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The Veil Of Prejudice: May I hold It For You?

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By Nishtha Relan:

At one point, she’d wanted to hurl the whole breakfast at the wall. And then she’d remember why it was that men had temper tantrums and women didn’t: clean-up.
― Kristin Hannah, Angel Falls

Whatever women do they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good. Luckily, this is not difficult.”
― Charlotte Whittona

I found these quotes not just witty, but very intelligent too, with the way they lay bare the banality and quaint internalization of the gendered roles our society has injected in us so inconspicuously, so much so that we are blinded to the most outrageous stereotypes and prejudices that have cropped up.


Months have passed, but some of us still feel the sting of one of our honorable minister’s son, Mr. Abhijit Mukherjee, denouncing and dismissing the female at India Gate protesting for justice for the 16th December gang rape victim as ‘highly dented and painted ladies’. His was the voice of a mentality that believes in victim-blaming, and points out objects like chowmein, short clothes, exposed skin, porn, alcohol, and our guts to step out, unfeminine behavior and why the rapists say “she asked for it”. The advocates of morality, our police inspectors, politicians and Khap sarpanch, all perpetrators of patriarchy, might as well blame the girls for having breasts and vaginas, or in fact, being born at all! The idyllic notions of beauty, chastity and virtue still arrest our minds, where we call girls ‘whores’ to insult them. A female employer is still seen as uncommon, other than to titillate the mind. A woman may be a teacher, an astronaut or a defense officer, but she will always be secondary to the husband, because he is ‘the man’.

It is interesting to note that the gender stereotypes do not only apply to the females. It is almost like the stereotypes and prejudices dictate men to be cruel, harsh, indifferent, outgoing, and treating women (other than their mothers and sisters, of course-they are divine figures, as says our culture) as their inferiors, as the weaker sex that needs to be taken care of, which makes males the Alpha protectors. They have to earn the bread and cloth, they have to make sure their wives don’t break out of the conventions, otherwise they won’t be men enough, will they? Gentleness is taken for uxoriousness, and a man who is sensitive is “so gaayyyy, dude”! As if being a homosexual is a crime. Sounds just like us, doesn’t it?

So now that we have realized where the problem lies, wouldn’t it be so wonderful if we could try and edit the lessons we have been given to inhale? The change starts with us; it runs at the speed we can carry it with. Our parents were burdened by the strict ‘values’ that their elders taught them, but they can see the threads of society changing colors. We have the liberty to differentiate between ‘moral values’ and irrational prejudices. And we know that grazing in a herd is so passé! We can break down the gender roles, and see that girls can love death metal music as well as some guys can, that they feel insecure only because they have been trained to question their own importance. Imagine for a moment your future life with a possible partner. Wouldn’t you rather have a brainy, confident, accommodating partner rather than a culturally shaped specimen of patriarchal design?

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  1. Raj

    Why the hate against Abhijit Mukherji ? He was pointing out (mistakenly) that it was the page 3 types who were in it for the media attention. I don’t think he had anything to do with victim-blaming or suggesting “rajsic”foods (so-called heat producing foods) as the cause of rapes.Where are you getting this from?
    And as for calling “whores”, the stigma against prostitution is deeply embedded in women too. I haven’t heard of any women’s groups arguing for women to freely engage in prostitution (though it is legal in India). I personally support the right of any individual male or female to engage in consensual sex in exchange for money, since it is nobody elses business on what terms they decide to have consensual sex.
    Regarding female employer being uncommon, that’s true since women (unlike men) are not expected to prove their value to the society before they are allowed to procreate. But only to titillate the mind? Seriously?

    And in the next paragraph you say men are too shackled by gender stereotypes. Ever asked the question why? Because for countless centuries men, especially young men, have been brainwashed into thinking themselves as the pawns of the society, whose value is measured by what they contribute to the society. They have been forced to fight wars, to defend and to build the society, to work themselves to death providing for their wife and kids. To achieve this end, they are taught to disregard their hopes and dreams, thus turning them into unfeeling and cold robots. Such behavior is rewarded and such men are called “successful”. And regarding the so-called “sensitive” men, when was the last time he got any respect or affection from the opposite sex, who are forever fixated on “successful” men?

  2. Nishtha Relan

    Raj, I realise that his ‘mistake’ of a comment was meant to be against the superficial attention seekers. However, if you remember, he made this ill-timed, misogynistic remark against the women protesters who weren’t students, as if only students were allowed to show solidarity to the victim, and further,(I quote here)”I can see many beautiful women among them – highly dented-painted – they’re giving interviews on TV, they’ve brought their children to show them the scenes”, which was highly irrelevant to the immediate concerns of justice. Not him, per se, but the sexist strains in his remark had much to do with the stupid suggestions that Haryana khaps gave. Don’t you see how it all is inter-connected and ever-growing? I am not making this up.

    Besides, you should have seen how I suggested what you just expounded on. That the stigma, the stereotypes, work as well as they do only because people have been brain-washed, mean as well as women. While women believe that they need to be virtuous and frail and beautiful according to the stereotypes of female beauty and morality, the same stereotypes inhabit the men’s minds to make them further dictate it to their sons. I completely agree with you, it is all ingrained. What I fail to see is how you got the impression that i am suggesting otherwise.

    I am not blaming all the men for all of it. I am just begging and entreating them to think for themselves and try to see how they have been brainwashed, and how they can get out of the vicious circle.Not that hard to see, really.

    1. Raj

      Yes his remarks were unfortunately timed and I don’t support them at all but does it imply what you said : “His was the voice of a mentality that believes in victim-blaming, and points out objects like chowmein, short clothes, exposed skin, porn, alcohol, and our guts to step out, unfeminine behavior and why the rapists say “she asked for it”.” His overall theme was about how nobody in the urban areas cared when rural and lower-caste women were brutally raped (including things like inserting red hot iron rods into the vagina) but instantly started protesting when someone from the urban areas was brutally raped. I agree, we should condemn all rapes and his remarks didn’t help the situation but I think he was blasted way beyond that was necessary.

      And regarding “begging and entreating them” to think for themselves, I could turn that around and say the same things to women : Stop allowing your sons, husbands and brothers to be made to work in dangerous situations. Stop expecting them to be the breadwinners always.
      And especially to young girls, don’t take part in arranged marriages and while looking for mates, stop looking just for “successful and powerful men”, since very often they’ll be dominating jerks. Give a signal that you are interested in the individual and you aren’t just marrying to please your parents or to lead a comfortable life.
      Think about this. Arranged marriages used to be the norm in all societies across the world. A guy couldn’t get married until he could please the parents of the girl, which meant first he had to prove his value to the society. He had to be “successful” first. The community also had to approve this marriage since we were a very tribal society back then. Destroy this system of arranged marriages and suddenly both men and women have to hunt for their own mates. It is no longer a cold game of statistics where parents decide based on his age, caste, income, religion etc. Now you actually need to know the person in and out before marriage. There is a big role to be played by the modern young women. She has to say no to arranged marriages and pursue pre-marital romantic relationships. This isn’t just about men changing.
      I am not disagreeing with you over the points you raised, just taking them one step forward

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