We are nine months into the 18th year of the 21st century. It would have been good to believe that we’ve evolved as a society. It would have been good to believe that we’ve taken steps towards a future that’s less patriarchal, less misogynistic, less hostile to its women and queer folks than before. But the internet proves me wrong, every single day.
An image of a matrimonial ad that was printed in The Hindu has been doing the rounds on social media. The prospective groom’s list of demands is long, and some of those demands are extremely problematic. This 37-year-old industrialist from Mysore wants a ‘non-feminist’ wife who can cook well and is below 26 years of age.
Before I move from the despicable to the horrifying, I think it’s important to understand the expectations from a non-feminist wife.
Briefly, a non-feminist wife could be expected to accept an inferior and oppressed position in the relationship where the non-feminist husband will call the shots. A non-feminist wife could be expected to accept her role as the primary caregiver of the household. A non-feminist wife could be expected to accept that she was raised to bear children for her non-feminist husband.
It’s just frightening to know that a man would dare to expect another individual to make the conscious decision of giving up their autonomy for him.
I have addressed the despicable, let’s move on to the horrifying.
I found this matrimonial ad when I was tapping through my Instagram stories. A friend had shared along with an image of the ad, screenshots of email responses that contained graphic rape and murder threats.
The Instagram user ‘priyanshu.jpg’ decided to call out the sexist ad and sent an email laced with sarcasm and mockery to the email ID that was mentioned at the end of the ad. She ridiculed the Mysore industrialists’ demands and said that she was ‘very nationalist and anti-feminist’. Talking about her gender, she had written that she identified as a ‘stigmatic forced female identity’ and signed off the mail with “ALL THE WORST TO YOU”.
After the man responded to her email with a rape threat, she urged her Instagram followers to send him ‘feminist rants’ while tagging The Hindu and other social media influencers to spread the word and bring the issue to the national daily’s attention. The man responded to multiple emails with gory details on how he would rape, kill and dismember the other person and their feminist friends and relatives.
To respond to sarcasm and ridicule with such depravity is absolutely unthinkable, needless to say, unacceptable. To think it’s okay to write to another person and tell them how you’d like to shoot at their genitalia and dismember their body is reflective of the gendered power dynamics at work in the society we live in.
Ever since Priyanshu shared her ordeal on Instagram, other social media influencers like comedian Rohan Joshi, iDiva star Kusha Kapila and actor Saloni Chopra also lend a hand in spreading the word and getting The Hindu to pay attention and employ better checks before they print regressive advertisements. The Hindu has since gotten back to Priyanshu’s friend, Ashwin, informing him that they had communicated the matter to the head office and they were discussing it with their legal team and would get back to her as soon as possible. However, The Hindu also printed a horrid disclaimer in today’s paper where they’ve indirectly rid themselves of all responsibility.
One look at Twitter threads and the comments section on Facebook about the ad, Priyanshu’s sarcastic email, the violent response by the man and the shirking of responsibility by The Hindu is enough to convince me how badly we need feminism. We need to fix this. Women and persons of all genders shouldn’t have to live in fear of constant threat and violence. Feminism isn’t just an ideology that you subscribe to, it’s a resolve to be more human.
This instance should compel us to revisit our understanding of patriarchy and its many manifestations, and maybe consider educating ourselves (for those of us who’ve access to resources) out of ignorance.