Be it Kangana’s rant on Koffee with Karan or the trolling of Gurmehar Kaur’s case or the ban on Alankrita Shrivastava’s Lipstick Under My Burkha because it was too lady-oriented, certain events since last few weeks have indicated a rising crisis for the freedom of expression in our country- especially the freedom of expression of women who have opinions.
And these are only the latest examples of an ever existing problem: the voice, especially the political voice of young women is being dismissed and diminished in the modern India.
While Kangana was alleged of using the “woman card” by Karan Johar for speaking out against him, Gurmehar was trolled online for speaking out against ABVP and all the online trolls had to do was immediately trace an old video and compare her to her father. All of a sudden a 20-year-old student became the “anti-national” daughter of a “patriotic” father who died fighting for his country. Her opinions were an insult to her father’s sacrifice, and she was suddenly a spoilt daughter, whose mind, as per Union Minister Kiren Rijiju, polluted by God knows who!
Gurmehar was a recipient of the ideas which were not even her own. And this idea was picked up by the countless nationalists who dismissed her political views and considered them as those “planted” by opposition political parties.
It was just too difficult for us to understand that Gurmehar is a young woman with a view, opinion and most importantly voice of her own.
Similarly, the CBFC’s ban on Lipstick Under My Burkha worked on the similar line. The movie was written, directed and shot with an unflinching feminist lens. It talks about the sexual desire in women and shows them boldly reclaiming their sexual agency, irrespective of their relationship to any man or their religious identity.
But wait, this idea is so alien to Indian men and CBFC that it simply banned it claiming it as “lady-oriented”! Like, really?
A slight opinion and the ability to think in women is intolerable, and it starts right from home, moves on to the playground, in the schools, and between siblings. A young girl’s opinion is often shrugged off. Parties at home see separate different sitting areas for women and men. Oh and let’s not even discuss the division of topics of the conversation between them. National and world politics and business for him and trivial domestic gossip for her.
As we grow up, we’re taught to have soft and flexible opinions. We are faced by small smirks or at times horrified glares when we try to push our ideas or are “too loud” in public.
Systematic repression has been working since ages, convincing women of what we can think or say or do. It conditions us so that we don’t come across as a challenge or worse “danger” to the society.
The binary is clearly laid out for us. We will either be the loud and agenda-driven stereotypical feminists or the beautiful “ladies” perfect for being Shadi material. Remember the all time Sharma aunty wali advice: “Beta, Itni Lambi Zuban le ke Sasural jaogi toh maa baap ki naak kat jaegi!”
But What really gets under my skin is how our society totally pretends to “love” and “celebrate” the strong, independent woman. However, what’s confusing is that while we as young girls are taught the utmost importance of thinking for herself and making our own money, yet when she comes out into the real world as a strong, powerful, opinionated girl, we just alienate her.
With furrowed brows, our culture quickly lets her know that opinionated girls are simply not welcome in this world. Our falsified sense of acceptance and fake open-mindedness is extremely harmful. How do we then expect the girls to see the world clearly when we keep on confusing them with our own confused ideas?
You’re instructing these girls to be self-assured, yet every pop culture talks about the damsel in distress and how much she needs the boy. How much she needs her knight in shining armour. And mind you, not want but NEED. And by this, all we are doing is telling them how unlovable and unwanted they are. Yes, you’re teaching us to be self-sufficient and yet warning us of the consequences. After all, Akeli ladki khuli tijori hoti hai, no?
While on one hand, we find ourselves being equipped with better education and resources, our struggle with this vicious circle of oppression which assumes our inability to think for ourselves is also on an all time high.
Why is our Indian society so intent on oppressing its opinionated women? This is why.
At this moment, in India, young women are not supposed to be armed with opinions because it is feared that they can break the patriarchal social order. They will be the loud, angry, educated lots, willing to point out at the unfairness of the existing system. And thus, they are ridiculed and eventually shut down.
But we need to change the system. To begin with, we as young women, need to stand up for each other, lend our support to the feminist literature, art, cinema and use the social media to demand the content that empowers us.
The attack on our right to political and personal expression should make us angry. Very angry. And if today we brush off the events that have occurred in the last couple of weeks, we’d be doing ourselves a great injustice.
Instead, let’s use this moment as much we can. We need to champion our free speech and fight against everyone who has ever silenced, dismissed or ridiculed our voices. Let’s just not keep screaming but also create spaces where our screams get heard!