Being a woman

2:14 pm

Women--how they should or should not be, what they should or should not wear, what they should or should not marry, what line of academics & careers they should or should not take--seems to be one of the most talked about topics right now. And maybe I've turned into somewhat of a pessimist in the last few years, but none of it is making me, a woman, feel any better about myself or my own position in the society I am forced to live in. I have to admit, it is not the easiest thing to be a woman (at least in the time and space I am inhabiting) not because I am powerless or lack resources, but because it is not socially acceptable for me to go and get those resources for myself. You know what I mean? Ironically, it is very much the social acceptable thing to do for everyone to talk about women as independent entities, capable of living their lives their own ways.

I think people are a bit confused over this issue, as is bound to happen with any topic that deviates from tradition even to the slightest degree. I'm not denying that the whole women's' emancipation topic hasn't evolved for the better...I am merely saying that we have a long, long way to go still. Take, for example, the 16th December, 2012 Delhi Rape Case. It was horrifying, inhumane to say the least. And I am happy that now it is politically incorrect to question what the victim in question was wearing, who she was with, and what time she was out. I say "politically incorrect" simply because since that day I have met quite a few people who still ask those questions but when they are safely hidden in their unquotable domestic circle. What did take me by surprise was the number of people--men and women--who seemed to have wanted protection for women because they are apparently weak (as opposed to horrible people roaming about out in the open).

Recently, a new ad campaign against female sex trafficking has got the entire country taking. There are three photographs of three women dressed up as three different Hindu goddesses. These goddesses are battered, they have been beaten up, are bruised. And the campaign has achieved two major objectives: it has evoked a sense of horror among the audience to get everyone taking about it.

(Note: I most certainly do not own any of these pictures, they are all taken from the internet).

When I first saw these pictures, I was amazed at my own reaction. I was horrified, yes but the whole message of female sex trafficking went above my head and I was shocked that what I felt was an odd combination of disgust and something-is-so-wrong. And hours later, it hit home. Many, many things about the pictures disturb me. Like, something as basic as why is that in each of the photos is it that the face is the only part of the body that is harmed? I am obviously not a fan of women or anyone else being hit or anything but it's just that this doesn't make any sense. It almost seems like the major offense is to threaten the beauty of these goddesses. 

 The other question is that why are these dieties Hindu? Is this a message for Hindu audience alone? From where I look, it can offend a lot of people. A lot. My other question is that why are these women goddesses in the first place? And if they are goddesses, why are they not retaliating? I'd have liked to see what would have happened if someone tried to punch the face of Parvati in the avatar of Kali as she holds a freshly slayed demon's head. That would have been a campaign to show what power a woman is capable, if given the chance. 

Oddly enough, one major question that pops to mind is whether it subconsiously tries to send the message that the real threat is that once the baddies out there are done with the "whores" and "slut" and the "regular" women, they will go for the goddesses next? And that's the reason why women need to be saved? Because I sure as hell hope not. I hope that people realise that the real threat is no woman (including sex workers) should be subjected to this kind of humiliation just because they were born here and now without a Y chromosome. It is a little annoying that the world still divides women into two polar opposites of the goddess and the whore. Why must we typecast anyone? Why not just show a regular woman? Why must we attain to be goddesses to prove our worth? Why cant women be shown as powerful figures and not damsels in distress? 

I'll give you one thing though. I like that despite the hurt these women have been subjected to, in each of these photos, they are all standing without flinching, with a lot of grit. They might be standing there because women are expected to treat violence inflicted on them as acceptable and go on about their lives as usual, normalising violence. But still, to be standing there, without breaking down, meeting our eye shamelessly is pretty awesome. Of course, I would have loved it if they had made use of their special resources and talents to fight this horror: Lakshmi with her fortune, Saraswati with her knowledge, and Durga with her weapons and the lion standing right behind her!

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