The Tacit Agreement

My interaction with one of my friends this week brought back the whole debate of a woman’s body and her basic right to safety and well being. There is, at least in countries like India, this tacit understanding that if a woman maintains herself as a “good” woman, there will be certain degree of safety that can be assured to her! But who is this “good” woman? In short, she is someone who is careful enough to make her presence known in places and times only where it is sanctioned by men. What do I mean by that? Well, there is this exercise my Professor used to carry out in her courses on Gender. She would ask, “If you see a woman walking by herself, and hanging out alone on the streets without any purpose or task, who do you think she is?” And in many cases, the response was that she must be ‘working the streets’ or soliciting clients. And that is one profession where there is not much respect!!! It is as if, it’s a male prerogative to occupy spaces as and how they wish and women can occupy spaces only if there is a purpose to it.

This tacit rule gets reinforced every time it is challenged, and the politics of fear continues to reign. A woman going out late in the night, a woman dressing in ways she pleases to dress, a woman in places and times which are considered ‘inappropriate’ for her are all ‘looking’ for trouble… Perhaps she is not. Perhaps she is just living her life the way she wants. And the worst part of it all is that the wonderful fellow women are the ones who fiercely guard this tacit rule. My Professor tells me there is a reason for this too… Pardon me for bringing in the concept of ‘patriarchy’ again but in order to do justice to the explanation, it has to be visited. Those women who are guardians of patriarchy enjoy a higher status in the society than other women. It’s more like the Jewish police group which helped Nazis in the ‘cleansing.’ These Jews occupy a better status than the regular Jews. The intention is quite clear actually. Any group, no matter how marginalised will have some allies with the group with the highest power, that’s how the group in power can dictate the lives of the marginalised. In the process, the allies enjoy a fake sense of power which can be stripped off any minute and is completely at the mercy of the powerful.

For those of us, who are the so called ‘creamy layer,’ these statements might look like they are of the past, but for the majority of women out there, it is very much real and they are constantly subverting and redefining what it is to be a woman in a man’s world!

Now this gets me thinking, is it really a man’s world? Is all the fight for equality in access to resources, and experiences in general, an illusion? Are men deprived/ marginalised of certain social life experiences because they are men? Or is this phenomenon peculiar to women? Men are marginalised too! Shocker!!! But true… Men from marginalised communities, tribes, dalits, poor men, black men, aborigines are marginalised and have to live by the scripts given to them by the majority in power. Till now we are talking in binaries as if the world is made of only men and women… But what about those who occupy the spaces in between? They are in many cases invisible and lead a life none of us care to know about. The kind of violence and sheer indifference towards other/ multiple gendered individuals would need another blog dedicated specifically to these concerns.

The silver lining to it all is that there is subversion and rebellion and there is fight for equal rights. This is a tough battle and there will be a heavy loss before victory. But victory, will change the course of the future. Perhaps the future will create newer margins and oppression, but in time, they will fight for their rights too. But what we all need is a change in attitude and beliefs. We need to believe that we are all equal. Just because somebody is educated, is rich, is heterosexual, is of a powerful sex, is of a better caste/race doesn’t make them better and shouldn’t be given the right to dictate others’ life.

Being a feminist, I come back to concerns around women. I wish to believe that a day will come, when women can walk free of the fear of sexual preying. That even if a woman walks a street naked, she will not be sexually attacked… But somehow a doubt constantly lingers….

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Published in: on May 15, 2010 at 6:47 PM  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Well, this scenario prevails more in our country because of the society treatment for centuries on women. I had been to Bali last year and found most of young women scanty clad and no one cared a damn. The same scenario in our country think about the preying eyes you have quoted. My point is that its with system we have a problem with. For example, my parents may appreciate the fact that a friend is dare enough to come to meet me at 11 pm in the night but the same is not applicable with my sister. So the problem is with the mindset and which is system driven.
    Classic scenario, the day we are more than confident that all sect of people think that, the only difference between a man and a woman is in their anatomy structure, things a fall in place.

    Liked the blog. Apologies if i digressed form the main toipic 🙂

    cheers
    Ram

  2. Dear Ram,

    Thank u for stopping by and reading my blogs :^) Will reply to them soon… I liked your thoughts on my topics 🙂

    Bhuvana.


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