A couple of years ago, on a Friday night of heavy drinking I asked a female friend if she thought I was sexist.
Now, every urban educated young man like me who studied in a co-educational college, has a wide social circle and grew up in a household full of women, likes to think of himself as pro-women. I’m not out there trying to sexually assault women and blame it on Chinese food. I’m not telling my girlfriend how high her skirt’s hemline should be. I’m not even calling every girl with short hair a closet lesbian who should stay at home and make sandwiches.
I’ll never forget the answer. I was jokingly told that on a scale of wolf whistle to ‘bitches be crazy’, I’m a “Wow. You know how to format your PC?”
I didn’t delve into the exact definition of what that meant, but the fact that a close friend considered me even remotely sexist stung the ego. Over the years, as I’ve become more conscious and made more friends who are trying to break through default Indian patriarchy, I’ve realised each man is almost a test case.
We grow up in an environment where we don’t understand patriarchy and everyday sexism till it becomes so embedded in our core that it takes years of conscious and dedicated unlearning to even become neutral. It starts from the GI Joes we pick up as boys as opposed to anything pink (those things are for girls. Obviously). It progresses to phrases like “cover the face, ***k the base” when an “ugly” girl asks us out in school. It stays with us as adults in a workplace, where anything a female colleague achieves is through tits and fellatio. Even when we’re trying to help, like in the Farhan Akhtar led “MARD” campaign, we end up reinforcing patriarchal biases by using symbols like the moustache.
I’m not trying to make excuses on behalf of men, but the more I see us trying to navigate this space, the more I feel that everyday sexism is like a germ. Even if we wash our soul with Dettol, there’d be some kitanoos left because even that’s only 99 percent effective.
I’m not surprised then at Digvijaya Singh’s statement about Congress MP Meenakshi Natrajan, whom he described as a “100 taka tunch maal”. First off, let me just say there are few things as creepy looking in the world as a smiling Digvijaya. If you were to make a Venn diagram, his smile would be in the middle of “Undressing you with his eyes” and “About to spit paan”. It makes you want to go home and immediately take a cold shower.
Secondly, who knew that there would be a Bhojpuri phrase that could beat “Pepsi Peeke Lagelu Sexy”? Just when you think there aren’t enough expressions to describe women, Digvijaya gives us a new one.
That said, a part of me is also happy because at least Digvijaya Singh was being honest. He doesn’t suffer from having to be polite for the sake of political correctness. Wouldn’t it be easier if we just let people from either political party come out and use the word g***u instead of having to disguise it with pappu and feku? Wouldn’t you rather the BJP just come out in Delhi and say “Don’t vote for Congress Sheila, ekdum boodhi ho gayi hai”? Why pretend to be civil like that debate between Sanjay Nirupam and Smriti Irani, which went from political analysis to him calling out her television background in a matter of minutes?
Everyday sexism is a debate that needs to be had on a much larger scale and in a twisted way, politicians making tunch maal level remarks in public helps sustain it. However, the process of identifying where we lie on the scale my friend gave me is an individual one. I know I am not germ-free yet and neither are all the men who will read this and think, “Oh he’s writing a column that’s pro-women? He’s going to get so much action because of this.”
Updated Date: Jul 30, 2013 13:37:18 IST