Priyanka Mukherjee
Women’s Day: An Encounter
This article originally appeared in centreright.in. CRI content has now been subsumed in swarajyamag.com. The views expressed here are personal and do not necessarily reflect those of the editors of swarajyamag.com

“What a fool you are! I mean, seriously? That’s an insane claim! Did you even think twice before uttering that in these two years, you have never been discriminated against, in the campus, for being a woman? Tch Tch, this is what the patriarchal system does to one! Certain notions get so deeply engrained in us that we fail to see things as they are. You must have been exploited without even realizing that you were being wronged. Years of abuse have made us so used to it that we seem to think, it’s but natural…” Thus my hostel neighbour went on and on, while the rice felt estranged and abandoned, lying pale on my plate and the soyas for lunch, exchanged startled glances with the tomatoes in the broth.

I generally keep away from the liberal crowd and so do they from me, but as fate would have it, we bump into each other, every once in a while, despite all our sincere efforts to dodge any such confrontations. Yesterday was again one such day.

Some two days back UGC had organized a gender sensitization meet in the campus. I missed it as I had to get done with some reading at the library. And I had not been wishing every other girl on Women’s Day; neither did I dress up for the occasion. Reasons enough to smear me with all the liberal wrath, I guess. And to make matters worse, on being asked if I have ever been a victim of gender bias in the campus, I answered in negative. If only I had had any presentiment about what was awaiting my poor self! May god save a woman when ‘feminists’ bare their fangs on her! My liberal boarding mate took it upon herself, to convince me of being an imbecile, as my appetite died a slow, painful death!

The rigmarole left me bamboozled! I was left thinking. So have I really been a victim of gender bias? I mean this couple of years has not been a cake walk for sure! My supervisor has been indifferent; been snubbed by my professors over and again; being the ‘fascist’ that I am I have been reduced to a recluse… But gender discrimination? Nothing of sorts that I could recall.

Docile, submissive, reticent and confined to the household; such was the notion of femininity a few decades back. Some upright women came forward to break the mould. They wanted to assert the equal rights of all, irrespective of their gender. They were not ready to conform and quite justifiably so. But somewhere down the line, things went awry. While all were keeping themselves busy with denouncing the established perception, another, equally predisposed one, came to replace it. Militant, cantankerous, insolent and presumptuous- women casted themselves into this new mould, while being mostly unaware of it. While those from the past were burdened with an inexplicable sense of remorse about their very existence, this present lot fancies thinking of themselves as preys of social injustice. Even if you have had the most privileged, urban upbringing, given that you are a woman, you must be a victim. Thus a movement that claims to challenge the prevalent stereotypes, quite unwittingly went on to replace those by new ones. Paradoxical, isn’t it?

Talking of paradoxes, here comes another; comes a seminar and my liberal feminist friends are up against cultural imperialism. If you could just overlook their fad over branded attires, they are otherwise much concerned about how the West has imposed its outlook upon us, at the cost of dismissing our own culture. But isn’t this concept of Women’s Day a western one as well? In the first decade of the 20th century, Socialists from the western countries came to identify a particular day in the year as Women’s Day, primarily to demand for women’s suffrage – A history that is not quite of any particular relevance to India, where women have always enjoyed equal political rights. Now did you say that this is a country with a high rate of violence against women and hence the significance of Women’s Day? Well, honestly, I don’t get it. I am as clueless about how wishing your colleague on Woman’s Day can do any good to the woman, staying in the farthest nook of rural Rajasthan and being beaten up for dowry, just as I am clueless about, how playing some stupid game on Facebook increases awareness about breast cancer! But then, am I not the moron around?

Even I find it repulsive when I read about a three year old being raped and fatally injured, but this entire discourse of feminist activism seems self defeating to me. Perhaps I am not perceptive enough to appreciate their intentions but some of their statements have always left me befuddled. This poster that I came across at EFLU for instance- it read “If men don’t let women assume positions of power, they are hindering progress”. I would want to draw my readers’ attention to the clause ‘let women assume’. Isn’t it a tacit acknowledgement of men occupying a higher rung in the social hierarchy, when feminist look up to them to ‘let women assume’ power? Can’t we acquire power on our own? Aren’t we capable enough? Why must we pine about being victims when we could have done things much more constructive? I wonder!

Now to return to the conversation that I had over lunch – “So you don’t know much about Women’s Day, then? I could discern the contempt in my neighbour’s voice. “Well not much, just a bit. United Nations has identified this year to initiate action to end violence against women. It’s a pity that brutality against women is a reality in our country. Even the state indulges in it. Consider Raj Bala’s case for example.” “Raj who?” my neighbour looked all at the sea. Well, ahem! A middle aged, Hindu woman who got beaten up by the police and succumbed to death, three months later, is perhaps not worth a remembrance amidst the hullabaloo over International Women’s Day.

(Image Courtesy  FirstPost)