Features Tuesday, September 30, 2014 - 05:30
Nidhi Mahesh | The News Minute | September 16, 2014 | 02:15 pm IST “A buffalo in the water and a woman in a shopping mall, difficult to get them both out in a hurry”… (loosely translated from Hindi). No, this is no proverb, none that I have ever heard before, anyway. This is a message that I got on my Whatsapp messenger. And, this is just an example of the numerous such messages that I receive everyday! Spare a moment at the tone and tenor of the message. If it is supposed to be a smart one, it certainly sounds dumb. If it is tongue-in-cheek humor, it reeks of bad taste! While we cry hoarse on issues of gender bias and sexual harassment at workplace, where the sender of a message such as this can be the candidate for disciplinary action, we simply live with such crudities in daily life. Now, if this is not double standards, what is? I know, I can be taken for an old prude, unable to digest humor. I am sorry, but my idea of fun is not to demean a cast or creed or race or gender, or anybody for that matter. Lakhs of candles are burnt and hundreds of protest marches are held on issues of “outraging the modesty of women”. And while at it, I am sure many of the marchers cell phones would be beeping with such stupid, stereotypical and certainly un-laughable jokes handed down through forwards. The irony is it is women (at least in my case) who have been forwarding such absurd stuff on their own ilk! So where does that leave us? A recent notification by Bidhannagar Police in West Bengal brought public ire, as it suggested women should dress appropriately and avoid late nights to stay safe from eve teasing. The indignation by women’s group is certainly due as the notice seems to lay the cause of eve teasing on the victims’ door. However, where does such indignation go when messages that demean women are freely circulated! I have hardly ever seen anyone complain, let alone protest. “I do get such messages a plenty”, tells one of my young female colleagues, “but I don’t send those to anyone else, meaning to stop the nonsense then and there”. Some also laugh at the poor jokes “at times they are funny, but then when they start getting too sexually loaded, I feel uncomfortable and delete those”, says another young girl I spoke to. But is deleting the message enough? Does it delete the malicious campaign as well? Certainly not! I know it is next to impossible to trace the genius who starts such threads somewhere. By the time we have such messages on our cell phones, millions are already laughing at it. And, some I am sure, like me, cringing. But are we supposed to look the other way as the tirade goes on?Millions of stereotypical Saas-Bahu (mother-in-law/ daughter-in-law) jokes, below the belt one liners on wives branding them nags and dumb are around in the air literally as we speak (virtually). With the environ so polluted and mind space narrowed to register any outrage, are we not sowing inequalities deeper? “Fight of Justice” campaigns and movement for women’s dignity sound like lip service while we let insults adorn us every moment with thousands of expletives roaming all over in the form of crude jokes. My dear fellow women, if we allow us to be a laughing stock, and worse, participate in the crime by either abetting or ignoring it, millions of candles will melt away without bringing any drop of brightness. It is time to put a stop to “symbolic protests”. Deterrent, too, my dear begins at home. Can we wow to give a piece of our mind to the sender of demeaning jokes and messages, no matter who it is? May be this backward retribution will form a thread and trace back the roots of such gloriously dumb expeditions and a slap will finally land on the cheek that dared to make fun at someone else’s expense to begin with!!

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