Monday, March 30, 2015
It’s middle of the night and I’d almost slept. Yes, almost; and then I woke up to write this piece. The latest video by Vogue Empower with Deepika Padukone has created a buzz in the cyber world with some in favour and some against it. While I do not appreciate the entire philosophy of that video, I do find that video resonate my voice in some ways.
The video talks of a woman’s right to have sex before marriage, out of marriage or no sex at all. While some might find this supporting adultery, I see this in a different light. As a teenager, I saw many of my friends giving in to the pressure of their boyfriends to have sex only to be dumped later or be labelled as someone with a “loose character”. My first break-up happened because the guy wanted to make it to the bed while I wasn’t prepared. And when I walked out within three months of that relationship God knows the mental torture that I went through for the next four years with awful, filthy messages… So awful was it that I ended up changing my mobile number, for good.
In the years that followed, I saw my friends quitting their well-paying jobs because their better halves had a problem with them earning more than the man of the family. There was this particular instance in my marriage where my ex-husband was really upset by the fact that the nominee of the flat that I purchased was one of my family members and not himself.
And, no sex at all… We’re all aware of the number of marital rape cases and instances when the boy-friends force themselves upon their partners to satiate their carnal desires. And there is no end to the questions like, “who are you with?”, “where are you?”, “what time will be back home?” and these questions asked in that order.
The point is that a woman has an equal right to say a yes or no. She has an equal right to remain in a relationship or marriage or walk out of it. She has an equal right to demand sex and refuse it. She has an equal right to stay out and party, or not. You can’t dictate her just the way you can’t dictate a man.
Having said that, this does not give a veto-power to women either; while I have seen many an oppressed women around in my mere 30 years, I have also seen some who have used their right for all the wrongs they could - one of them being my own Mami. She filed a dowry case on the entire maternal side of my family, including my mother, after 17 years of her marriage with my uncle. What followed was a nightmare of running from the local court to Allahabad high-court, with my grandfather being taken into custody, only to have the case withdrawn after she was delivered with her demands – all of them monetary.
The rape law being used to get even with boyfriends who fail or refuse to marry their respective girlfriends is another example. And not to forget, workplace situations where men are threatened by their teams or sub-ordinates in order to extort promotions or increments.
It’s not about whether men are better than women or women better than men. I am a naturalist at heart and believe that the nature wouldn’t have created both the sexes had one been better than the other. The fact that both the sexes survived the cycle of evolution and reached thus far is proof enough that we’re all equally important in maintaining the equilibrium of this planet. While men are constructed of stronger bones, women are blessed with endurance for pain – both are equally important to keep the balance. Yin and Yang, Shiv and Shiva – aren’t we supposed to go hand-in-hand?
This has been my philosophy all my life while maintaining a façade of a mosaic of viewpoints, only to keep my vulnerability from being exposed to hurt. But during a discussion with a friend recently, he called me a female chauvinist and also explained that that is the perception I drive through my posts on social media. While I don’t mind being called anything, I just thought I’d better put my thoughts together as I owe it to my degree in journalism and my ancestors. Being called a person of biased opinion hurts the journalistic DNA in me.
I come from a family where men were led by Rani Lakshmi Bai in India’s first war of independence in 1857. I come from a family where my mother’s great-grandmother watched guard on a horseback all night, with a sword in her hand. I also come from a family where my grandmother taught my father how to cook, knit and embroider.
From all the stories, anecdotes and journals passed on through generations in my family, one thing that I have learnt is that men and women are supposed to work in tandem to keep the balance of the cart. But what I also learnt is that women are susceptible to being taken for granted or oppressed. It is a collective responsibility of human-kind to stand up for what they think is right. The right is absolutely subjective and we must respect the individual opinion of the people involved.
It could be the right of a woman to work or stay at home, it could be a man’s right to do the same. Years ago, my father met a guy during his train journey from Kolkata to Mumbai. When they introduced themselves he told my father that he’s a housewife! My father was equally astounded and filled with respect for this person who stepped up to quit his job as he felt that one of the parents must stay at home with the kids while his wife pursued her career. Both the man and his wife must have been equally judged by their social circle, one for quitting work to do a woman’s job and the other for being an irresponsible wife and mother.
I also know a woman, who supported her husband in his decision to quit his job, quite well paying at that, to pursue higher studies. She, while being the sole financial support of the family, is also the only child of her parents and holds a lot of responsibilities, fulfilling each of them with a grace that would make queen of England shy away.
There are endless stories and instances that I can go on relating only to drive the point that neither men nor women are privileged to take advantage of the other. That it is equality that we seek. And it does take two to tango, right!
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