To continue my feminist contemplations…
The family is watching TV for relaxation. (Actually, it’s just me and the better half; the son is busy watching anime on the PC.)
Reality TV? NO WAY!
So music it shall be – and old desi songs, preferably!
A young Jyothika is dancing energetically on screen with a middle-aged (to put it mildly) but equally energetic Kamal Hassan, both clad in yellows and browns. The song, composed by AR Rahman, has Vairamuthu’s linguistic talents unleashed, no hold barred. The heroine croons about how the hero commits terrorism with his right eye and violence with his left. He replies that she is the moon to his moonless Mercury and Nile to his riverless Arabia, before going on to reassure her that her nuclear glances have powered his life.
I get a ghoulish kick out of the song, I admit. It’s a treat for the ears and eyes!
“What is she wearing!” pops the comment/question – part resignation, part relish, part tut-tut.
We have watched this song umpteen times, and passed the same comment as many times – it’s more or less a habit now. A few weeks in the past, I’d have enthusiastically joined in, discoursing about her yellow and brown micro mini – the ‘brevity’, the lack of taste, the implications…the works.
This time though, I can’t. This time, it silences me, gets me thinking the kind of feminist thoughts I normally don’t allow myself to indulge in. I think about how by the mere presence of two X chromosomes, we are no longer a person with right to free speech, free expression, dignity and so many other things, but a girl/woman who should watch at all times – watch herself and watch out for others.
Right from childhood we are told to watch what we wear and how we wear it, watch how we walk, talk and behave, watch how we project ourselves to a) our family b) our extended family c) friends d) colleagues e) acquaintances f) strangers and g) and h) on to z) and more. And watch out for all of the above, from a) to z) – they could be wolves in sheep’s clothing. I guess all that watching over the past four decades and more has been tiring enough for me to protest.
(The reason I chose to speak up, though, has less to do with Jyothika, Kamal Hassan, Vairamuthu or me, for that matter, than with something else altogether; something that happened at a friend’s place in the morning – which I shall come to later.)
Coming back to the living room, I gather the spunk to question: Why can’t she wear what she likes? If KH can wear buttercup yellows and dance around with a girl as young as his daughter, why can’t she wear tiny, striped mini-skirts and be merry? And I started a monologue about how everybody, including Mother Nature, is unfair to women, how women are always the one to be judged, and so on and so forth. And incredibly (well, actually not), my eyes begin to tear up.
My better half is perplexed. This is not my usual response – my fair-mindedness doesn’t usually extend to film stars doing fast numbers on screen. Truth be told, I don’t even think non-judgmental thoughts naturally. It’s the long years of reading, watching and experiencing that have forced me to at least try to be unbiased and objective in my thinking. And I slip up more often than I care to admit.
My better half is understandably puzzled, but my soliloquy gets him thinking too.
Now if you, like me, belong to the GrInMiC (Great Indian Middle Class), you’ll know why. Being judgmental is in our DNA. We judge everything and everybody and find them wanting, particularly our fellow feminine. And we condemn them without a second thought or a second’s pause.
It’s either ‘Look at her! Why does she feel the need to dye her hair at this age? Why can’t she age gracefully?’ or ‘Why doesn’t she do something about her hair? She looks so aged, with half her hair white!’
Bottom-line? There is no universally acceptable way for women to dress up, talk, laugh, walk, behave, groom or carry ourselves.
To be continued.