Monday, August 15, 2011
Mein Karoon To Saala Character Deela Hai: Why People Think that I am a Male Chauvinist?
How two dimensional our thinking becomes when we blindly hold onto certain ideology; not even ideology, a sort of commonplace thinking. I remember George Orwell, in his pivotal allegorical work, Animal Farm, saying, ‘four legged good, two legged bad.’ This statement was made by the animal leaders who had captured the farm from the ‘cruel’ farmer.
When someone talks about a woman or makes a caricature out of her personality, if the person who does it is a male, then he is accused of being a chauvinist. V.S.Naipaul recently made a comment that by reading the opening lines of any literary work, he could tell whether it was written by a woman or not. He received a lot of flak from all over the world especially by the women writers.
But there is a danger in there; V.S.Naipaul must be having his own reasons to say so. However, he is not saying an ultimate truth. He is making a comment on the quality and characteristics of a literary work by using his experience and standing in the field of literary production as a touchstone. One may accept or reject. I have not come across the details of his speech in which he made this statement. But nowhere it is written that he made it as a derogatory comment on women writers. He said that he could discern from the first few lines. But it is taken as a derogatory comment.
Why is it so? Is it because that women in general believe that they have enough of male gaze and male views on them that they no longer want, demand, desire, expect any judgement from them? Or is it because they still live in the perennial trauma of subjection that has been there, and still there is, for ages? Or is it because they lack a lot of self confidence so that they are not able to counter caricature the man? Is it severely essential that to be a woman, she should be a hater of man and his views? Or is it pertinent for her to consider anyone who makes a comment on the sisterhood, a chauvinist?
I am afraid, despite all these four decades of strong feminist movements from all over the world, so many women are still caught into the snare of two dimensional thinking; Women good, men bad. Men are good so long as they are silent on women. The moment they make a comment on women, they are chauvinist. Why does it happen? Have the women lost their sense of humour and their sensible ways of looking at the world?
I don’t understand why they are totally apathetic towards the males who are equally mistreated by both men and women in power? Why male becomes a victim the moment he utters anything on a female? In fact, thanks to this two dimensional view, it has become almost difficult to speak about women. I fear that if the woman is treated as a character with 360 degree life, they get offended, equally they get offended if they are treated as stereotypes.
Treat us as the way we are, they seem to say. They have been saying it for long. Ain’t I a woman?, was the first question raised in public by Sojourner Truth, an indentured black labourer in the US in early 20th century. She walked hundreds of kilometres in harsh weather, dressed up like a man as she was treated like a man by her owner, to escape from the severity of her confinement. Then she asked this question ‘ain’t I a woman?
I respect people like Sojourner Truth. We have so many examples like her in our country and elsewhere. In several of my articles I have written about them. In one of my articles, I had even mentioned that I would like to be a Mahasweta Devi or Medha Patkar or Arundhati Roy, than being a man who did not have any stance.
But still I am called a chauvinist. I am not worried. I understand why many women express their hurt feelings. They are hurt because women have been hurting inside and outside for long. But they just forget the fact that men too have been getting hurt for long.
Those who accuse me of generalization, also fall victim of the same generalization. They too see the world of men as a world of cruel sex maniacs. I am not saying that amongst men there are no sex maniacs. But amongst women too there are equally bad people. It is the context and situation that decides their power and the power to exercise their power.
We have reached a very difficult time thanks to our two dimensional thinking. For example, if I speak my mind to a woman in a party, I become rude. If she does the same to me, people would naturally suspect, this guy might have done something wrong to her that’s why she is retorting. None would care to know that both of us were discussing just art and we did not agree with each other.
But in the public eye, I become the male chauvinist who tried to subject her with my ideas and she becomes a victim.
Let me take a very simple example: There are several women in the world, forget world, let me talk about India. There are several women in India who are driven around by male drivers or served by man servants. Many of them mistreat them. Many don’t. Exceptions are always there and I am stressing upon that exception. Okay, many of them mistreat them. But while doing that have they ever thought once that it was the same kind of subjection their kind had been facing since ages hence they should not replicate it at least in their domain?
Man jumps traffic lights. That’s what people say. I have seen innumerable women jumping traffic light. Man fishes out his mobile phone and calls the powerful people when he is stopped by a traffic cop. Woman does the same. Man talks in mobile phone while driving. Woman does the same. Man jumps barricades. Woman does the same. Man jumps queues, woman does the same. Man elbows people in a crowd. Woman too does it. Man gropes woman in parties. Woman does the same.
Now you will tell me about the innumerable women suffering in their domestic and work places at the hands of cruel men. Have you ever thought of those innumerable men who have lost their jobs to women? Recently I came across one incident. A friend’s son gave an interview for M.Phil enrolment in one of the top universities in India. A supremely intelligent boy who has published several articles on his subject in acclaimed international academic journals was still in depression when I met him after the interview.
Reason: He has given his viva voce well. But the terms of the university says that if he and a girl score the same marks, the seat would go to the girl. Where do we place it? Reservation or denying of opportunity to one against the other?
You speak of people like me being male chauvinists. I am very used to it. But women who know me as a person don’t say that. However, I am not arguing that case here now. Let me talk to you about men who shed silent tears.
Every day, my dear readers, every day I see thousands of men and women in the city of Delhi who come in hoards, looking for jobs and shelter. Their whole life is bundled in a few clothe bags. Children play around them or sleep (as sleep is the best remedy children apply to themselves to overcome the trauma of existence). I look into the eyes of these people. I don’t see any male pride or female pride there. Just the question of survival, I see in them.
Yesterday evening, I went to Select City Walk Mall in Saket for the first time. In fact I had taken my family to the Kiran Nadar Museum. My idea was to show Bharti Kher’s Elephant to my kids. But unfortunately, the museum was closed thanks to security reasons related to Independence Day celebrations. Hence, we decided to walk to the Select City Walk Mall.
What did I see there? Women, women and men, women and women, men, men and women, men and men, children, old people and lot of things to desire. But what I noticed is the predominant presence of women who have believed in what they are doing. One girl was walking as if she were walking on a ramp. Girls were giggling everywhere. I could not see any guy shrieking out there.
For a moment I thought it was a women’s world. I looked at my two year old daughter who was sitting on my lap watching the things around her with her cute little eyes and I felt so happy about her. She is going to grow into a world where girls are proud and happy.
My caricature of women critics in Delhi is all about my observations on the Delhi art scene. May be I have treated it with certain stereotypes in my mind. Is that a huge wrong thing to do? What about the caricature of the man critic and myself I did a day before? Why no man came forward hurt and insulted?
Yesterday a dear friend called me up and asked, Do you make male rotis and female rotis at your home? As I could do all kitchen works, and also do them quite often, I could tell her this, “while you make the dough, it feels like female. When you elongate it for making golas, it looks like a male organ. When you roll it on board, it feels like being in bed with a girl. But end of the day phulkas are just phulkas.”