Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Speak up and we will label you a slut

I have an aunt in Kerala. She fights for women's rights, encourages women who keep quiet against abusive men whether verbal or physical to get legal help and helps them stand up for their right to a dignified life. She is a much hated woman who is accused of breaking up families ( made a lady who was beaten to pulp and eyeball pushed out, several compound fractures, to divorce her husband and more such cases), influencing women to fight with husbands (helped several ladies take a firm stand on their salary packets that husbands snatched and drank) and several other “unsocial behavior” that according to the some men were “socially disruptive” activities.

When all else failed to stop her, the most powerful weapon in the men's armory came out. And what is that you may wonder. And that is …calling her a “physically frustrated woman”. This is pretty common in Kerala. If a woman even raises her hand to stop a man from beating her or defends herself in anyway and a man cannot do anything about it, then the ultimate weapon i.e. sexual innuendos are used against her to control her and make her act in a manner that is acceptable to men.

My aunt has had more than her share. Her husband, a highly supportive man is called “henpecked” which is the weapon of choice against men who do not “control” their wives and treat their wives as equals. Control here means, a man who ensures the woman toes the line drawn by him even if it violates all her rights and civil liberties. Which is why you will rarely see a Malayalee woman stand up for herself. There will be no one to support you and people in turn will blame you for bringing trouble on yourself by raising your voice against your husband/father/any other male etc. And if a woman does fight for her right, the men and to an extent some women too will go after her like a pack of hounds, calling her sexually frustrated and if she is unmarried advice her parents to get her married, which is a snide remark rather than an advice.

When I started blogging, I was amused to see that the very guys who went ROFL when I wrote something funny about Kerala at Poomanam changed colors at this blog when I wrote about social issues in Kerala. Most of the things I wrote were first hand experiences of colleagues and relations. And since they were so close to the truth and the truth themselves, there were a number of comments telling me to delete the blog because “it is a lie”. When that failed “the ultimate weapon” came out and that was to call me physically (read “sexually) frustrated and other references that I cannot mention here due to their vulgarity. The reason was obvious. I didn’t shut up and pull down the post when I was told to. And you do not do that unless you want to hear some “nice” words as they term it. Interestingly some of these comments were from guys who had blogs where they wrote about women’s issues and stood up for their rights etc. And more interesting, some of these anon commenters signed in with their blogger ID and left an appreciative comments! Appearances have to be kept up and images secured too, after all :p

Now I notice the same in Twitter too. You will typically see one guy abusing a woman and gleeful and empathic replies of approval and virtual high fives being exchanged by a number of similar people. Some of the words used are disgusting, but the reasons are obvious. Some poor unfortunate girl somewhere stood up for herself and is now being given the “treatment” she deserves.

I tweeted my opinion about one such abusive tweet recently and suddenly my inbox was full of mails from friends in blogosphere and otherwise, pointing me to people calling me “physically frustrated” without using my name. Things haven't changed much I see. Whether it is a blog or Twitter or any other media people do not tolerate what they do not like and get agitated over their lack of control and get abusive to deal with their own impotency. And what is amusing is that these very same people will tweet every story on women or children being abused with sympathetic murmurs or women fighting for their rights with high fives to carefully craft an image and gain more followers. It is really scary when you think about it.

It is a cut and paste world today and creating an image is not very difficult. I know people who lift music links from my blog to appear knowledgeable plus discussions about that particular piece in comment boxes and pass them off as theirs in tweets. Oh yes, all this happens and more here. Sab dhandha hai bhai :))

If online writing has taught me one thing, it is that you cannot carry on a charade or a facade here for too long. And I am heartened to see so many pseudos being kicked out of the closet by the very word they punch on their keyboards.

20 comments:

Rex said...

Quite surprising. I thought Kerala was traditionally a matriarchal society and hence women would have a better deal than in other states. Sad to see that these things never change.

Dr.Antony said...

I liked this post.Be honest when you write.This is your blog and you can write any thing you want.

I had written some time back on Kerala ,as Devil's own country.. and also on "malayali morality".My friends didn't like it as well.Kerala is a land of sexually frustrated men.Half are perverts who gain pleasure when they see some poor prostitutes get arrested and paraded.They will wait for hours under scorching heat to catch a glimpse of the woman. And the media give these masala stories undeserving coverage.It is some thing akin to free pornography.No woman can travel in any public transport without getting pawed.And no girl can walk through the road without hearing vulgar comments. Still,they talk about morality.

There are important issues there,about which no one is bothered.No roads,the treasury is empty..no problem, but no one should have sex. Moralists of the world and guardians of purity..Crap!

Santhosh P said...

The best way to handle your "Physical frustration" is to go kick the butts of those who label u so, until the frustration goes off or our legs get broken or both of the above.

On a serious note.First-Great post, second(and I'm ashamed to say this), u r pointing to a very serious (psychic or social?) issue among v mallu(Especially Kerala-born) men. In fact many of our so called 'modernist' Malayalam writers also r of the same genus, u can see visible reflections of these desperado attitude in their books as well. As an 'insider' I will attribute it partially to the 'social outlook' with which v r brought up even today, one 'evolved' from the culture that came through Semitic religions and Brahmin superiority where they treated anything related to sex as cardinal sin and women as a secondary gender meant only for satisfying man's pleasures - his food, health, sex, reproductive needs to be specific.

And surprisingly, there is no cast,class difference here, even women who r supposed to be enjoying a lot of 'social powers' such as civil service officials, journalists will have stories of harassment to tell you. In short, If I can see one woman who lived in Kerala and had never been subject to some or other kind of harassment by us mallu men, there r only two possibilities 1)She's 200yrs old and cant see,hear or feel anything 2) She lived as a hippo in Trivandrum zoo- well protected by the muddy,smelly water and the high compound wall.

Having said all that, I shall now logout and post some hate-speech here anonymously or mail you so to satisfy the mallu-man in me. U see, most of us r split personalities. Idea!, y not somebody make a mallu movie on this? V have plenty of directors themselves who on screen tell suffering stories of our 'sisters' and in background try to pull down her skirt, who got plenty of talent to copy shamelessly and crib later about piracy as well (Clue:Psycho, Fight Club, Me Myself and Irene)

Karthik Sivaramakrishnan said...

Very good sentence: It is a cut and paste world today and creating an image is not very difficult

$$ said...

Harsh reality... like it or not - you have no choice but to accept it.
However I feel this phenomenon holds good not only in Kerala, but across the country! Last year I had been to the north on a holiday; God... seeing the men stare at women made me feel so insecure!

Partha Pratim said...

Human psychology is very complicated. Why otherwise we have many wife-beaters speaking like a true blue feminists?

And about the way online image is maintained by the pretentious lot - the only thing I can mention here is that I was left wondering when I met one of the regular columnists who turned out to be exactly opposite to what she writes about.

Once again, human psychology is just too difficult to understand.

RAJI MUTHUKRISHNAN said...

Saying it as it is. Strong post. I admire you.

Sangu said...

hi

i am a malayali born and brought up in chennai. i never knew anything about this. omg. very happy to know the real state of affairs. one always thinks of kerala to be a land of beauty, but it seems there is no inner beauty.

thk u and keep up the good work.

best wishes
sangeetha

Jeseem said...

couldn't agree more..
mallus are a male dominated myopic cultural group and getting worse

Anonymous said...

Nice post. I do not see any changes in the near future. Maybe after a few decades...male domination has deep roots...it has reached barbaric proportions.

PHOTOGENIC DEVIL said...

arent u talking bout the smae place with the highest female sex ratio ? with 100 % literacy ??? i am actually surprised - guess , we all want to believe in the greater goodness of everyone else without effecting change in our immediate society.

keep writing, i love ur blog !! and i used to comment very frequently here !! even tho i dont comment so much now , istill love reading ur blog :)

hope and love said...

keep writing .. i admire u so much for tha way u have carried on..

Kariyachan said...

On a personal note , I think most men respect women who are confident,strong and can stand up for themselves.

Also there is a rare specimen of the fairer sex; identified by their -in-your-face- Men hating antics ,which sometimes create problem for men and women alike- due to their blind and undivided attention in teaching-the-males a lesson.

More women are getting educated and have jobs and are able to look after themselves than the previous generation(s) of women; who were conditioned to be ever-forgiving.

The typical housewife paradigm is becoming a rarity and we can expect a slow change in the right direction.

How ever the moral codes related to sex and sexuality is a bit of an irony in Kerala as Dr Antony has pointed out.

Meera's World said...

very good point.I remember reading the story of a journalist who had been kicked out of her apartment because the neighbours(of course men) who thought she was showing a bad example to their kids by entertaining single male friends at her home.We do have a lot of such helpful morality police.What one does inside their 4 walls should be none of others concern.Giving bad names for strong women and calling their supporting partners as henpecked husbands is not going to make any difference. 'Who cares' attitude is what we should have when we face such situations.But i agree there are some slithery characters with so much venom in them.

| Balu | said...

@Rex Kerala society is matrilineal not matriarchal

Zahra said...

Unfortunately, this is an all-too-common problem from all kinds of guys, Mallu or otherwise. However, (and I'm sorry to say this) Mallu males have a special brand of hypocrisy that's all their own......or mebbe thats the one I've seen the most. Apparently, any female who so much as defends herself against a rumour/jibe is a "thantedi" asking for trouble. I know there are exceptions, but this applies to nearly all of the Kerala born-and-bred guys I know.

And it's not just the guys, mind you, it's their families too. I know the number of times my folks have been told that their daughter's independence/professional success is a threat to marital prospects .... hard to explain a certain smugness I felt when I heard that :)

Mind Curry said...

blogosphere is pretty much a replication of reality. mallus cannot stand criticism and competition. they deal with both by hitting below the belt and attacking personally, or when possible by coercion and force. its such a shame. we will have to go full cycle and rot and then rise from the ashes anew. some day. children always bring hope.

silverine said...

Rex: Kerala is nothing like what you imagined :)

Dr Antony: Kerala has a lot of issues that is due to a lot of factors. Major among them is the lack of attention kids get at home due to working parents and a general lack of parenting. Nothing is going to change till mallu parents start behaving like parents are not guardians. And what is worse, there are no sane voices in the state except that of women.

Santhosh: Totally agree with your comment, specially the reference to the Semitic religions. The split personality is due to the hypocrisy that is practiced in the society and at home.

Karthik: It is indeed. Images are so craft fully carved that it is difficult to see through the facade.

$$: In the rest of the country the men stare I agree. But you will never see men of all ages talking about womens "assets" loudly in front of her and what they will do with it or getting together to make vulgar jokes on women. There is a difference in mere attraction and rabid lust.

Partha: People create images when they lack a personality or life of their own. Most of these people are disturbed with a screwed up sense of what is wrong and what is right.

Raji: Thank you :)

Sangu: Thank you :)

Jeseem: Yes and the behavior spills outside Kerala and has created a very unsavory image of Keralites among the people.

Photogenic devil: Thank you :) And yes, this is very society you heard so much about.

Hope n Love: Thank you doc. So nice to see you here :)

Kariyachan: The Kerala girls are changing and they will bring in the changes I am sure.

Meera's world: What one does inside their four walls is everyone's concern in Kerala :)

Zahra: Your folks need not worry. With rising divorce rates, men will be compromising soon :)

Mind Curry: Very true, and with the spread of Internet these guys have more reach. I don't publish these attacking comments anymore. Peace has returned to my blog after that :)

Santhanu Nair said...

Offtopic: Reading my-think-pad was what interested me more than poomanam. Hope you won't stop updating this place as regularly as you used to.

silverine said...

Santhanu: Lack of time and general laziness are the reasons I am so scarce here. I will definitely keep updating this space. Thank you for the reminder :)