Does vengeance equal feminism?

Guest Post by wordssetmefreee

Warning – spoilers on ‘Gone Girl’ – book/movie review

Has anyone read the book, “Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn?  A NY Times bestseller that was made into a movie starring Rosamund Pike and Ben Affleck, the book/movie is disturbing on many fronts.

It is meant to be dark humor when intelligent, manipulative, psychopathic Amy gets revenge on her mediocre, selfish, entitled husband Nick, through an intricately planned out and meticulously executed series of chilling crimes.

On the surface, it seems like we’re finally seeing a complex woman character, a rarity in bestsellers and Hollywood.  Amy isn’t sweet, warm and compassionate.  She IS the bad guy.  And there are reasons given for the warping of her mind as well – the emotional manipulation of her parents.

However, as you progress through the novel, Amy goes on to concoct a false murder charge against her husband (using compellingly manufactured evidence), and when that begins to fail, uses her innocent ex boyfriend in her schemes, then murders him, then accuses him of rape and abuse, returns to her husband but continues to manipulate him with threats of turning the media and law enforcement against him.

I found the plot severely undermining the very real abuse that countless women face and it almost seems to match the thinking of men’s rights activists who constantly talk about “false rape charges” and “false abuse charges” as their reason for opposition to rape and abuse laws. In reality, the law enforcement in many countries shames and silences rape victims rather than taking their reports seriously; yet, what we have here is a twilight zone of a woman victimizing several men who slighted her as well as ensnaring the entire media and law enforcement.

Gillian Flynn considers herself a feminist and claims that her book is also feminist because of its “non-conformity to the traditional perception of women as innately good characters“. Somehow, her argument doesn’t quite fly.  So, Amy is not good and sweet and boring.  However, Amy’s character feels like a comic book evil temptress, complete with the perfect sexy body and dark, destructive mind.  She’s completely stereotypical in that she brings to life the worst nightmares of misogynists.

The book is bursting at the seams with other male/female stereotypes.  Nick is clumsy, reticent, somewhat clueless, a little selfish, a “little” unfaithful, but essentially good-hearted.  Amy is classy, privileged, articulate, intelligent, and if a woman is privileged/intelligent, then of course it follows that she must also be manipulative and evil.  Nick’s mediocrity makes him “innocent” and his selfishness is “mostly unconscious” and his unfaithfulness is overshadowed (and forgiven?) by Amy’s incredible capacity for vengeance.  The “evil media” takes advantage of his male inability to pretend grief, when what he’s actually feeling is relief. (makes you want to give him a hug, doesn’t it?) Amy’s intelligence however is used for a destructive purpose. Maybe another argument for men’s preference for “simple women”?   When asked to describe his wife, Nick actually says in frustration, “She’s complicated!”  (Sorry, Nick, a woman is a human and humans are complicated, what you should’ve got yourself is a toy if you wanted something simpler.)

Other charming women characters in the book include Amy’s emotionally manipulative mother who has used her daughter for her personal fame and riches, a media siren who is bent upon making Nick’s life hell, a 20 something voluptuous student who throws herself at Nick (home wrecker?) and crime groupies who want to use Nick and take selfies of themselves with him. The only real woman in the book is Nick’s rough-around-the-edges twin sister, Margo, who also co-owns the bar with her brother. She tries to help her immature brother despite her frustration with his mistakes. She tries to remain fair to Amy even though she dislikes her. But even Margo lets us down when she says “complicated (woman) means b***h”.

Here’s a quote from the book, which has been used to illustrate the underlying feminist tone of the book –

“Men always say that as the defining compliment, don’t they? She’s a cool girl. Being the Cool Girl means I am a hot woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer, loves threesomes and jams hot dogs into her mouth …. Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined manner and let their men do whatever they want. …. Men actually think this girl exists. ….. And the Cool Girls are even more pathetic: They’re not even pretending to be the woman they want to be, they’re pretending to be the woman a man wants them to be. …… Maybe he’s a vegetarian, so Cool Girl loves seitan and is great with dogs; or maybe he’s a hipster artist, so Cool Girl is a tattooed, bespectacled nerd who loves comics.”

In the above sense, the book does hint at the irony of it all – the real progress that women have made in the social and emotional realm of relationships is still minuscule.  We are leading nations, heading successful companies, but who are we at home, really?  A Nooyi who is ordered to go pick up the milk?  A Sandberg who suffers mommy guilt?

Here, I began to have hope.  I thought the author was portraying how women are forced into certain roles by society and in the process, let their whole lives revolve around selfish, uncaring men who want to see a sugar coated, simplified, corseted version of them.  And I hoped that Amy would eventually refuse to be straight jacketed, that she would emerge free from the selfish expectations of society.

However what does Amy DO ABOUT THIS?  What does she do to fight this cool girl burden and set herself free?  She becomes one!!!  How un-empowering is that!  She becomes this cool girl that Nick wants her to be. And Nick predictably falls head over heels for her.  But she’s mad at him for making her do this, so she takes revenge.  There is absolutely NOTHING feminist about this.

Another argument that Flynn put forth for feminism is that women are sick of being used and brushed aside, and when Amy finally begins to take back control in the relationship, when she starts calling the shots, it’s a win for the women’s cause. On some level, is Amy’s viciousness deeply satisfying to all of us women, who are familiar with some form of oppression or the other?  I thought about this but could not find a shred of fulfillment in the self-destructive nature of vengeance.  The argument that getting even feels good is faced with one problem – relationships are not held together with a gun to someone’s head. Freeing oneself from abuse doesn’t mean abusing the abuser.  You are no longer free when you inflict pain on someone, because you are taking on a burden. Taking back control of her own life is what Amy should’ve done, not taking control of Nick’s life. Ever heard of a thing called divorce, Amy? So, much more simpler that revenge.

Feminism is not about being a martyr, nor is it about taking revenge on men for the lost opportunities, but to demand equality in all spheres of life.  And this is what makes the book extremely disturbing – because it taps into the age-old fears of men – that women are irrational, nasty, manipulative creatures, sexually controlling and bordering on insanity, who if given the power (equality misconstrued as power), can easily destroy men to bits.  This mindset of fear is at the root of misogyny and the book does a great job of amplifying it.

Gone Girl is oddly reminiscent of the film noir movies of the 1940s, which possibly reflected men’s fears about women’s newly emerging post-war independence.  A series of films had at the center of the plot, a troubled, brooding male (Robert Mitchum, Fred MacMurray, or Humphrey Bogart) who succumbed to the evil charms of an intelligent, seductive woman.  The outcome of this interaction would be destructive for both of them. The men invariably were lead astray on to a twisted path of deception, murder, and mayhem under the influence of these femme fatales.

With this book/movie (Gone Girl), the virgin-whore dichotomy is still firmly in place.  Men continue to feel torn about choosing between the “simple, good, non-threatening, but boring woman” and the “interesting, sexy, intelligent but ultimately destructive woman”.  Neither kind of woman exists in reality.  The only place they exist is in the fear-ridden minds of misogynists, and the books and movies that flow from them.

If you read the book or watched the movie, please share your thoughts on it. If you didn’t, please share your thoughts on the concept of vengeance, getting even, and feminism, or on the distorted/appropriate portrayal of strong women characters in books and movies.

“So why do we wear clothes again??”

‘I wish one had the liberty to slap these kids to senses and send them back to kindergarten to be taught…”Why do we wear clothes again??”’ (From J’s comment here)

So why do we wear clothes?

1. For protection from heat and cold? Most civilisations that did not need protection from cold did not have rigid rules for body being covered up.

Did traditional Indian clothing have blouses or shirts? Men and women wrapped a dhoti or sari, children generally wore nothing. Body was decorated with flowers, ‘alta’, turmeric, sandal wood paste, kohl and jewelry, wanting to look good was not considered inappropriate.

When invaders arrived from locations where clothing was necessary for protection from extreme heat or cold, they also brought along the concept of ‘shame’ and modesty. In ‘Chokher Bali‘ the newly wed refuses to wear a blouse with sari, because it was too British (modern).

Once the society starts covering women up, Margaret Atwood describes how the threshold for what is found sexually attractive changes, soon even a glimpse of an ankle becomes sexually provocative.

One example: Pakizah has the hero falling in love with Meena Kumari – after he sees her beautiful feet. Was that love?

2. Do we wear clothes to look better – to look sexually attractive?

Was there this fear that if women did not cover up, men might stop finding a mere glimpse of a part of a woman’s body attractive? (Margaret Atwood, Handmaiden’s Tale)

Mr Balvinder Singh’s experience in Nagaland shows making rules about covering up a woman’s body, is the beginning of objectification of women, to ensure ‘excitement’ does not ‘turn into monotony’.

“The men wore only a loincloth and the females wrapped just a shawl below their waists. The women folk of all ages were seen working in the fields, carrying fire wood or hay for the animals, pounding barley, washing clothes at village water points, knitting on hand looms (almost every house had a hand loom where the women would knit shawls etc) or attending to other such daily chores of life, wearing nothing on top.

While a small cleavage visible under the thin dupatta or through the pallu of a woman’s saree is certainly a pleasant sight for any man worth his salt, without harbouring any malafide thoughts in the mind, but there in the villages of Nagaland it was an anti climax to see the dangling pairs of bare boobs, available to look at in abundance in all shapes and sizes. Initially they were a cause of some excitement, which was natural , but gradually the excitement turned into monotony. I was reminded of the words of a famous poet that the ‘beauty that is veiled looks more beautiful’.” [Click here to read the entire article]

3. To prevent offending the sensibilities of those who think covering up is a religious/social/cultural/safety requirement?

This is extremely subjective.

Some people find even the glimpse of a woman’s eyes offends their religious sentiments, some find sleeveless blouses offensive, for many only traditional clothing no matter how much it convers or reveals is acceptable.

Some think it’s okay to wear anything so long as one can ‘carry  it off’.

Most people simply resist any change. So in most places,  there are rules regarding not just skin, but also how much of which clothing should not show.

So the sight of boxers and bra straps offends some people.

For many other people’s legs (shorts, bermudas), calves, arms (sleeveless) and knees (skirts), midriffs (saris, lehengas), shape, curves (fitted clothing) are offensive.

In  India showing one’s back and midriff is acceptable when one is wearing a sari, but not if the outfit is Western. Nigeria disagrees! Read Nita’s post – ‘Sari an immodest garment?’

So it seems what’s okay in some societies is not acceptable in some other societies and the rules change with times, all the time. Most societies seem to accept and rigidly follow their current – generally unwritten norms.

How do these norms get created? And how do they change?

How is it that more of these rules apply to women?

Could these rules be a means to control women’s sexuality?

Why do you think do humans wear clothes?

Related Posts: 

The way a woman dresses.

No Jeans for an Indian daughter in law.

Not just a pair of jeans.

All teachers except Indian women can do their job well enough in Western clothes?

If she doesn’t seem to see your logic, will you support her the way she can be supported?

Mothers are known to say they stay in abusive relationships ‘for sake of their children’. ‘An email from a daughter whose mother endured everything because she did not want to ruin her daughters’ lives’ shows what the children (for whom the mothers say they suffered the abuse) go through.

Neo Indian had also blogged about, ‘Mommy’s secret: The monster in my house (an essay by a 4th grader)’.

It is generally agreed and understood that victims should remove themselves from such situations.

What stops them?

In fairytales, you have the good characters and the bad characters. One is easily recognizable as evil, and the other is 100% good. Good witch vs. Bad Witch. Hero vs. Villain. Real life doesn’t work that way though. In abusive relationships, the abuser can easily transform from beast to beauty. It’s a misconception that abuse happens 24/7.

The same man, who calls you every name in the book, will act nurturing when you talk about a fight with your mom.

The father, who is sexually abusing you, is offering to help and console you when you just lost your job.

The friend, who humiliates you in front of others and jabs at your self-esteem, constantly buys you gifts and says you’re the best.

The abused person will struggle with recognizing the abuse, because “he/she is nice to me sometimes! He/she has done this and that for me. They can’t be that bad.”

It’s these random acts of kindness, which is during the honeymoon phase, that keep us emotionally dependent on the abuser.

[Click to read the entire article.]

If a victim does not leave, do they still deserve support?

They do. And the first step is understanding ‘why don’t they just leave’.

Supporting a domestic violence victim can be difficult and confusing. One day they will be telling you their partner is a complete jerk. The next day that same person will be starry eyed and defending them. You will be left scratching your head and thinking “What the?!”

If you find yourself in the situation of helping someone in a violent relationship, educate yourself on domestic violence and the cycle it follows. (Given below)

Listen to your friend without judgment.

Don’t belittle their concerns.

Don’t try to hustle them on to a more pleasant subject.

Don’t tell them what they “should” do.

You are not them, and you are not going through it.

Don’t try to better their situation with woes about your own partner.

Your friend needs all the strength and support they can get right now. Support them wherever you can, as long as you are not placing yourself in danger.

If you believe their life is in danger, go to the police.

At times it may be confusing and frustrating to see your friend making progress, only to go back to their partner time after time.

Please don’t give up on them.

While their actions may seem bizarre to you, try to understand that they are undergoing massive emotional turmoil. Sometimes, all you can do is be a shoulder to cry on until they are ready to leave.

Try not to become frustrated with them.

Just reassure them that you will always be there to help when they need you. A safe space and your kind words may be a beacon of hope for your lost and lonely friend. [Click to read the entire article.]

The Domestic Violence Cycle [From here]

The domestic violence cycle involves 6 stages: build-up, stand-over, explosion, remorse, pursuit, and honeymoon. Not all stages are present in every situation.

1.) The Build-Up Phase

The abuser’s anger rises. The relationship does not need to be the cause of the anger.

2.) The Stand-Over Phase

Tension is in the air and the victim may have a sense of ‘walking on eggshells.’ They know that a fight is just around the corner, and may alter their behaviour to try to ward it off.

3.) The Explosion Phase

The abuse occurs. This can be emotional, sexual, financial or physical.

4.) The Remorse Phase

After an incident, the abuser may feel remorse about what they have done, or fear that the victim will tell someone. They may become very apologetic.

5.) The Pursuit Phase

The abuser tries to win the victim back by making promises of changing, going to counselling, giving up drugs or alcohol, buying gifts for the victim, and begging her to stay.

6.)The Honeymoon Phase

The abuser is very sweet, charming, affectionate, and loving during this phase. The good times of the relationship happen in this time. The honeymoon phase is what makes it so difficult for a victim to leave the abuser.

The victim may also reject help from others she has sought in previous phases. The relationship appears happy and normal. Soon, however, the tension begins to build again, and the cycle re-enters the build-up phase.

The Queensland Police website has this visual example of the domestic violence cycle.

My personal opinion is that the abuse follows a downward spiral as opposed to a cycle, as it ususally gets more violent and the stages are completed in a shorter space of time.

This is how I see it:

Desi Girl says,

If you know someone is being abused this is how you can help:

A) Information is Power. Inform yourself about intimate partner violence (IPV) how abuse works, learn about characteristics of an abuser, what happens to the abused and what is cycle of violence.

B) If you suspect someone is being abused, assure them you are genuinely concerned and you believe them. Listen carefully.

C) Tell them being abused is not their fault. The fault lies with the abuser for they made a choice to abuse her. Think. Abusers don’t hit their friends, bosses or strangers then why do they hit just their partners and children? They hit them because they know they can get away with it.

[Read the article here]

An email from a daughter whose mother endured everything because she did not want to ruin her daughters’ lives.

Dear IHM,

I have a story to tell. And I am reaching out because I am conflicted with thoughts so raw and passionate that I feel guilty, powerless and plain weak. Please don’t ever think I am belittling your pain, but I will gladly take all your pain if I had a chance to live in a home like yours and experience all the love that you have to give even if that means its only for a few years. I yearn and crave for love, having lived the life that I have lived, I don’t seem to know how to give or receive love gracefully.

My parents married in 1986. They are closely related and my father is 11 years and a generation older than my mother. He was an engineer educated and trained abroad. My mother herself was a post graduate and it seemed a good match.

My grandma tells me to this day how she saw the red flags and warned against the union but my grandpa and society just went ahead with it anyway. My grandma being related to my dad’s mom, has tended to frequent bursts of insanity for no reason. Fed her and washed her after she would lock herself up in a room and not open the door to anyone. Little did anyone know that the streak of madness could be passed on genetically and in a boy child could manifest in a way much more destructive. So for years after my mother married and moved abroad with my father, they slowly started seeing the signs of madness. And after I was born and then some years later my sister came along, and when we moved back to India it only turned worse.

My sister and I have not had a normal childhood to say the least. But somehow we managed to make it through to the other end, not unscathed however, and it’s the miracle of my mother’s care and sacrifice. My sister, I am glad didn’t have to bear the brunt of my dad’s madness, because to this day she is the little one. Not that he cares for her or really connect with her because she is the little one, but at least he leaves her alone. But for my mother and me, it was living in hell. The verbal abuse, the physical abuse, the humiliation, the animalistic rage – it completely changed me. But I have to say that my spirit remained unbroken. And that again was thanks to the strength I saw in my mother. She would endure everything and so did my grandparents and my maternal uncle, because they didn’t want to ruin the lives of the two girls. To this day she endures it for that reason – her endpoint being when my sister marries (I am now married) and our lives are ‘settled’. My only fear is that she may not make it through to the end.

For years he would live outside of India with our mom raising us in India and that was the saving grace and the opportunity for us to see normal and be normal. But even when not in India, he would still torture her through phone calls. He made her give up her job and thus made her more dependant. We were in a strange predicament. We were in a social circle of relatives and friends who were educated and rising in class. So there is this certain expectation. We were meeting those expectations financially because my father, not being able to survive life in India due to his madness, would happily retreat into the low key life on some far away country where he could work a few hours and be a hermit inside his house and earn good money. He could not be friends with people in his own age and “social status” or background. He was an engineer and didn’t have a single colleague as a friend. His friends were the single, poorly educated drivers and clerks. Now many of you may think I am judgmental, but there is fundamentally something wrong with this situation. It showed an inferiority complex. Someone who never held himself in good esteem, someone who had to constantly hide from society and people of the same stature, even when there was no reason to. So even when in India, we never went to gatherings when invited because he was too ashamed to go. And even when we went he would start a fight with someone and use words so crass, we didn’t want to go to any gathering as a family after that. People slowly started shunning us.

Childhood was an extended period of self doubt and humiliation that I never want to go back to. The only good parts were the summer and holiday trips to my grandparents place. In the apartment complex we moved into when I was about 13, we avoided going out to play because we were constantly humiliated. Neighbors and friends started giving strange looks and would murmur among themselves because not a fortnight went by without my dad yelling at my mom in the middle of the night and her screaming to his beating and kicking her. My sister and I would cry in silence, while we cried for our mother, we were constantly worried about people hearing and the humiliation. To a child in an unstable household, living among rich and well balanced families, public perception means the world. I would have give anything to be able to stand before society with my head held high and not cringe about the place where I came from. I still cringe when I talk to my mom about the things my father still does.

My earliest memory of having to watch what I say was when I was 6. Now thinking back, it wasn’t because I was saying something wrong, in fact to any other parent it would have been endearing, but it was because any little thing would set him off. He would beat and kick and spit on my mom in front of her parents and they would just cry on, powerless. We would come back from school and within seconds of looking at the state of the house and the expression/puffiness on my mom’s face, had to calculate what to and what not to say. We would be yelled at and beaten if we left the house without saying goodbye or went to bed without saying goodnight. To this day goodbyes and goodnights have a sinister shadow of evil in my ears.  And I can talk a lot about the years of oppression and abuse, the sheer madness of an evil kind.

But the point of this essay is how it’s taken a toll on my sister and me when we entered youth and now adulthood. It’s scarred our lives and our abilities to live a normal life and have normal relationships. Much more for me than my sister, because I usually received the brunt of the madness, and I will take that ten times over if my sister had the opportunity to start over life without a trace of all that happened to us.

I never made friends in school or college. Yes I had friends, but little did I know that sharing my life with them would make them so uncomfortable that they would instantly move away. I learnt it the hard way and stopped telling people much. I didn’t completely stop until I finished my undergraduate after having learnt that my friends who I had confided to had thought I was weird. So I stopped telling anyone but 3 other souls to this day. I had zero confidence in myself. I was not a carefree young thing – I was constantly burdened by what I would have to go back home to. Financially we were doing well but there was nothing to show for it when it came to happiness of the soul. To this day I have a wall around me and I don’t let anyone close for the fear of being hurt or humiliated.

My sister has been a little different, partly because she was free from anxiety as she wasn’t attacked as much and also because she is probably built stronger like my mother. She has many more friends and a strong attitude towards life. We haven’t been much of friends until the last year or two. We grew close after some tough times.

When I was in college back in India, I was so vulnerable. Any guy could sway me and one did – he didn’t have to do much because I was so vulnerable. He said the right things, took advantage and left abruptly. The humiliation was intense. No one knew, at least that what I think. It was painful but I learnt to move on. Focused on the next thing in life and the pain was gone in a year. I am not sure if it made me stronger or weaker or if it was wrong or right. It’s all just a blur. After all the years of oppression, I guess at the time it looked like a way out. And I was vulnerable and weak.

So that is probably why I was so mad and yet forgiving when the same thing happened to my sister. She met a guy when in high school, was taken advantage of and promptly dumped. Only this time, the whole world knew and news reached my mother and me. My father was kept out of the loop because he would turn on one of his mad rages which wouldn’t really help the situation. My mother was broken because in my society a girl’s sanctity lies in being a virgin and her good behavior and its everything when it comes time to get her married. I told my mom that I felt it was inevitable and it is part of a process through which she grows spiritually and mentally. I don’t attach much value to virginity any more, although my part of the country still does and it would be sacrilegious of me to say so. The way I see it, this incident in both my sister and my life was like a lesson on learning to respect oneself and that you (if the universe is merciful) are the key to your freedom and how a guy on hormones isn’t. And we weren’t going to learn it any other way than this.

After that my sister enrolled in college and she seems to be on track for her future. Although she doesn’t work as hard as she could and may not be terribly competitive to succeed, I feel that’s alright.

Life changed for the better when I came to the US for my post graduation. I loosened up, gained confidence, made some good friends who are friends to this day. I still have only maybe 2 or 3 friends but I think given my past, that’s the best I can manage and have come to terms with that and am happy. I had an arranged marriage and the first 2 years were a nightmare, half because my baggage and inability to love and half because of my husband’s baggage. But in the last year, things have changed for the better and I think we might make it and I feel like I can have a happy life – a normal one. I dream of the day when I will have a child and will watch my husband care for and love my child. And I promise myself that I will not leave my child with my father for a second, I want no part of his evil to touch my child.

My sister, mom and I call each other to talk through tough times. My mom stays silent, not disagreeing however, when we talk about how we just might be a million times happier without men in our lives. Just the three of us, we could be so much happier. Although she wants to see us married and happily settled with our own families, I think it resonates with her that MAN hasn’t done much good to our lives, we were and are probably better off by ourselves, rich or poor. So I am married and my sister is in her last year of college, looking forward to the next step – marriage, post graduation, a job or all three. And still the trauma never really is removed from our lives. There of course isn’t any direct physical or mental abuse. My father has toned down since my wedding, he is very aware that if he were himself, that would be the end of my marriage. My sister in boarding school minimizes her visits home and has a group of friends who she cares for. A group who help her with her baggage and teach her to open up and be more forthcoming in relationships, less guarded. And I am grateful that she is getting that earlier on. My dream is for her to marry a good person and lead a happy life. After all that’s happened is that too much to ask?

We may have moved out of home and learned to breathe and really look at what we missed out in life. Some we are able to learn and imbibe now, some are just lost and we are too old to learn or inculcate. But we are still gripped in constant fear for our mother and shame hearing his latest antics. It’s hard to hear about the torture she still has to endure.

My father still beats my mother and forces her to do all the work, at home and to deal with the business outside. My mother sometimes says it’s easier for her to sort things out rather than have him yell obscenely at the workers who then just create insurmountable problems for us  (her). She takes care of administration, payouts, personnel management, bills, pretty much everything. For him it’s constant fighting with the, workers, the staff, and then my mother. Everyone around knows he is mad and have witnessed episodes – they say it’s more frequent now. I know for a fact in their hearts everyone knows the sacrifices my mother had made and probably wonder why she still sticks around. But it still doesn’t lighten the burden of humiliation and embarrassment. My sister and I are mortified by his behavior and just want to crawl under a bed. In gatherings and events where families stand proud together, we just want to be left alone, far from the humiliation.

Lately, in the last few months, the lunacy has gone up a notch – more perverse, more disgusting, more inhuman. He is 61 and my mother is 50. He has grown daughters and now stemming from all his inferiorty complex and inability to be successful or happy, he has turned on my mom in a sick way – why are you talking to that young man? What did he say that you find so funny? Why are you wearing your blouse so low? Ask the milkman to just leave the milk and go, he shouldn’t be talking to you. Who are you wearing these jewels to impress? The never ending perversity of the sick twisted mind. You would never believe this is a guy who excelled in his field and was well educated, trained and had exposure to the world. It makes my blood boil. And my mother now tells me he has gotten into the habit of texting this girl of 20. He is 61 and the girl is 20 – the messages are innocent just matter of fact, but still inappropriate. My father has never a day in his life taken an ounce of effort to connect with his daughters, get to know them, be a father. And here he is in his 60th year, enjoying texting and messaging a 20 year old girl. I half die every day fearing the dangerous implications of his wild insane behavior. In the type of society where we come from that would have a huge impact on my sister’s marriage options, if not destroy it.

I want to be rid of this person in my life. I dream and fantasize that he would die in an accident or he will hang himself some day. He really should because if a person tortured everyone around them and In the end is unhappy in his own life, there is no point in living and would really be doing everyone a favor. I have been struggling with thought about the meaning and purpose of my life. I see people who have had stable families, enough money to never worry and have been free-willed and spirited – and will probably have things working out for them for eternity. And I fight against the unfairness of life. Childhood was a nightmare and we barely made it through to the other end, semi-normal, and life is still being uncooperative. I look up to the sky and want to scream “What more do you want of me?” I am happy to lead a semi successful and happy life with my mom, my sister and my husband’s family if only my father would leave us alone.

We don’t ever tell anyone our story. It’s a struggle to keep up straight faces in society and not feel inferior, because we truly are like any other person. But we have learnt to maintain low profiles our whole life, just to avoid a scene or embarrassment. Sadly, its become my approach to life to this day with work and friends and family – and my sister approaches it the same way. All that extra caution, the despondent feeling when you see families together achieving great things. It’s the desperation to show the world we are normal and failing miserably. Years, of kind words, gentle suggestions, firm admonitions, indirect advice – nothing worked on the mad man that he is.

In the end I know that if we came out and said our story, people would say, Leave! Why do you still stay and endure and suffer.  I don’t have an answer. I can, my sister can, but my mother for some reason wont. I think she secretly waits for my sister to be married and leave and then she might, but not yet. I don’t know if divorce courts are good about getting a woman her alimony. I don’t know if restraining orders exist in India that could keep you alive with a scorned raging man a woman has just divorced stalking you.

I fear the murmurs of society talking about my family, how well they were doing and how badly they have fallen, while they never knew that all along it was hell. And sometimes I feel he deserves to die and leave us all the money because it essentially is the wealth (however small) that my mother worked so hard to build and hold together. Why should she be the one going to court and fighting for it? If there was any sense of fairness in this universe, he would just die and vanish from our lives. But the universe works in mysterious ways that I don’t understand. Why some people have it easy without having to choose, while others suffer no matter how hard they try to make it better is beyond me.

Thanks for listening,

Cluless.

When she says she no longer wishes to stay with him, why isn’t her word enough?

“She called me on the very day she committed suicide. She said that she was being battered so badly by her husband that she no longer wished to stay with him. But I persuaded her to give the marriage some more time.”[Link]

(Thanks for the link Momofrs)
Juhi Nakawa’s post-mortem report has revealed signs of struggle and other internal injuries. Her husband and mother in law are absconding. Her mother could have saved her life, but like the mothers here and here, this mother too did not take her daughter seriously. That’s our culture.

I received Momofrs mail while writing about why our gender ratio will not improve until we start  ‘respecting’ women. Respecting women would mean we acknowledge that women are equal citizens, human or people. Just like the rest of the world.

Meaning, we don’t respect them because they brought us into this world (so if they don’t want to be mothers, they don’t deserve respect?)

We don’t respect them because they sacrificed for us or because they are stronger and more loving, ‘they make a house a home‘, ‘they complete men’ or they are beautiful ( 🙄 ), they are wiser etc. We respect them even if they are none of these things, just because they are people, just like everybody else.

Respecting women would mean we acknowledge that they are the best and only people who can decide if they should stay in a marriage. Their word would be enough.

Yes it comes as a shock to their parents who have thought of nothing but her marriage all her life, maybe spent all their savings as dowry in the hope that she is treated humanely by her in laws and spouse.

Yes there are other problems. The neighbour’s third cousin will point a finger at the upbringing. Why do the parents care? Because they fear she will not find another match. Why not stop seeing Getting-married-and-Staying-married as the only goal in her life? A huge number of a woman’s problems are solved once marriage becomes an option instead of being the only goal in her life.

This might just save her life. Not only from abusive spouse or in laws, but also from her parents before or soon after she is born.

And even if her life is not at risk (let’s assume) then doesn’t her happiness matter? She has one life, if she is unhappy why wait for her to get used to abuse and unhappiness and for her spirit to break? Yes, nobody is perfectly happy, yes her grandmother and mother suffered too, but that’s no reason for her to not be given every chance to lead a happy, fulfilled life.

If she is matured enough to be married, then she is matured enough to decide if and when she does not wish to stay married. Here we hold her responsible even for crimes against herself, but we don’t trust her to take that one of the decision that concerns her more than it concerns anybody else.

Why don’t we take it seriously when a woman says they do not want to live with their spouse? Why isn’t her word enough?

Trivialising Sexual Crimes Against Women

This *joke* could never make me laugh.

“When rape is inevitable, you might as well lie back and enjoy it.”

Why is it that sexual crimes against women are taken so lightly in India?
When we hear of a woman being sexually assaulted, why do we start wondering about her life style, character or the way she was dressed?
We are conditioned to believe that sex offenses are related to how attractive the woman was looking.

Do we realise such talk encourages sex offenders?
And going by this logic, should it be legal to rape a sex worker?

Amitabh Bachchan as a Police man in Dostana tells Zeenat Aman she should have expected some street sexual harassment because of the way she was dressed.
“What’s wrong with these clothes?” She asked.
“Bahut kam hain.” Big B replies. (Translation: You are wearing ‘nude clothes’.)
We know that is the thinking everywhere in India.
(Couldn’t find the video…)

Today Mangalore molesters are openly threatening more molestations on Valentine’s Day. One more group of people will have to learn to live in still more fear.

Are we going to be told to put away a favorite outfit and choose something that would not give “a 40-year-old, fifth-standard drop-out, who is a founding member of the Sri Rama Sene” an excuse to molest us? (Not to mention he must have experience at such tasks, he has 40+ pending criminal cases against him.)

Terrorism is unequivocally condemned and has stringent laws against it, but assaults by local terror groups, like the Mangalore militants, despite being totally unconstitutional are considered ‘debatable‘.

Doesn’t this make such politically motivated, sponsored internal terrorism more dangerous, and to a larger number of people ?
It is a terrifying precedence.
And this terror is faced everyday of their lives, by half the population of this country and their worried mothers and fathers.

I think some humans (including some women!) cannot understand why women react so strongly to sexual harassment. Like in the *joke* above, maybe they think it is possible to find the attention flattering?

Men probably cannot understand what a woman feels when a pervert is ‘just flashing‘.

How does one explain …? I wonder what would be the equivalent of a rape for a man? What would be close to being equally traumatic?

Wonder if your guess is the same as mine.

Edited to add: Sasha’s post on Rape…