Oh, I know that one cannot always take up everyone on their misogynist remarks; if one did, one would be battling all the time, and with one's nearest and dearest. But wasn't there someone who said: "In feminism, the personal is the political?" Oh look hoo haa, she actually quoted a Western feminist. We got the green light to dismiss her as a toady of Western feminism. What a relief!
But you know what? As this sister from Lebanon points out, it's not Arab equality or Indian equality or Chinese equality or Australian equality. The struggle for the equality of women is an inalienable part of the struggle for universal human rights. It is universal equality. And the fight for it is universal, too.
Even if we cannot take up every challenge to our selfhood that is thrown at us each day, sometimes multiple times a day, surely there are times when we can? Surely it can't be that we have to put up with that misogynist boyfriend because wail, wail, we must not remain spinsters? Surely it's not necessary to rush quite so precipitately to laugh at Father's jokes about women drivers? Surely even our silence can qualitatively change, so as not to imply consent? As rational beings, can we not dispute these casual insults to our dignity calmly and reasonably, when time, strength and courage permit? If our minds change, so will our responses.
Of course, we will get blowback for our pains. "Disobedient," "Rebellious," Unco-operative," "Stiff-necked," will be just some of the gentler ones we might expect. Suddenly relatives who had come to count on our smiling acquiescence will find themselves met with resistance instead. We might even, horror of horrors, no longer be the most popular chicks around.
Are we willing to purchase popularity at the price of integrity? Are we willing to be Daddy's little girl - doll, I had better have said - while Daddy treats us as less than fully human? Are we OK with the false peace that comes from an absence of real self-expression, and the false relationships that take the place of real ones, where one is not afraid to stand for the simplest of values - the right to be treated as an equal human being? What do we have to lose? The appearance of harmony? For make no mistake, that's all we have. If more and more of us speak out, if we talk to friends, band together, make a plan of not shutting up and nodding yes the next time we are treated as lesser, guess what? It will become more and more socially acceptable to speak up. Ten may take courage from the action of one. If we cannot speak up alone, let us enlist the help of a like-minded friend, an ally in this battle for equality and let's have each other's backs.
There will be hell to pay at first. And some of us will lose a good deal that we had. That we thought we had, that we bamboozled ourselves into believing we had - popularity, the reputation of being a team player, hassle-free relationships, even safety and security. But the truth is, as women in India, we usually have none of these. None. We only have their false appearance, their simulacrum. It is the other price we pay for pretending we have rights and dignity when in fact, we have sold both to "fit in."
Are we prepared to pay that price? If so, let us please not go through any further charade of mourning for the dead woman. She and Soni Sori and the teenager allegedly raped and set on fire by her attackers in West Bengal and the ten year old raped and left to die in a garbage dump and the woman dumped in South Delhi and tens of thousands of their sisters mean nothing to us. Let us show how little we really care - a yawn, a snap of the fingers, an obligatory giggle at a misogynist joke, a chilled Coffee Mocha at one of the American-style cafes we adore so much. Let's stop showing off already, the grave faces, the solemnly shaken heads. It's tiresome. Let's forget her.
If we want to remember her, we can start very simply. There's our home; there are our family and friends; there's the mirror.
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