I see your mouth beginning to form the words, readying to trot out utter garbage.
Don’t do it.
Tell me to celebrate being a woman on a measly day eked out for my ilk and I’ll ask you why. How do I make joyful noises about being female in a world where my gender is relentlessly at the receiving end of systemic hatred? When our heads are constantly dunked and held under water, only to be permitted half a breath before being choked again, but look, you did get that teeny window to inhale! To which you’ll look exasperated and say “But nobody is doing it to you!” And I will begin to enumerate:
1. The number of times my body was touched without my permission, how the semen stain on my school skirt remains as dark as ever, how pain feels as a 14-year-old when there’s a thrust, a gasp, and then he flees the overflowing bus.
2. The number of times my daylight hours and nighttime hours and spaces to just be were policed: by those who birthed me, by a system meant to educate, no no, you are a girl, bloomer check! We’re going to lift your skirt to ensure your modesty lives in granny knickers.
3. The number of times I have heard “nobody wants a girl who…”, “nobody marries a woman who….”, 5 kilos less and you’d be perfect, one cup size larger, you can wear any color, lucky-lucky, your hands are so soft, your boyfriend will love them, don’t ever cut your hair or I’ll be sad.
4. The number of times “good” girls don’t sit this way, don’t wear shorts outside PE class, because the men, oh the men, the men! All males, absolute strangers included, are given shares to my anatomy, only I’m not invited to the feast.
Until I want to stitch your mouth shut without anesthesia and scream TROPES!!!
TROPES, TROPES, TROPES!
You’ve drowned in your paltry puddle and think you’re in St. Tropez, every utterance further plasters you to your pigeon poop ridden cubby, how does it feel inside that cage you’ve built, do the bars come out at night to play?
Rapes and moral policing. “Just jokes” and unoffered opportunities. Wage gaps and a permanent seat to butt and breasts on the buffet, let’s not serve brain today, rather pointless wouldn’t you say?
Not a chance in hell at life, and if lucky, then an education is all too much good fortune.
I’m a ‘happy California mum’, I was told in summary, a catch-up call that ended in a pert label, even as my vocal chords shut down in outrage.
No women are free until all women are free, I scream at you in my fantasy. While you suck on patriarchy like a lozenge and I pause to watch you choke. While you make plans to shop sales and celebrate having internal plumbing and paint your nails as the platitudes dry.
Happy Women’s Day, you say, expecting a smile in return. I smile, as I smile for many senseless things and inane people, and quietly wish you sight. And maybe someday, if it happens to be in stock that season, even a modest serving of sense.
I wrote this on Raksha Bandhan a few weeks ago, but didn’t get around to sharing it. So I’m posting it today, on the occasion of my brother’s birthday, with a few timing tweaks of course. For another birthday post, read this.
The Parsi community I grew up in and around typically did not celebrate Raksha Bandhan. Seen as a Hindu custom not really applicable to ‘us’, I was looked at with mild amusement, an oddity for wrapping that rakhi around my brother’s wrist year after year. I did it because I liked the sentiment of sibling bonds. In return, I received an occasional cassette (remember those?) of whomever I was listening to back in the day. Frequently, I got nothing but an awkward hug. And it didn’t strike me as the least bit strange. Because the traditional notion of brother as Protector and Provider is, in our context, ridiculous.
Being five years older (and obviously wiser, more brilliant and all the good things that come with being born first), I rescued him from bullies, watched out for him, made up stories to scare the poop out of him, and will still gladly sit on anyone who is mean to the kid. (Note: ‘Kid’ is a 32-year-old married man.)
In my firmly feminist household, our mum didn’t wear the pants, she wore the whole suit. And our precious, gentle father’s ego wasn’t the least bit rattled by it. So nobody told me man = strong = protector, and to be honest, there was nothing much to protect me from in our relatively secure life in 1980s Bombay, where the most violence we saw was eccentric neighbors fighting over the last piece of pomfret in Moti’s basket. And so, imbuing Raksha Bandhan with no more meaning than sibling love, I continued to mail rakhis from wherever in the world I was.
“If anything, he should send you a rakhi,” pointed out the Boy this past Raksha Bandhan, because I am my brother’s protector, keeper of secrets, giver of unsolicited advice, and overall annoying big sister. My peaceful sage of a brother who can’t say boo to a goose isn’t going to rescue me from marauding hordes anytime soon. But he is the one–and very likely the only– person in the world who completely understands my uniquely South Bombay Parsi wear-your-slippers-or-we-can’t-take-you-to-the-Taj upbringing without judging it. He can give the most kickass financial advice, keep his trap shut when there’s something only he needs to know, stands up for me when our parents are being unreasonable pains, and we know we are each other’s family in a way even our parents can’t be.
As for the marauding hordes, they are welcome to try their luck. I foresee a whole bunch of men with excruciating hernias, begging the Boy to take me back.