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.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Love in the times of prejudice

They walked in hand in hand, and looked around in wonderment. The opulence of the mall seemed to overwhelm them. They looked like kids from the lower middle class. Their clothes tailored and out of place. They clung together, a little intimidated by the mall. They were in their teens I could make out. They walked in hand in hand. Their trust and reliance in each other was heartwarming. This was no ordinary romance. They looked so comfortable in the silence that enveloped them as they gazed around.

I fiddled with my coffee. I was waiting for the office gang to land up for a birthday treat. My eyes wandered to the couple. They were going around the mall, looking with awe at the shops, displays, colors and general branding merriment. Their eyes enthralled by the atmosphere, soaking in the sights.

Just as I was taking the last sip of my coffee, I saw them walking out. They had an air of people who had a wonderful day at the circus or zoo. They walked out hand in hand. People looked at them curiously. I was lost in the warmth of the moment to notice... that they were both guys.

Love has no borders or colors. It just takes two people to love. Whatever their gender.