished if they don’t; but nothing is going to change until we change ourselves! Just like charity begins at home, women empowerment MUST begin with women. Here are a few pointers that I think will help us to begin with:
1. Treat other women with respect
Unless and until we start respecting our own clan, nobody else is going to respect us. There goes a saying in Hindi “ek aurat hi doosri aurat ki sabse badi dushman hoti hai:” (A woman herself is another woman’s biggest enemy), and I think it is very true. How many cases have we heard wherein a woman tortures her daughter-in-law, or vice versa? How many times does a woman favour her sons over her daughters? Are there girls who think they can disobey their mothers all they like, but not their fathers? Oh plenty! We need to stop taking our own clan for granted.
Stop being jealous of women, just because they are women! We are all human beings; we all can co-exist peacefully and happily. We don’t fret as much if a male co-worker out-performs us, but let a female co-worker do so, and we immediately start pointing fingers, if you know what I mean. Why?
Some people, women included, believe that there are only 2 kinds of women – the good ones or the seedhi saadhi bharatiya naaris and the bad ones or the westernized sluts. And I want to tell all such people that they are disillusioned. We are on our way to becoming one global village, and whether eastern or western, whether seedhi-saadhi or tedhi-medhi, all women deserve to be respected. For that matter, even if the woman is a prostitute or a porn actress or whoever else, she does not deserve to be raped. No one does!
2. Stop joking about crimes against women
I have actually fought with several of my friends about this: I strongly object to rape jokes in movies or in print. According to me, such jokes are not only not-funny, but are also extremely insulting to all women. One cannot make fun of another woman’s agony, and certainly not if it is as damaging as a rape. In fact, any joke that disrespects a woman only plants a seed of overall disrespect towards women. Some of my friends argue that such jokes are only meant for innocent laughs. But I’m sorry, I think there is neither anything innocent about them, nor can their negative impact be ignored!
3. Learn a self-defence technique or two
We HAVE to learn to defend ourselves when there is any sort of a physical attack.
Apart from several self-defense moves, there is Karate, kickboxing, and several other fun-to-learn sports that can help you defend yourselves. If physical resistance isn’t your thing, try keeping a pepper spray handy. And in case you don’t have any of these things, try verbal self-defense. Be ready to firmly tell the man to stop or to alert the people around you. Be prepared to do anything to not resign to what you are being subjected to.
One of the biggest excuses I have heard women give for tolerating crimes against them is “How much can we resist? Men are by nature physically stronger than us.” Although I know that is technically true, and I don’t advocate violence; this doesn’t mean that we should not put up a fight. I believe that if an attacker has the slightest doubt that the victim will resist, a large part of his resolve will evaporate. In fact even if you are never subjected to any attack (and I sincerely hope you never are), knowing that you will be able to defend yourself in case you are, will give you a lot of self-confidence.
4. Do not depend on men for day-to-day things
My best friend Maya and I, even when we were young teenagers, always wondered why we make a taboo of certain areas that are “dangerous for women”, and don’t go there alone, for example on the streets of Gurgaon or Noida, after dark. We always take a male “protector” with us.
Now, it is not that I have never asked my male friends or colleagues to drop me home or elsewhere at night. I have done it several times, and I admit my weakness. But just think about this: if I knew there would be 20 other girls travelling alone at that time on that route, I wouldn’t have been scared to go alone; in fact, I wouldn’t have been alone at all!
Similarly, if 100s of girls can travel on Gurgaon streets with their respective male companions, they can travel there without them too… because face the facts – there are 10 perverts out there, and 100s of us! If we are all united and stand up for each other, there isn’t much we need to be afraid of.
Learn to drive. Carry only as much baggage as you can lift yourselves. Stop unnecessarily boosting male egos – it is one thing to do it because a person cares for you and another thing because that person is a ‘man’!
5. Do not blame yourself for any crime against you, blame yourself for tolerating such crimes
Always remember that no matter what, a man has no right to touch you without your permission. So do not ever feel that this happened to you because “I used to smile at my company cab driver” or “I went alone to a discotheque” or “I wore shorts in a lonely neighborhood or “I fought with an auto-rickshaw driver for change” or anything else.
Rape is not the only crime against women; there are several others of lesser heinousness… crimes that I’m sure all of us have faced, and most of us have tolerated without a word. Eve teasing, pinching and groping at public places, vulgar actions and display of obscenities, name-calling, dowry-torture, etc. etc. Remember, no one has any right to even verbally abuse you, or pass lewd comments on you or harass you any other way. We are not to be blamed for these misdeeds.
If we have anything to be blamed for, it is for taking these crimes in our stride. It is for our overall lack of empathy towards other women who face such crimes. It is for hiding the crimes of male relatives or friends. So please, fight against these crimes without fear.
6. STOP giving excuses such as practicality or tradition for your support to male chauvinism
Many men, some of them my own friends, justify dowries by saying things like “It’s our tradition”, “ it is a return of investment – of dowries we paid in our sisters’ weddings”, and even audacious things like “ghar aayi laxmi ko kabhi na nahin bolte “(an old Indian saying – never refuse the wealth that approaches you – it’s bad luck). The worst part is many of my female friends think it is fine to give a dowry as long as your family can afford it. I feel nothing but pity towards these friends.
Even today, when I hear a woman saying she is “extra-happy” because she gave birth to a boy, I am scandalized. If I ask her whether she would have had an abortion in case of a girl, she furiously denies; says it’s only because her family will be happy that she wished for a boy. She insists that she or her family are not killers. What she does not realize is that there is hardly any difference. As it is said, it all starts with a thought. If she is willing to wish for a baby boy due to a little societal pressure, goodness knows what she will do if she is subjected to too much of it.
Stop belittling yourself, whether you earn money, or not. When you are in a family, it is your emotional support that counts. And if you still don’t believe me, ask women who earn much more than their husbands about whether they face domination.
Stand up for yourself! You are yourself before being someone’s daughter, wife, or mother. Fulfill your responsibility towards yourself first. Say no to anything that is insulting to you as a woman – gender bias at home, eve teasing, rape, sexual harassment, kanyadaan (yes, it is high time we recognize that we are not anybody’s property to be given away, not even our fathers’!), dowry, female foeticide, overall male domination, and so on… the list is really very long!
7. Help and empathize with those who face sexual crime
If a woman is raped, it is not her fault. Welcome her back into her own world, respect her and her experiences, and ease her back into her normal life. Yes, the trial for justice will take some time, but don’t do injustice to her by secluding her or even pitying her. She is still as much a woman as you are. Always remember that!
There is a lot more that I could write on this topic; the above list is not at all comprehensive; but that would make this post too long for its own good. Hence, let me stop here, for now. I am sure that if we start with these little things; we can do our part in changing this world.
I know many people, both men and women alike, are not going to like this post. Nevertheless, I believe that if we want to see change, we are going to have to be bold and change ourselves.
Before ending my post, I would like to remind all women, that men are not our enemies. I am sure there are as many great men out there as there are bad or weak ones. So while being a feminist, do not be a chauvinist. The idea is to fight oppression, not to oppress in return.
Please do let me know what you think about this post – and let me know any other ideas that you have.
We are NOT a weak or an inferior sex!
We are not ‘property’!
We never ‘ask for it’!
We cannot wait for others to fight our battle!
We must treat every woman’s battle as our own – because it could happen to us someday!