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I write this to you from the comfort of my house. The safety of my room. That is one, two and three locks in total. A fourth if you consider the gated community.
This article comes days after the disturbing judgement given in the Tejpal case. There is a reason why that is. I have spent the last few days trying to make peace with the fact that I may never be someone a court of law approves of, why those around me can’t say ‘we will change the system’, they say ‘we will ensure it never comes to a point that you have to go to court.
There are multiple reasons why the Tejpal judgement is problematic. Let’s break down the three words no woman wants to hear that this judgement embodies. Patriarchy. Misogyny. Sexism.
Let’s start with Patriarchy. Long ago, in a land inhabited by men and women (let’s cover they and them babies on a separate one, I see you and I love you all), a monogamous system prevailed. While some claim it was to ‘ensure homogeneity of a race’, some (including yours truly) believe it was to curb the sexuality of women.
This birthed what we can call the virgin-whore dynamics. You remember Veronica and Meera from the movie Cocktail. Veronica (seemingly western name. Coincidence?), the party girl who you ‘have fun’ and go out with, sow your wild oats with. Meera (Seemingly sanskaari name, she wears suits or jeans and stays covered.
The one time she gets drunk, we see her preaching how her partner is everything to her because our women, even when ‘drunk’, don’t forget where and to whom they belong), the girl you ‘bring home to maa’, who will bring up your children and cook for you and show you the right path. The hero, in the meantime, will still be doing whatever he wishes.
Misogyny is next. It starts with calling women names, on to physical harm, and ends with- actually, I don’t think it ends. It seems harmless: asking women to ‘smile more’, to ‘lighten up’, to ‘quit being hormonal’.
To question, to interrogate and insult them when they report harassment. To mention casually how you ‘allow’ your women to do things.
How you’re so progressive that you don’t mind your son fetching a wife of his choice, provided she looks nice, cooks well, and knows how to ‘compromise’ and ‘sacrifice’.
Sexism is the easy one.
Look at unequal pay for the same jobs. Having to juggle work and home, expecting every woman to want to have children; the usual. Combine this with how you’re socializing them.
The toys, the games, the movies, and books you shove down their throats, the way you ask them to be covered up all the time, to sit a certain way. To smile too much and not at all. To wear this here and this over there. To not scream, not shout, not be angry.
Docile. Homely. Smiling. I sound angry, I’m not. I am sad. Upset. Disappointed. Frustrated.
The problem with ‘it is just a film’ or ‘it is just a song’ or ‘it is just a standalone incident’ is that it is not just that. It is a learning curve.
It teaches women to live in the fear of consequences. It is silent conditioning and disciplining. It is why before a woman reports harassment she stops and thinks ‘could I have been asking for it?’
And then, when your judiciary decides to make a judgement (in all senses of the term), you realize nobody will stand up for you.
Your judiciary gives reasons why you are not an ideal victim. Why you can’t possibly be in pain because you were seen smiling.
Your judiciary, however, does not consider how loud noises scare you. How you tightly clutch your drink to your chest, so nobody tampers with it.
How you send your location to three friends. How you can’t look at yourself in the mirror sometimes because your body does not look like it’s yours anymore.
Where do you go looking for support when the system is against you? How do you raise children in a world like this? You are not alone.
Your experiences are valid. Your existence is valid. The journey to reclaim oneself is difficult to embark upon. There are bad days, some worse than others, but you learn.
Living with oneself and overcoming obstacles can seem daunting, but it gets better. It is not a journey you have to be on by yourself. There are people happy to help. Step one is to Talk to Someone.
Take the first step, don’t be afraid. I write this to you from the comfort of my house. The safety of my home. You are welcome here. You will be safe here.