So there's this advertisement on television nowadays. Two manicured women with CGI straight hair, watch a crowd of stereotypically khadi-clad protestors. As a protestor chucks some garbage, one says with distaste "they want to change the country. Instead they make it filthy."
The other woman cleans the garbage off the street, daintily. The message sent out: be the change as long as you don't dirty your hands with actual politics. It falls to the women as usual, to stay free, by keeping our culture pure, from the contaminating demand for change. You know -- we may bleed, but we don't stain.
They will find approval from the Andhra Pradesh DGP and Karnataka Minister of Women and Child Welfare and the head of women's studies in Bangalore University who have expressed that any woman whose dress could potentially provoke a man -- which doesn't really leave anything out if you ask me -- deserves to be molested.
They can respect women and name rivers after them and provide protection only if they can stay somehow invisible and "pure." Only as free as they want us to be (get an education but not sex education and definitely no sex).
In response to these half-spoken messages women who work in male dominated and strongly masculinised spaces -- like politics or MBA schools -- do not like to draw attention to their gender. It's as if the only way to be accepted as equal is to make invisible the fact that you're a woman.
That's one of the reasons why, despite the growing numbers of women corporators, it's not as if there are more toilets in public spaces for women. Women don't want to be seen as articulating women's needs because then it will seem like they are asking for special privileges, proving that women aren't able to hack it in a man's world.
That is to say, extending basic civic equality to women citizens like toilets or public safety is somehow an extra thing, unrelated to "general" issues. So, because pointing out inequality means agreeing one is inferior, all women know the fine art of not drinking water when they are out for a long time; of squeezing out the last drop of pee before leaving home. It's like, you have to pay for the freedom of being out and about by holding something in. By pretending you're not really a woman.
As a corollary, many women also know about the fine art of the Urinary Tract Infection. A fine art Ms. Varsha Gaikwad, Maharashtra Minister for Woman and Child Development acquired because her job requires statewide road travel, and highways don't have enough women's loos. Now, if women insist on roaming in the local train -- chalo, we'll give them 259, mostly unusable toilets out of 1443. But if they're going to make so bold as to leave the city limits, well, we are not responsible.
If they want to be equal to men then let them also pee on the road like men. Then if they are so shameless and men rape them, then... they should have stayed home only na.
Will everyone have to get a UTI before they begin to see the need for the loos or get raped before they understand the desire to look attractive without being attacked? And the manicured ladies who believe in equality, but not in feminism, in change but not in politics, and like the moral police, in freedom but not questioning the prison of the system, might have to step out of their comfort zones a little to check how free their free is. Peeing might be believing I think.
Paromita Vohra is an award-winning Mumbai-based filmmaker, writer and curator working with fiction and non-fiction. Reach her at www.parodevi.com.
The views expressed in this column are the individual's and don't represent those of the paper.
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