The arrest of Jolly Thomas, an alleged woman serial killer who is believed to have murdered six people in her family by adding cyanide to their food, has brought out some interesting responses. Suddenly, a lot of men in Kerala have woken up to the fact that all women are not devis and kulasthrees. Several jokes and WhatsApp forwards along the lines of how women are characterised as "abala" (helpless) but are actually capable of murder have been doing the rounds ever since the news broke.
Here's a sample: " I love my wife a lot, if she gives me tea, I will not drink till she sips first. If she brings rice, I will only eat after I give her one helping."
Curiously, these jokes and forwards seem to believe that they are enlightening feminists by stating what feminists themselves have been saying for decades - women are NOT devis. Just like men, there are different kinds of women. It is patriarchal societies which don't recognise this and insist instead that women are judged by higher moral standards than men. Fun fact: Feminism is AGAINST placing women on pedestals and then berating them for failing to live up to such impossible standards.
The Jolly case has provided an excuse to crack as many anti-women jokes as possible and these are being forwarded by both men and women.
Every time a crime with a woman as the accused surfaces, misogynists expect all women to be answerable for it. Typically, it's the same people who post #NotAllMen hashtags when women speak up against the overwhelming gender violence that they experience. If the victims of the woman accused happen to be her family, misogynists feel even more validated. Ironically, it's also they who believe women are naturally inclined to "sacrifice" everything for the sake of the family. Not feminists.
Misogynists do not display the same levels of shock when on an everyday basis, there are news reports about fathers, grandfathers, brothers, uncles and other male relatives raping and murdering girls and women in their own families. In fact, NCRB data has consistently shown that over 90% of violence perpetrated against girls and women comes from their own families and known circles. But the minute a woman criminal surfaces, misogynists feel it's enough reason to dismiss statistics, data, studies, news reports and lived experiences (on the basis of which special laws for women have been formulated) and latch on to an "opportunity" to diss feminists yet again.
In September last year, a 33-year-old Chennai woman was arrested for allegedly murdering her two children in order to elope with her boyfriend. At that time too, there were numerous forwards doing the rounds about how women have "lost their way" and are now going around killing their own kids for lust. People on social media wanted to know what feminists thought about this - as if a movement that asks for equality and justice was responsible for the crime or would condone it.
The narrative that women are perpetual, helpless victims who always need to live under the protection of men is AGAINST feminist philosophy which recognises agency in women. The feminist argument is NOT that all women are angels. It is that all women are human and that a vast majority of them are subjected to violence and denial of rights on an everyday basis because patriarchal societies fail to understand this fundamental fact.
So dear men and men's rights activists, feminists know that women like Jolly exist and we do not condone their actions. We're not the ones who use phrases like "verum oru pennu" (You're just a woman) and we're glad that you've woken up to this fact now. And if the Jolly murders push you to make your own mutton soup (since you now believe every woman out there might be walking around with cyanide like Jolly allegedly did), feminists will applaud you then too. All the best.
Views expressed are author's own.