And when young women kill themselves, it can only be for ‘failed love affairs.’ They probably had little else to do in life.

The love failure excuse Why we cant accept that a woman died for a cause
news Everyday Sexism Thursday, October 01, 2015 - 15:03

It was a sunny August evening in 2011. The private yet a sprawling, open space near the Koyambedu bus stand was bustling with activity. That was where three women lawyers had chosen to go on an indefinite fast protesting the death sentence awarded to convicts in Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. Many of us were there to offer them moral support.

That Sunday would have been yet another normal day for most of us, with leaders and activists turning up in large numbers in a spectacular show of solidarity. But Sengodi had changed it all. Some of us knew her. Some of us knew the organisation she was working for. Based out of Kanchipuram, Makkal Mandram has been at the forefront of many struggles on issues that affected people. On that fateful Sunday, 20-something Sengodi immolated herself inside the Taluk office at Kanchipuram, protesting the death sentences awarded to Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan.

The charged up atmosphere in Koyambedu was now consumed by shock and despondence. As the news of Sengodi’s self-immolation trickled in, some of us wept in silence. Some of us lamented aloud. Some of us kept asking how many more lives would the State need to wipe out capital punishment from its legal book. But the next day, all of us had just a single emotion – anger.  A Tamil newspaper had reported that Sengodi had killed herself out of a failed love affair.

Four years later, when a young, upright and a dynamic police officer is found dead, it again boils down to a ‘failed love affair.’ A Tamil magazine persistently reports that the reason for her ‘suicide’ could be a failed love affair and the man in question is missing since. It doesn’t matter that she was ambitious and honest; it doesn’t matter that she was handling a very sensitive murder case; it doesn’t matter that she was willing to work odd hours and help people. All it mattered was that Vishnupriya was a woman, a young woman at that.

And when young women kill themselves, it can only be for ‘failed love affairs.’ They probably had little else to do in life.  Perhaps all the photos of Sengodi on an energetic and highly demanding Parai at the thought-provoking street theatres were simply forged. Perhaps all the fears that Vishnupriya had shared with her dear ones on the pressure in Gokulraj murder case were imagined. Perhaps all her dreams about becoming an IAS officer to serve people more were just faked.

This time we are not just angry. We are tired. “Yes, we are women. We are also capable of falling in love. But how does it matter?” I wanted to ask.

It is easy to slam women into stereotypes. After all, we love Indira Nooyi more for her guilt about not being a good mother. We love her so much that we want our daughters to be her when they grow up.

After all it is a sacrilege to be a Sengodi or Vishnupriya. How can a woman think beyond the realms defined by family and society? How can a woman kill herself to protest capital punishment? How can a woman be more worried about a murder case she was handling than her parents’ angst to get her married?

I distinctly remember this dialogue uttered by the heroine of Chinna Veedu (yet another Tamil film of 1980s stereotyping women) about her somewhat of a licentious husband: “When I let him go, I have tied him to a rope, the other end of which is in my hands. I know when to pull him back.”

The society (and of course the media) has this invisible rope tied around every woman raring to go. And there are lines drawn by people like Indira Nooyi. When a woman steps beyond, they believe they know how to pull her back. It doesn’t matter she is dead.

Only, Sengodis and Vishnupriyas are capable of breaking the ropes into smithereens. It doesn’t matter they are dead.

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