In homes, women across the world are quietly staging their own little rebellions.
It was an innocuous news snippet tucked away in the newspapers that grabbed my attention. “Bride calls off marriage because groom’s party creates a ruckus when drunk.” This wasn’t a girl from one of the metropolises daring to call off her wedding but a girl from Lucknow, a city in Uttar Pradesh, and one that quite retains its patriarchal nature. This news snippet is significant. It is a harbinger of the quiet fact that women have had quite enough and are refusing to take anymore. No matter what.
You can see signs everywhere. The young girl who records the man masturbating next to her in a public transport bus and posts it on social media. The woman who calls out consistent and endemic misogyny at a pub in Pune. Women who speak out against sexual harassment on social media, and name names. Women who refuse to get married when asked to list out the dishes they know to cook. Female anchors who don’t take being called ‘Baby’ by patronising panellists lying down and demand an apology. Women are standing up tall, linking arms, and taking on the insidious little and big ways in which the patriarchy has been shooting them down and shutting them up all these years.
Did it all begin with #MeToo? Or did #MeToo signal a time that had arrived when enough was enough? What was #MeToo? A call by actress Alyssa Milano for women to post about their experiences of sexual harassment and violence on Twitter. She tweeted, “If all the women who have bee n sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me Too.’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.”
The call saw an outpouring of posts, which crossed millions, across both Twitter and Facebook, flooding timelines, making it shockingly obvious that we had all been staring at the elephant in the room and no one had so far been willing to take it by the tusks. The hashtag triggered conversations about workplace sexual harassment, assault, sexism, and gender violence on social media across ages, demographies and continents.
I read an interesting quote the other day. When men were asked to imagine a female uprising, they imagine a world ruled by women much like men have ruled the world all these years, it said. The interesting point is that men cannot imagine a world based on the social dynamics of equality, having been so used to the dynamic of inequity and control that they have been propagating all these years.
What #MeToo was is a tipping point. A rallying call for the sisterhood to unite and close ranks against sexual predators and assaulters. Skeletons tumbled out of closets; some powerful men got called out. In the entertainment business, shows that headlined these men got pulled off, or they were pulled off the shows and the screenplays rewritten to have them off. The world was acknowledging, with quiet awe and a sudden sense of disquiet, the wrath of women who had finally found their voice.
#MeToo was a movement on social media that echoed offline. For all the criticism that social media activism receives about it being pithy, armchair and non-reflective on real on ground issues, the universal experience that fuelled #MeToo helped it become perhaps the most viral trend globally across a few hours. With #MeToo, every woman who used the hashtag and tweeted was stating she had had enough of her experiences of sexual harassment being normalised and no, she would not stand for it any more.
When power equations shift, the quake that occurs at the levels of worldwide exposes has its aftershocks within the family. In homes, women across the world are quietly staging their own little rebellions. The ascribed notions of household chores being the duty of the woman might be internalised by some, but the new generation of girls getting married no longer consider it their primary duty to ensure the house runs like clockwork. They’re no longer serving themselves last and clearing up the kitchen after all are fed and sated. If anything, they are the ones truly pushing for a marriage to be equal on all fronts, with respect to income, childcare and domestic chores. They’re the ones demanding toilets in the home if there aren’t any, and refusing to get married to the ones who don’t have one. They’re the women calling off marriage talks if the groom’s people talk of dowry. They’re the ones administering simple tests to grooms in the wedding mandap to check their basic education and refusing to marry men theyfigure out have overinflated their academic qualifications. They’re the women who refuse to be stalked by sons of powerful men and file complaints, despite the immense political pressure borne upon them to withdraw the cases, like Varnika Kundu did. Women are leading the fight against FGM in the Bohra Community. A Parsi woman has gone to court for the right to do her parents’ last rites when they pass away, even though she has married out of the community. Women from the Muslim community have pushed and fought for the right to not be divorced through instant triple talaq, which was a Damocles’ sword hanging over every marriage with its unpredictable immediacy. A woman, who converted to Islam to marry the one she loved, was courageous enough to shout out to the world that she had done so under no duress, raising the important issue of when parents need to step back from intervening in decisions made by their adult daughters.
Women are tired of being polite, nice and listening to the men tell them what to eat, wear or whom to mate with. The violence against them continues unabated. A woman was hacked to death on Valentine’s Day by a stalker. An infant was raped a week ago by a relative. A woman has had her hands hacked off by her father-in-law because she asked him to wait for hot water for his bath; the children had to have their bath first to go to school. The violence never ends. The misogyny continues unabated. But women are standing up now, slowly and determinedly and they’re not going to bow down. And men can like it, or well, lump it.