Patriarchy has a negative affect on both men and women. Although many men might refuse to accept the subtle ways in which they themselves are harmed by the cruelly deep roots of patriarchy, this image I recently saw brilliantly sums up the poison ivy spreading through our society and our media.
Perhaps we need to realize that feminism isn’t just an isolated call into the wild but a reasoning we all need to lend our ears and later mouth to, so that we become a loudspeaker resounding the truth, not just force-fed machines generously reproducing everything mainstream media shoves at us.
Almost everywhere I look, something ugly seems to rear its head out of the sand. Questioning doesn’t always help because a dozen voices will drown you out, asking you to firstly ‘get a life and lighten up’ and later to ‘not be so affected by the things you cannot change’. I fall in and out of traps, of course, but at least on my blog, I can raise my voice and reach out to a handful of individuals.
So a few of my recent observations are leading to this second feminist rant. On a flight recently, I was isolated in a seat at the very back, surrounded by a bunch of young male professionals who were taking great pleasure at oggling and passing comments on the air-hostesses that ramp-walked their way up and down the aisle. Why is air-hostessing such a glamorized business, again? What would it feel like to cake your face with a ton of makeup and fit into a tight skirt and do the same high-heeled walk at an Indian railway station? Uncomfortable to say the least, I betcha.
I’m all for women getting a change to embrace their sexuality. But it seems to me as though there are higher forces at play here. There is a certain attraction for young men to watch beautiful women strut past them thirty-thousand feet above the ground, with the realities of life temporarily suspended. They can make the most of this opportunity to admire that soft, garbled-until-it-sounds-cute-and-partly-vulnerable speech and enjoy the brief safety routine that nobody would pay shit to if it wasn’t for the accompanying sexiness. The point I am trying to make is that, like so many other things, this too is a money-minting technique which reinforces the brilliance of the prepubescent kids in the picture above (‘This is how you’re going to be controlled for the rest of your life. I’ll be turned into a hole beckoning you to fill me until you’re full of pleasure waves and you will be forced into believing this is the one and only thing worth achieving for as long as you live and that this is the only thing I am capable of giving you anyway. I will be nothing more than a hot body you will never be able to own and you will be the grudging admirer who will run after me, sometimes expressing your manliness by forcing yourself into me and at other times placating me with gifts and sweet-talk so that I will give you the only thing you’ve been taught to want. Isn’t it a crazy master-slave relationship where we’re both neither the masters nor the slaves but alternating puppets for a perverted society that doesn’t even realize it?‘)
And I have realized lately that the more I think about it, the more I discover how often I walked through life without sexualizing a single damn thing. Is it strange? Not everyone does this, surely. I look at a woman and I hear her words. I look at a man and I see his eyes. And then I realized, when everyone pointed it out to me, that I was doing it all wrong. I began to see the sizes of breasts and the swaying of a woman’s hips. I began to judge the broadness of a man’s chest and his demeanor. But try as I might, I couldn’t shake off my earliest observations. Unless I consciously force myself to see it, bodies aren’t as important to me as they might be. That is why I zeroed in on this title ‘Sexless and the City’.
We all desire companionship of the opposite sex. Some seek depth, others seek careless flings. But either way, why do we let sex permeate every interaction we have with the opposite sex? I began to grow conscious of my own interactions and realized how completely capable I was of looking at the world in a sexless way. Without wanting a man to give me anything more than I would want from a woman. Why can we not all be like that? Is it really so hard?
While watching a movie in the theatre yesterday, I grew absorbed in the story but found my attention drawn by a group of men sitting a few seats down the column. They were jeering at something. It was then that I noticed that the actress was carelessly dancing in the scene in a spaghetti top, her breasts thrust out and jiggling conspicuously. I marveled at the fact that, having spent so long being conscious of our over-sexualized society, I was capable of not perceiving a hint of sexual undertones in a scene that made these men whistle at an unresponsive flat screen. What was this phenomenon and why can’t we fight it, I wondered?
I’m not denying the beauty of sexual relationships and the fact that of course, they need to be brought to the forefront. All that I am saying is there is no need to dramatically enhance the sex-factor of every single life incidence. A woman in an office is likely to be seen as a part of the glamour-quotient than as an actual thinking, acting being. This adversely affects both the women and the men. It means a women who is not good at what she does could be meaninglessly hired by an all-male panel just for her looks and it means that a woman who wants to be noticed for her work may be noticed instead, for something purely physical. It means a deserving man might not get a job because of a pretty face. It means men could be manipulated by attractiveness and women pushed behind for not using their sexuality in the workplace. It means women can be treated as a wallflower and nothing more. It means a man can unreasonably resent an attractive woman because she garners attention for her appearance, perhaps without wanting to. In short, it means there is a need to make certain parts of our lives completely sexless.
The only way to do this is to stare with wide-eyes at everything that goes on around us and try to see the blind spots we face as a result of our upbringing. The presence of something terribly souring in our lives needs to be acknowledged before we can set out to fix it.