Sunday, August 29, 2010

Mars attacks and Venus fly traps

I had mentioned in an earlier post how I continue to get these toxic mails from a bunch of pro-male, anti-female, feminism-bashing, rabid misogynists, posing as knights to the rescue of the "Indian Family", following a piece I wrote for HT some months ago. (Don't bother clicking on this link if you did read this recent blog post, or you'll accuse me of nauseating cause-promotion.) Well, to reiterate a point, comments are sometimes cleaned out from the HT site, but oh how I wish they weren't. They were, to say the least. 

One commentator even threatened to get me locked up in a jail cell, and another very generously asked me to marry him, promising that he will 'not be cruel' while most missed the point of the argument entirely, either being so wrapped up in their own misery or having become prisoners of an idea a la Inception. And they kept calling me a "feminist" who doesn't know when to keep her mouth shut.

I guess I should empathise because I know how difficult it is to resist the lure of extremes. Like how I just L-O-V-E my morning cup of tea. How I H-A-T-E sleeping early. How it's just so W-R-O-N-G to wear a black spaghetti top inside out and over a pink shirt and brown trousers (as spotted yesterday); and how Nirula's still has the M-O-S-T  B-E-S-T-E-S-T nut butterscotch ice cream.  

On to other extreme sentiments. This, quoted below, is the latest in a string of comments that I received earlier in my mail today, the kind that come as footnotes to sundry articles with the mere whiff of domestic strife/ issues -- or even if they contain the word 'dowry' or, god forbid, 'women'. Here's what one gentleman wrote:
Now under the name [of] Voilence [sic] against women, men are reduced to castrated animals. Men have only duties and obligations just to donate sperms [sic]. [The] familiy [sic] system is alresy [sic] destroyed in USA in the name [of] indiviudal [sic] rights and women['s] empowerment. Soon USA from being a fatherless society would become a feminist society where only stud men would be available to donate sperms!! India will be the first country from where anti feminism will be exported as the society has not accepted the feminist way of family destruction!!

(Whatever our imagined crimes, this person must first be charged with mutilation...of the English language, of course!)

So, let's, for the sake of argument define a feminist as these dudes understand it: a frustrated, man hater who is a free electron type, tilting at established social mores, abusing 'women-friendly' laws to get back at a world full of poor innocent suckers.

Now, in their world, or even in the real, real world, I am not what you would strictly call a militant feminist by any stretch of the imagination, nor am I a man-hater with some poor sod in the cross-hairs of my shotgun, but even if I was, this is all just plain ridiculous. And to defend the objects of attack against this tirade would be to drag down the debate to the lowest common denominator: the personal-experience-fueled bitter frustrations of a few. Why is it that anyone who does not respect the tight little squares that some people have chosen to slot the world in is stamped with a red label of caution instead? Why can't some people read between the lines, see the greys and just get used to the idea that the world is not fair and that sometimes it doles out a whole lot of crap when you least expect it and that more often than not the system we live in sputters, coughs and breaks down, leaving us stranded in a pile load of the above-mentioned crap?

And, most importantly, that "feminists", whatever that term embodies, are neither the damn enemy, nor the sole flag bearers of women's empowerment. Does such a powerful beast even exist? 

Mind you, this is not to say that there aren't women who abuse the social sway they might have or the legal rights available to them, whatever be their motivation. To deny that sad truth would be wrong. Just as it would be wrong to say that all men are insensitive, philandering, alcoholic, wife-beaters, or that true love is only about la-la-la candlelight dinners and expensive flowers. Which, in turn, is much like the fact that not all moms-in-law (barring those in Ekta Kapoor soaps) are evil; or the misconception that not all children are angelic (barring the one you're pretending to coo over right this moment). Quite the contrary. 

My argument with those who moan about the perversity of the legal system, the social contract, the rules of relationships or even life in general has always been that just because something goes against popular (or personal) belief; is the exception; is abused; or doesn't work as planned, doesn't negate the logic (or reality) of its existence. Like open marriages. Or the joint family. Or flexible working hours. Or restricted access to social networking sites at the workplace. Or single-scoop Hot Chocolate Fudge. Just because it doesn't always go in your favour, or according to plan, doesn't mean it M-U-S-T  D-I-E! It works for (or even makes a whole lot of sense to) someone, somewhere. 

Well, despite evidence to the contrary, and the majority opinion, I don't even like ice cream all that much. But I'l let it freeze-dry my brain once in a while, or even give me therapeutic succour when I'm down and out. See? Just because it doesn't always work for you doesn't give you the right to trash it. 

So it is with the law. The argument that dowry- and domestic violence- related legislation is anti-men or pro-women is like saying child abuse laws are anti-adult. Or that sunscreens are out to get the solar system. Or that condoms are baby-killers. Or that hate is anti-love. Would you care to hate things you don't give a damn about?

Special laws exist because there is a logic for their existence. Dowry-related deaths are not a figment of the female imagination. Wife beaters don't just exist in the darkness of a paralell cinema set in claustrophic middle class milieus. Yes, every good thing is abused. Ask those who eat Iodex on toast to get high, but then the solution is not to ban Iodex! What would people with genuine back-aches do? The purpose of all empowering legislations, like the Domestic Violence Act, is to deal with precisely the kind of fallout that stems from a different kind of abuse of power, which in turn stems from the social imbalance in our country.    

Going back to this gentleman's bizarre analogy: Castrated animals? How would that still make you less of a nuisance in a world of ' family-killer feminists'? Tell me, when you neuter a dog, does it not bark? Or rip your favourite pants to shreds? Or yap incessantly into the night? Besides, how does that psycho babble even make physiological sense, especially when your emasculated puppy is also fulfilling its 'duties and obligations to donate sperms [sic]'? 

And what might be the 'feminist way of family destruction'? I must confess to having a silly giggle at the thought of an incendiary bra-burning, Fab-India wearing terror-monger setting the marital home on fire, while in the process of taking a man to task. Or a menopausal type running amok with the lawn mower. See, how easy it is to generalise? 

The problem as I see it, is -- to borrow jargon from my earlier days of strategic enlightenment -- is seeing everything that exists between a man and a woman as a zero-sum game...I lose if you win so I'm going to try my damndest to kick you in the head if you try to use it to tell me I'm being a jerk. Really?

Be it serious crime or stupidity, they're gender-neutral. Such levels of stupidity should be a crime and a crime is a crime.

As for me, I'm tired of the options thrust upon me sometimes, and of having to choose between being or behaving like a "nice, homely girl" or "aggro, over-independent, feminist bitch". I may be "aunty" to the neighbourhood kids and still be "baby" to my old boarding school "bearer-jees" and "guard-jees", but I'm not going to choose between the black and white tags these so-called activists run around with. I reserve my right to be a bit of both, thank you. And to change my mind, if I please; all the time, weaving in and out of your two end-zones, while making sure that I'm not stepping on your dainty toes. Not all the time and not too much, anyway. 

So I will allow a boy to pay for my meal (sometimes) but not take my better driving skills off the table for another, cussing at him and showing him who's boss if he foolishly tries to cut me off near the India Gate circle. I will fight tooth and nail for the right to my financial independence but still hesitate just a second longer to allow a man to hold open the door for me. I might ask one to help me carry my shopping bags, yet not stare at some poor, exhausted man with the heavy briefcase to get up and offer me his hard-won seat in the "reserved for women" section on public transport. I will let you tell me I'm being silly, but equally expect you to not go all touchy on me if I tell you that pumpkin isn't really your colour (even if you don't know that pumpkin, baby, is so much more than a vegetable!) I will not wait and play games like how long before I return your call, and invite you out to dinner myself while secretly hoping you do it first. 

Still, when the dude above says that "India...has not accepted the feminist way of family destruction", I tip my hat right back at him for this one. For I'm sure there are more like me who have not accepted your narrow definition of feminism at all, dear sir, or your idea of the 'feminist' barracuda. The one that exists solely to make men's lives miserable. The one that is the killer of happily-ever-after family dreams. The one that is out to get all those guys who never had a date in college and blame the entire female species for their misfortune. The one that is out to demolish your particular version of a "happy married life", the one that doesn't understand the difference between "disciplining your woman" and domestic abuse (there isn't one, by the way).

But I will say this: the day we succumb to the Pygmalion Effect, if only as a direct consequence of your strange accusations, hang us, if you will, but do make sure we're not wearing pumpkin, will you? It's soooo not our colour, either.


  1. I've had this argument *so* many times, I can totally empathise with you. And the worst bit of this particular argument is getting angry with myself if I find myself defending or qualifying my feminism, because if there is one thing that sets me off, it's a woman saying, "I am not really one of those feminists, but.." Hegemonised patriarchal puppets, the lot.

  2. @Anon: Apologies for dropping out for so long, and all I can very unimaginatively do after all this while is empathise right's quite the F-word, innit? :)