It is October 11, 2016. I open my news feed and see Facebook’s bright yellow message on top. It reads:
“All girls deserve equal access to healthcare, education and basic human needs. On International Day of the Girl, add a frame to your profile photo to show your support for girls everywhere.”
Chances are, you missed this message entirely and don’t even know how the filter looks like since no one added it. But that’s okay, since girls are respected everywhere all around the world, right?
I scroll down to see a flood of posts about Donald Trump’s “grab ‘em by the pussy” remark, and of men defending his sexism with more sexism.
He’s simply not one to be taken seriously, you might wonder. Why give him more publicity than he already deserves by writing about him here?
Let’s not ignore the fact that Trump is a man with power and influence who seems to model that this kind of behaviour is acceptable and even normalizes it. Putting him in office would condone rape culture. He constantly displays abusive tactics like gas-lighting, diversion, leering, interrupting and victim blaming in his tapes and debates. It is important to know that, seeing and listening to all this is completely traumatic for those who have actually gone through such abuse in life. This explains why the National Sexual Assault Hotline of the United States saw a 33% traffic increase following Trump’s vile remarks. It is not a coincidence that this happened as women have been posting and tweeting their own stories with the hashtag #ItsNotOk in response to his comments at a very alarming rate (9.7 million to be exact). PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) is very real and not a joke. And it indeed is ironic that October 11 is also World Mental Health Day.
Speaking of which, scrolling further I see a couple of Indian news posts all alluding to Deepika Padukone’s public awareness campaign on mental health organised in Delhi. But all the headlines of these posts focussed only on how she “teared up” and “broke down” on stage, calling her a survivor only within quotes as if questioning it. (Yes, Times of India, I’m looking at you.)
I scrolled some more. I see a sponsored page of a reputed publications company saying, “India’s bestselling author. This time, writing as a girl!”
I was excited at the thought of a female protagonist, before I suddenly realised that India’s bestselling author is Chetan Bhagat and the book in question is one which is titled ‘One Indian Girl’. Making all my worst fears come true, the guy has written a ‘feminist’ book which actually has nothing to do with feminism at all. In fact, he has painted it in such a skewed light that it has ultimately proven to be detrimental to the female cause.
Eye roll and more scrolling. A ‘Happy Dussehra’ GIF pops up followed by a beautiful album of Durga Pooja pictures shared by University Express. I smile as I imagine what would happen if the Durga idol came to life to slaughter all those who’ve eve-teased women and have exploited others for their own interests. Will Durga Puja be celebrated with the equal amount of enthusiasm even then? How many people would actually be left to do so?
If Durga Maa had descended to fight the buffalo demon Mahishasura in 2016, I can’t help but imagine what the reactions from society might be. ‘How will she manage both her household chores as well as the war? But wait, the war lasts till late in the night. Won’t she go back home even then? And if something happens, everyone will cry that women aren’t safe in this country. That’s the problem when we give women too much freedom. This is not our Indian culture. Why is there a need to be a feminist and create a scene when she could just block the monster?’
Because the moment a woman trespasses cultural and social norms, all hell breaks loose. A woman is a goddess only as long as she’s quiet and doesn’t raise her voice. And, did I forget being beautiful? Which reminds me, I have to carry out my beauty regimen as advised by the Gujarat Gauseva Board a day ago.
I log out of the chaos in my timeline to find some cow urine, milk and dung to achieve Cleopatra’s beauty as rightly said by the Board. What fun!