Last week, I attended the debate that Outlook magazine has been organising in major cities to celebrate 15 years of its existence. This being Chennai, the subject of the debate was 'Moral Policing in a Democracy.'
It was a lively debate, with plenty of active participation from the audience, and I am fortunate to have attended it. The audience kept booing a former vice-chancellor of Anna University who, during his tenure, had forbidden jeans and T-shirt on the campus, the reason being if female students wore jeans and T-shirt, it would distract the teachers and therefore education would suffer.
Supporting him was Dr Tamilisai Soundarajan. This lady needs introduction. Her father, Kumari Anandan, is a well-known Congress leader from Tamil Nadu, but the daughter chose to join the BJP and even contested the last elections from North Chennai. Dr Tamilisai is also a medical doctor.
"I know it better, because I am a doctor myself. There is something called excitement," she thundered, seeking to explain medically the effect that the sight of a T-shirt/jeans-clad female student can have on the male teacher. I wanted to ask her two things:
1. Madam, by the same logic, male doctors should not examine female patients. What if the stethoscope keeps landing at the wrong place out of excitement? Worse, what if they wrote the wrong medicine out of excitement?
2. Madam, if the teachers get excited by the mere sight of a T-shirt-clad female student, do they deserve to be teaching in the first place? Did they complete their PhD's in a jungle, living in a cave?
But I didn't ask her these questions because she was already being hounded. Moreover, I was just a fly on the wall, taking notes: I was determined not to become a participant. By not being a participant, one can write with total objectivity.
But one statement made by the lady keeps ringing in my ears -- and mind you, she is a doctor! When the subject came to young people visiting pubs, she shouted:
"If you see your sister or daughter drinking in a pub, won't you give her one tight slap and drag her home?"
The panelists cringed. And then she thundered again, "I am a doctor, I know the harmful effects of alcohol."
I don't really blame her. She was merely echoing what you call the typical Indian mentality. In my personal experience, I have seen it is the women who have all the fun in the parties and the pubs because they know how to hold their drink unlike the men who are prone to get drunk and therefore more susceptible to the ill-effects of alcohol. But never did Dr Tamilisai say, "If you find your brother or son drinking in a pub, won't you give him one tight slap and drag him home?"
The men are excused, you see. The onus is on the women to be well-behaved and keep the so-called Indian culture together. A man can go out of town on work and gladly romance a colleague or engage a sex worker, nothing happens. His wife might give him hell if she ever finds out, but the society merely winks mischievously. But if a working woman were to do the same, the scandalised society would take it upon itself to brand her a slut.
Indian society is still very primitive and chauvinistic, which does not appreciate a woman taking her own decisions. Even something as simple as having a drink all by herself is likely to be met by raised eyebrows. An Indian woman, if at all she has to drink, must do so only in the company of her husband or boyfriend or when she has a bunch of friends over. If she enjoys a drink all by herself, and if people come to know about it, they call her a 'loose character'. How can a woman enjoy a drink alone? So hard to digest she is having fun without the permission or approval of a man. That is the truth, and no one can deny it.
When I say chauvinism, I don't mean male chauvinism. Women, in my opinion, are the biggest enemies of women. One does not like the idea of another having a good time. Often, such jealousies are the result of grapes being sour. A woman who has never been asked out by a man for a cup of coffee or a drink will always look at couples sitting in a coffee shop or a pub with a tainted vision. Imagine two women living under the same roof, say hostel mates. One gets all the male attention, while the other gets none. You will invariably find the one, who does not get the attention, constantly warning the other: "You must be careful with men. You don't know what they are capable of. Avoid them." But if the deprived woman happens to find attention as well, then man ceases to be an evil creature and the hostel room becomes a rosy place to live in.
It is not too difficult to find one woman sympathising with another for having an abusive or an impotent husband; but if the aggrieved woman happens to have a one-night stand or feels good in the arms of another man, she is instantly branded as loose-character by the same sympathising woman.
and I am with you;
then to hell with you.
That's the kind of emotion that works between women.
It is quite evident from the angry comments that my previous post has attracted. It is the story of a woman called Ms C, who is bold as well as beautiful (and therefore more of a threat to women than men),and who, one night during a party, has no-strings-attached sex with a colleague of her husband in his car. She has a good time, and the next morning she wakes with no sour feelings but only a backache caused by the lack of space in the car. I wrote that how I respected her for being bold enough to enjoy sex for the sake of sex without inventing an emotional excuse.
But no one agreed with me. And then it struck me, why so. I realised that if you are Indian woman, certain rules apply:
1. You should not think of sex unless there is a man who grants legitimacy to your thoughts;
2. You should not even dream of having sex with any man other than the one mentioned above;
3. You can have sex with another man, but for that you need to be sufficiently 'carried away';
4. But the next morning, after being 'carried away' the night before, you must be found choking with guilt, shedding copious tears, even contemplating suicide. It is very important that you show signs of guilt or else the society will put the 'Loose' stamp on your character certificate.
But if you don't comform to these norms, you are branded a slut. And why? Not because of morality -- because no one has been able to define morality -- but only jealousy.
Ms C, after all, is a woman to be jealous about. She is beautiful and she is bold. She falls for the charm of a man and decides to have sex with him, without inventing stories in order to justify her act. Why should she justify it -- and to who? She is pretty much sure what she wants. All she wants is good sex for that night and she gets it. The next morning she does not wake up with suicidal thoughts or shed tears of guilt. She goes to work as usual, ableit with a backache.
Now that's what is needling people, who can't digest the fact that an Indian woman can enjoy sex with a stranger and at the same time wake up the next morning without a trace of guilt. Oh boy, how can a good-looking woman decide to enjoy sex on her own: shouldn't somebody tame her and tell her about moral values?
But no one grudges a man enjoying sex. In fact, the society conspires to see to it that he gets to enjoy it, legitimately or illegimately. But when it comes to women, the society is jealous. Women are a source of enjoyment, how can they seek enjoyment -- it is highly immoral!
I know for a fact that the baiters of Ms C are mostly women, because men would only like her tribe to grow. It is the women who disapprove of her action and the explanation is simple: "How can you enjoy it, you bitch, when none of us can't?"
And finally, a word for those troubled souls who, every time I write on the subject of sex, ask me the same 'What if your wife' question. Such souls never go into the merit of a post and instead choose to get personal and dirty.
Dear Troubled Soul, if you think I am a hypocrite who advocates free sex on one hand and at the same time cringes at the thought of my wife going for it, you are wrong. Perhaps you are the kind who tells himself or herself every now and then, "Shucks, how could I even think about it? What if my spouse did the same to me?" But unlike you, I have the luxury of expressing my thoughts freely because that's the way I want it. If you don't know how to speak your mind you are a vegetable. And my thoughts are neither a slave of my wife's presence, nor is my wife the slave of my presence or my thoughts. We are two individuals who respect each other and who do not let insecurities curb each other. Does having a wife mean that I, as a writer, should not express my thoughts on sex? Does having a wife mean that I cannot stand up and clap for Ms C?
I am here to stand by my beliefs, not to entertain the insecurities that you express.