How often have you come across memes or videos on social media that paint ‘aunties’ as anti-feminist and regressive? I’m sure you’ve come across it more than once. The irony here is that most of the posts I’ve seen are uploaded by ‘feminist’ pages. One might think: what’s so wrong about calling out ‘judgmental aunties’ who comment on our weight, unmarried status, clothing and more? Well, when you shame those aunties in the name of feminism, I think it’s ignorant.
Many people including self-identified feminists participate in shaming aunties on online platforms and in real life as well. We consider them an obstacle to our feminist emancipation. After all, we all know the oldest trick in the book is to pit women against each other.
But, riddle me this. Why are the aunties like that? What shapes their thought process? Why do they hate crop tops and short skirts so much? Please remember that the line between a ‘person perpetrating a problematic system’ and ‘the system’ is very thin.
Aunties who perpetrate the untoward system are also a victim of the system. This is how the system thrives. It turns its victims into perpetrators to as to continue the chain. However, our fight is against patriarchy, and not its victims, such as the aunties in our society. And when I say victim, I mean victim! I don’t intend to defend all products of patriarchy, like rapists. But we must not turn feminism into a cult and shame aunties who don’t know any better.
Feminism is a movement, so let it be one. What gives you the right to just assume that these aunties aren’t fighting patriarchy in their own way? Remember that biases can be both conscious and unconscious. Sometimes, it becomes almost impossible to notice these biases as they get deeply embedded within our beliefs. In reality, these biases manifest in non-malicious ways that we don’t realise or stop to think about when they’re being detrimental.
Nonetheless, please know that un-biasing can be a fairly easy process once we set our minds to it. Getting rid of biases, especially against our aunties, can work wonders. Shaming aunties who belong to a period when patriarchy had a stronger hold on us just doesn’t cut it, especially if you’re doing it under the name of feminism.
Talk to them and help them understand your perspective, take help of documented data if needed. We have better resources that we have access to and they didn’t back in their time. They didn’t go through data as we do. I mean, do we even go through it ourselves? Or are we just forming our beliefs on the basis of sentimental quotes by feminist pages on social media? Why are we constructing aunties as antithetical to modern values?
I have seen ‘feminists’ dismiss aunties to be not worthy of engagement. Do you know what that does? It results in the appropriation of feminism exclusively by young people. Consequently, it leads to disregard for older women who have fought in their own ways to reclaim their space and discourse in their time.
The stereotype that women from the generation before us who had an upbringing different from ours care orthodox and conservative views is unjust, overcritical, elitist and anti-feminist.
Taking a particular prototype, incorporating it with exaggerated characteristics and turning it into a joke for likes on social media is not cool. You forget that you’re shaming the same women who have indeed made things better for their future generations, whether through their activism, resistance or even compliance.
In no way do I support moral policing, character assassination or more by ‘aunties’, but I also don’t support painting all of them with the same brush and making a caricature out of them.
Instead, enlighten them and engage with them. But please don’t think of them as women who need ‘saving’. Watch out for that saviour complex, eh? Recognise the structural problem and act through people instead of shifting the blame on people themselves.