3/2/09

We are all bad girls.

An ex once said to me that he would only marry a girl of such extreme immaculate wholesomeness that even her father would not have dared lay a hand on her, lest her superawesomely ethereal purity be tarnished.

Leaving aside the brain aneurysm inducing ludicrousness of the above statement (one amongst infinite reasons as to why the said psychopath is firmly an ex), and the understandable vomit inducing imagery it conjures up in our collective subconscious, his appalling statement essentially got me thinking, seven years or so after it was actually made.

What is this concept of ‘purity’ that people like to wax eloquent about?

Is it an issue with sex? Premarital sex? Sexual behavior? So girls who have sex before marriage with their significant others are morally bankrupt. Or girls who have sex irrespective of marriage period, are all whores*. Sex or otherwise, girls and women who kiss, hold hands, blow, give hand jobs are also harlots.

Is it an issue with what girls and women wear? Tank tops and short shorts are trampy. Skirts? Skirts practically screech come hither, unless they are at a length where they perform double duty as a means for community service by sweeping the streets as they swish by. How about figure hugging clothes? Fitted jeans, slim tees, sleeveless clothing, oh what the heck, lets throw in well fitting salwar/ churidhar kameezes into the fray as well. And corsets, halters, backless/plunging neckline tops and everything else that fits the trollop category.

Is in an issue with behavior? Women-and girls who sit around, legs wide apart, arms lax, without a care in the world. Women who talk too much. Women who don’t talk enough. Women who laugh loudly. Women who talk to the male of the species. Women who deign to go where they want, when they want. Women who just go out. Women who smoke. Women who drink. Women who do both and maybe much more. Women who do neither. Women who, who…

Who what, exactly? This boundless cyclic madness, this beast, when does it stop? When does it go away?

It never does, does it?

It starts when we are wee little girls, the censures, the disapproving looks, the first seeds of culpability.

It takes shape when we are teens, when we feel the first tendrils of desire snake its way up our spines, when it’s sheer forcefulness astounds us, because we are inundated with the dictum that these kinds of feelings are utterly inappropriate, while simultaneously ingesting the truism that the same kinds of desire experienced by boys and men are wholly acceptable and natural.

From this point on, it becomes an inexhaustible battle, a battle to rewrite and erase women’s sexual experience, a never-ending campaign to asexualize us all, because ultimately in a patriarchal culture, there is room for only one set of humans to possess desire, to flaunt it, to do with it what you want, because you are the only ones allowed to have it. And lest we scratch our heads as to what desire has to do with seemingly obligatory human choices like clothing or drinking or just plain hanging out (or what the fig ever), we must keep in mind that for one set of people, these are things which cannot be taken for granted. I cannot waltz into my closet and throw on whatever I spy from the corner of my eye and call it a day. I cannot tap dance my way to the nearest bar and unflappably order a drink. I cannot walk to the nearest liquor store and unperturbedly buy what I want to buy. I have to think these ostensibly mundane things through, I have to dynamically subject myself to a self policing, I have to go through a convoluted yes and no game and brace myself for who knows what if I do end up deciding to wear or do something deemed ‘unsafe’.

Maybe I want to wear something sexy. Maybe I want to go to a bar and buy a drink and pick up someone to fool around with because I am horny. Maybe I want to lounge about at street corners and scream catcalls at a person who is easy on my eyes. These wants, these laughably unfussy desires of mine are anathema to the Sri Ram Sene thugs, and I daresay, to a fairly large section of our illustrious population.

And all the little snippy comments at our clothing, at our actions, at our choices period, stem from exactly that: a fear of our desire and what we choose to do with our bodies.

So it comes as no surprise really, when the Sri Ram Sene barefacedly assault a couple of hapless women (while portentously gloating over their thundering accomplishment on upholding ‘Indian Culture’ in the process, because nothing gives you that shiny moralistic afterglow than brutalizing a couple of women, you see), who hath committed the heinous misdeed of choosing what they wanted to do with their time in a country that supposedly extended the same set of rights to all its people. Riiight.

It’s been wholly amusing to see the righteous ire pouring in from all corners, and make no mistake; I unquestionably think that it’s a good thing, but duplicity much?

I mean, the Sri Ram Sene’s actions were utterly deplorable and appalling, but what really gave them the impetus to do what they did? It’s not like we can pooh pooh them away as some fringe element, a crazed group of disgruntled boogeymen who assail people for no discernible reason- unpalatable as this may be, they are affiliated to a prominent political party. It’s not like we can disappear into the mundane rigors of our own lives by convincing ourselves that this odious incident was an uncharacteristic anomaly, we know all too well that it isn’t. So, what gives? What enables a group affiliated to a prominent political party to bandy about in broad daylight and descend upon a couple of girls like an apocalyptic scourge whose only ‘crime’ was to go to a pub and hang out with a few guys?

Us. All of us.

Not just the aunty who sneers reproachfully at our slinky clothes. Not just the uncle who rages on about vekkam-maanam illatha (badtameezi) women. Not them, not just them.

We are all enablers.

We uphold and enable a culture which makes it possible for glorified thugs with penis issues such as the Sri Ram Sene to be affiliated with a prominent political party in the first place.

Every time a parent ostensibly cheers the unreservedly fucked up decision of a college to impose draconian dress codes on its students, based off the even more outrageously fucked up premise that girls are all vile temptresses and boys are no better than raging brutes suspended in a state of perpetual horniness shock! gasp!, we enable this madness.

Every time we blame girls and women as if on autopilot for street sexual harassment, and harangue them for their clothing choices, instead of, I don’t know, blaming the guy inflicting the harassment, we enable this goddamned lunacy.

Every time we slut-shame a girl or a woman and gleefully hold her feet to the fire for her actions or her non actions- because lets face it, you don’t have to do much to earn the tag, in fact the slut label can attach itself to you with the unparalleled tenaciousness of type II Herpes for splendiferous reasons such as, wait for it: she looks vaguely different/ she does not wear a dupatta/ she smiles a lot/ she sits around with her legs wide apart (oh woe!)/ insert asinine non reason here. This is not to say that calling someone a slut for their sexual proclivities is warranted. It is never warranted, it is not necessary, it is petty and mean and vicious and it works to keep women and girls choking in a miasma of everlasting ignominy. And yes, every time we shame women into constructing smaller and smaller and even more appallingly smaller cages to curl up and putrefy in, we.enable.this.derangement.

So it should come as no surprise really, that this was bound to happen, sooner or later.

We perpetuate this crap after all, by creating and maintaining a cultural environment which does nothing short of perform the rumba, line up a string quartet and roll out the red carpet for ‘political outfits’ like the Sri Ram Sene. And twits like Sagarika Ghose and her hackneyed ‘editorial’ on the Pink Chaddi Campaign which reads like the hand wringers gospel to fruitfully creating an air of bogus umbrage, does nothing to alleviate the terror these girls have been put through. Her column is so appallingly banal that I cannot even bring myself to pick it apart and laugh at her preposterousness.

But I will say this- please cut the crap Ms. Ghose. Seriously, cut the crap.

Just because you bog your readers down in needless verbiage and manage to magnificently contradict yourself every four syllables or so (of which I am assuming that it was deliberate, nobody can be that incongruously paradoxical and be blissfully unaware of what they manage to spew out on paper at the same time), that doesn’t mean that we cannot see through your bile. Through the quagmire of your moronic Nehru and ‘Sex and The City’ references (lol wut?), do you actually think that we are dim-witted enough to fall for your “I’m noble enough to see the point of view of the hooligans who beat the shit out of you, but I’m still one of you ladies, yea! Girl powerrr!” bull-feces?

So stop, just stop. Your phony umbrage and your feeble solidarity charade ain’t fooling anyone. If you are so intolerably dense so as to not be able to comprehend the utter subversive brilliance of the Pink Chaddi Campaign, then the least you could have done was to not write a column which basically sided with the execrable Sri Ram Sene’s horrendous actions, even if you didn’t intend for it to be that way.

-----x-----

I just. I don’t know. I wanted to write about this as soon as I had heard what had happened. But I couldn’t, I just couldn’t. Every time I sat in front of my computer, the blood would rush to my head and my fingers would go pallid and lifeless and I would just sit there, my butt fused to the chair and my eyes glazing over, the words tumbling over themselves in my brain. But the dread, the sheer dread and the denial and the horror, stifled them. They wouldn’t parse themselves into neat little sentences on paper. They just wouldn’t.

Lest you think I am overreacting (because loony harridans always overreact, get with the program people),

the.

attacks.

have.

not.

stopped.

First Mangalore, now its Bangalore. I keep asking myself, when does this madness stop? When will it become apparent that all this moralistic pearl clutching about 'women’s purity' and 'the vile influence of Westernization, hurrr' and the like, are nothing short of glorified shams?

Will it?

* I've always wondered as to why or how the word 'whore' or 'prostitute' actually functions as an insult (or not). But this deserves a whole separate post in itself.

63 comments:

Sriram said...

My bad. I shall ask my army to behave. Didn't even know I had one! :P

Silvara said...

Totally agree! It's what a lot of women incensed with the attacks are saying (eg. http://lifeofanindianhomemaker.blogspot.com/)

Where does it stop? Why did it begin?? And what can we do...?

It shits me something chronic....truly.

the wannabe indian punkster said...

@ Sriram: Dei! *fetches pinja slipper* 8D

Silvara: I don't know. Every time I ask myself that question, I come up with one answer, I don't know. Which intrinsically is a little blind, I think that there isn't one particular reason to pin this beast on, rather a convergence of different things, all acting together in horrific harmony. When will this stop? Will it get worse? I cant even begin to fathom the answers to those questions.

Pallavi said...

What can I say..just well done!! I have in the past & will continue to fight..but get jaded once in a while telling crass class that women are not objects, pliss don't treat them like one!

anonymouse said...

It will stop when these people die. Cultural change does take the death of people. The road to civilisation is not yellow, but red.

Note that this is not an incitation to murder them. That just makes them martyrs. The "right" response is to punish them by legal means. Sometimes that just implies a bunch of heads on spikes.

Though as this message indicates, there is some class politics involved as well.

Silvara, the only significant thing you can do is refuse to bow down. Refuse to change due to fear. Live as if nothing has changed. It is the only response to terrorism which works. If a bunch of goons wants to spread terror, then we win by not being terrified.

We may be hurt, but we will not bend and compromise on our moral principles (and yes, this is a moral war).

Roy said...

I've read people scream bloody murder, but none so eloquent or angry.

Drunken Master said...

Unfortunately, as the country moves to a more open society, such events are likely to happen, more so in a fiercely patriarchial society such as ours.

I like to simplify the matter to one of control. For centuries most of the men have been able to tell "their" women what to do, and now that they can't, resort only to the one mean they have to try to ensure women do.

It's that absolute power that is slipping which is making some delusional folk act shamelessly. Until they stop justifying it, we'll always know what their mindset is. As long as they're in the majority, things will be difficult.

La vida Loca said...

Problem is people tend to think that all Indian= good and all western= bad. And that it has to be one or the other. It can be both.

I don't understand how celebrating V Day and having a drink suddenly became SATC, new face of India?

Unmana said...

Yay! You're back!

Great post. Thank you for saying it for all of us.

the wannabe indian punkster said...

@ Pallavi: I know. Its easy to get jaded, hell I have and I even gave up for a little bit. But you know what, that doesn't really do anything, in fact it stands to achieve the opposite. So every time you feel a bit jaded or you feel like you want to give up- don't. Don't give up. It may seem endless, but the consequences of giving up are far worse.

@ A mouse: Yeah, when the attacks first happened in Mangalore, I figured that there was some measure of classism underlying the whole thing. Now its more evident than ever that there is a good measure of class politics involved in this. But isn't that the case with the decrying of 'westernization' (with the intersection of gender and class issues) to begin with?

@ Roy: Thank you.

@ Drunken Master: Even if they are in the majority, 'we' as the collective minority complied with their feces simply by staying silent and not acting. Which in turn gives them more impetus to spread their filth. Thats why campaigns like the Pinking of the Chaddi are so painfully important.

@ La vida Loca: You may be on to something here. People seem to reduce things to the lowest common denominator (Western = bad, Indian =good), but the horrifically ironic thing about all of this is the fact that the 'Indian Culture' which these thugs so gleefully want to uphold is a rehashed version of anal retentive Victorian prudery. Sigh.

Unmana: *hugs* I am back! And thank you! <3

D said...

Hey punkster, welcome back! :)

You know, mention of class politics somehow reminds me of a lot of tamil/kannada movies: a common plotline is the "son-of-the-soil" hero teaching the upper class snobbity woman what's what.

Why is it that these men are so accepting of upper class men wielding power over them and not women?

RT said...

looks like a lot of us are coming back from the respective hiatuses! Yay!
welcome back!

cluelessness said...

You hit the nail on the head when you said that we are responsible for such behavior from outfits like SriRamSene.

No matter how "forward" a family is, the female will always be treated different and held to different standards. Take my FIL for example. He is one of the most easy going people I have met who thinks it is perfectly normal for his DIL to debate with him on religion. But she cannot drink. Or rather, he does not know I do. Somehow it is OK for other men to do so, but not women.

I have now decided that i am on the other side of 25 now and the least I can do for myself is to live my life unapologetically.

sindhu sundar said...

You're back! Muah, I've missed you.

Now down to business. At the risk of sounding all pacifist hippy-like, any kind of violence is bad - but the kind that the Ram Sena have been involved in is in such a different league of bad, I don't even know what to say. I'm speechless and horrified every time they pull something like this, even though it should be unsurprising by now, given that this is all characteristic of them.

And sadly, as you've pointed out, their ideas are shared by so many, supposedly even-tempered, rational people. There's a lot of that over simplification and separation of women into discrete categories based on the most superficial things, like attire.

Even some of the people around me that I love and respect for several other reasons, subscribe to some of these ridiculous views (though to a smaller degree), because they've been raised to think that way. It's what they've been told all their lives and programmed not to question.

So the only solution I can think of to really root out such backward thinking, is to spare our children of this rubbish, and help them learn to judge people based on intelligence, substance and strength of character, above all else.

Even that may take a while, because I still see acquaintances with children whine about how much harder it is to raise daughters because of all the additional restrictions they need to place on them. Sad.

ra said...

Parts of Sagarika Ghose's article article sound like she's Kanchan Gupta, who wrote an equally ridiculous analysis. I think she's confused. There is a debate to be had on class and agency with regard to the PC campaign, but others have done it much better than her.

death said...

you talk a lot

ki said...

You make sense. Women need to stop judging other women.

venkee said...

the way u started it was awesome.....u r so good......will u marry me?did u find the ring after u finished up ur champaign...... *wink*wink*
keep writing honey.....dont stop.....love u....

Anonymous said...

I have been reading your for past couple of days now... Love the way you express your thoughts on each and every ( delicate or controversial )issue surrounding women.
I would love to hear your thoughts on "going topless/nude (by women) in public for a cause". I can't bear to even think that it would get everyone's attention. Are women degrading themselves doing this?
-PL

Yogi said...

Finkku satti, Finkku satti :) man the last three comments about you warrant them for sure i think!

nihilistwaffles said...

Have you seen this

Strange irony that none of purveyors of regressive morality have stepped forth in order to repair this bit of our broken "culture". As though this is not crime enough. Sure enough a few political cretins did beat some random people once this story came to light but no official political statements or no offering of support. Obviously this doesn't merit their bravado and "saving our daughters" routine. Maybe if these girls frequented a pub and did some vodka shots, perhaps then the Right Might may have come forth to "rescue" them.
This sickens and saddnes me. The worst part is that in a day and age when we constantly talk about women's lib, it's the girls in the next apartment (in a metropolitan Mumbai) who are being abused and exploited by their own folks.
:(

K said...

Your rant is as Victorian as the views of the gentleman (?) who you variously describe as ludicrous, aneurysm-inducing, psychopathic and appalling.

sreekrishnanv said...

GRE essay padicha effect ! Whatever, i think you were bang on Sagarika. Avalauvum ava moonjiyum !

now to your post: people need to grow up - both Rama Sene and the "club going girls". Enge enna panarthunu vevasthay illa?

Anonymous said...

An aside: While I found the pink chaddi campaign totally hilarious, I couldn't help but be disappointed with their use of the word 'Loose women' in their slogan on FB. It just meant that they bowed down to other side's perception that women who drink are immoral. Pathetic!

Anonymous said...

Who is ur current ex and what will be ur recent post?

nevermind said...

It will, eventually, if we hold on to the fundamentals of our constitution in some form or the other. Democracy, globalization (it won't go away), the internet, an open market (that'll be back in a sensibly regulated, fairer avtaar once the current system has collpased altogether and rendered sizeable chunks of rich societies poor) and education (crucially, education of women; the most egalitarian societies are the ones in which women are highly educated, despite everything) will eventually build up an unstoppable momentum. The history of democracies testify to this. Let's not forget the suffragettes, the African Americans and our own Hindu Code Bills of 1952-56.

That is, if we don't allow the RSS and its agents of intolerance to destroy the very fabric of our secular democracy, which they hope to, since this is their avowed aim. They may come close (with help from our eager Islamic neighbour), but I doubt they will be able to. I think Nehru was way smarter than we think and has laid down fundamentals that are too strong.

So get out and vote.

the wannabe indian punkster said...

Sorry for the delay folks (this seems to be a common occurrence, sigh), I will answer your comments in due time, but I wanted to swing by and guffaw at the puerile attempt at an 'insult' by our very own alphabet warrior, K.

Welcome back O' alphabet warrior. I somehow assumed that my extended hiatus would have driven the likes of you away, but it seems that I was sorely mistaken. Tch.

Anonymous said...

U wrote

"Maybe I want to lounge about at street corners and scream catcalls at a person who is easy on my eyes. These wants, these laughably unfussy desires of mine are anathema to the Sri Ram Sene thugs, and I daresay, to a fairly large section of our illustrious population."

Ironic... as I came to this blog via ur 2006 post on eve teasing...

and u want freedom to "scream catcalls" at "meatheads who are easy on ur eyes"...

there are lots of good points in ur blog but it would be good if you could explore ur own motivations...

Renovatio said...

Hey you, where're you hiding?

Sue said...

Come to India. We'll go colour our hair bright green. That should detract the attention from the rest of our doings. :)

Anonymous said...

K,

Well well. Looks like the likes have you havent sobered down ? I still dont understand what was so appalingly wrong that happened. This is a simple law and order issue where underage people were caught drinking in a place which had no license to serve.

What the police dont want to do, a few honest citizens did. Driving the bloddy fear of law into the crack heads.

Damm good for them. BTW not even one of them has complained.

P.S.: Go easy on the adjectives, I think you are overdoing it. Keep it simple and stupid.

girlonthebridge said...

Thank God that you are back. Thank God. please write. again. soon.

J. Alfred Prufrock said...

Sigh. So much thought, so much effort, and you don't get the basic problem.

The world is full of morons.
Live with it.

J.A.P.

the wannabe indian punkster said...

@ J. A. P: I know, sigh. Silly as this may sound, writing a wall of text on this blog is the only way I can cope.

Surya Kannan said...

The true indian culture was the vedic civilization where everyone had the freedom to do, what they wanted to.

Great works of art and literature emerged from both men and women. Shaktism was most prevalent as it is apparent in Goddess Kaali wearing skulls and dancing over the corpse of Shiva.

Have the Shiv Sena Thugs, ever questioned the dress code of Kaali they worship everyday. Shows the extent, to which our kali age has come.

eternalmonotony said...

Just dropped in and read carefully for the first time.

Nothing left to be said about the topic, except that to the core, the content and the emotion sounds scarily similar to views expressed by many other women.

Glad to see a long archive waiting.

La Vida Loca said...

One post a quarter is the norm ha?
Hope you are ok and that school hasn't swallowed you completely?

tOm said...

Lovd the post!! Muaah!!
The day we introduce public flogging and 'Shoot at sight' for such imbeciles, I guess it will stop!!!

Anonymous said...

Here is a hint, if everyone around you thinks you are a slut, then may be you are one.

anonymouse said...

For that last anonymous: A billion flies can't be wrong.

Anonymous said...

Wow i stopped reading after the first paragraph. She's one of those shit-faced women who side with men and think "if you dress decently, nobody will harass you"

-jups

girlonthebridge said...

you have been awharded. maybe now you will write?

Anonymous said...

FYI, I'm your 15,000th visitor.

I don't think it's a coincidence.

Where are you anyway? Why are you writing? People get worried, you know. This is not right, it's your responsibility to maintain a presence here now. You started blogging and got a following so now you're stuck with us, and we need you in our lives. I don't consider this pathetic, it's human. Personally, I'm really attached to you, for life maybe.

Come back soon,

AT

suhas said...

"Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;courage to change the things I can;and wisdom to know the difference

suhas said...

Of course now i run the risk of getting labelled as "hypocrtical dipshit" but as i was reading ur blog i came accross this quote ,somehow felt that wud be an appropriate thing to say to you! :)

nevermind said...

Hidey hole, she said. Indeed.

Anonymous said...

Welcome back punkster!:):)Please dont disappear again,Keep posting.

venkee said...

u didnt tell me if u will marry me :-(

ok am tired of checking ur blog for updates...u r alive? lol

Anonymous said...

I feel the same everyday in my life, after marriage... since the day my in law asked me to stop wearing jeans or T shirts... since the day i see myself in the fully covered_body_hugging_over_dressing salwars or sarees that make me feel like a patient full of bandaids lyind in ICU. I do not see a reason why males in india do not wear dhotis and khadi kurtas daily... why all peter england, pepe and levis etc to men alone? drag them also to public, pull down their pants too and make them wear traditional dhotis...
~victim of domestic police

db said...

punkster,

where are you? do respect your decision not to blog anymore (if that's what it is) but please please do post a line to let us know you are ok.

your lurkers worry about you :)

Saltwater Blues said...

How are you Megha? Long time.

pigeonpeanuts said...

great points. this world is so contradictory and hypocritical, too. they use the image of the woman's body to sell things, then uphold women to unrealistic expectations, while it is never as much an issue for men. one line you said, "we are inundated with the dictum that these kinds of feelings are utterly inappropriate" and this made me think of a friend's blog post i recently read about women's bodies: http://relationshiprealities.wordpress.com/2010/01/10/womens-bodies/

P.s. i am also adding your blog to my blogroll at http://sadkins.wordpress.com

sarah

Anonymous said...

Do we have to pay you to write? Like set-up a annual subscription to your website -- I'll get one...

AT

sandman said...

Even with the sexual proclivities, why call her a slut?

And they blackened his face.

Beat99 said...

update!!

Anonymous said...

long time no post from u... plz come back!!! i am waiting madly...
~L

Inaie said...

I love your blog. It opens my eyes to problems and situations that are very far from my reality. It helps me understand the differences, helps me in my attempt to build bridges, to understand, to respect others!

Thank you


www.inaier.blogspot.com

Kaalicharan said...

brilliant post...attacks the root of sentiment that it entails to address.

I hope sanity prevails!

http://calvy.wordpress.com

Tanushree said...

You are awesome! I loved loved loved loved to the power 100 loved your article!

gk said...

Long time, no see. Lady is not updating much.

Looks like young has lost her youthfulness. I was waiting to troll. Although I'm almost opposite for much of you speak, still under principles of natural justice, I think you are long gone.

Need some motivators...??? Brenda Ueland should help you.... Yes she is lady and beautiful one...

gk

in search of IQ said...

Truly fabulous writing.I found myself nodding furiously through your post.

Ankit Agarwal said...

A great article mam...

Although i am trying to be the Devil's advocate over here... But i guess it's not about just women(at least the sexual promiscuity)... A guy and a gal are seen in the same light...

Another issue is the phenomenon of "respecting women"... There is a lot of talk abt it which i feel is stupid... There is nothing such as "respecting men".. A guy is called a bastard/motherfucker for passing on a smile to a gal... for asking her out for a date...

I feel it's not gender biased... It's about letting ppl live them their own lives... not judging them... Or keeping the judgement to oneself...

Avina said...

WOW!! wow for the writing. I think these are the exact feelings which dwell in the heart of every Indian girl.