Rasheeda Bhagat

Misogyny strikes, women strike back

RASHEEDA BHAGAT | Updated on January 09, 2018

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The message deluge on #AintNoCindrella has been prompt and unambiguous: young women will remain quiet no longer

The message, which is ironically both sad and heartening, is clear to our rulers. Sad because in the aftermath of the stalking and attempted kidnapping of a young woman in Chandigarh triggered scores of young women, who would otherwise like to keep their lives — where and when they go out and what they do — private, had to put that info in the public domain. Heartening because these Indian women have thrashed the ghisa-pita stereotype of the ideal bharatiya nari and stated firmly that they will no longer be lectured on their personal lives.

The hashtag that did the trick, #AintNoCindrella, was brilliantly conceived, being understood the world over. So when young Indian women posted midnight selfies while enjoying a drink and generally having a good time on social media platforms like twitter with this hashtag, the international media too sat up and took note. It all began with the resurfacing of our misogynist mindset in the now famous Chandigarh stalking case.

Varnika Kundu, daughter of an IAS officer from the Haryana cadre, was stalked post midnight and faced a kidnap threat from Vikas Barala, son of the Haryana BJP chief Subhash Barala, and his friend. When Varnika filed a police complaint, and wrote a widely shared detailed Facebook post of her scary ordeal, all hell broke loose. The perpetrators retaliated by posting pictures of Varnika having a drink late at night. She had accused the stalkers of chasing her in their car, blocking hers, pounding on her window and trying to open the door. She was grateful she managed to escape and was “not lying raped and murdered in a ditch somewhere”.

Insult to injury

As the story hit the headlines, Ramveer Bhatti, Haryana BJP’s deputy chief, blabbered that the incident wouldn’t have taken place if she hadn’t been out so late at night. His outrageous but predictable take: “The girl should not have gone out at 12 in the night. Why was she driving so late in the night? The atmosphere is not right. We need to take care of ourselves.” To this, the spirited 29-year-old woman retorted in a television interview, “It is none of his business, it is my business and my family’s what I do and where I go. If it wasn’t for men like these, I wouldn’t be unsafe going out whether it was 12 am or 2 am or 4 am.”

In a strong and assertive response came the pictures with the #AintNoCindrella hashtag. Rana Safvi tweeted “We, women believe in breaking glass ceilings not fitting into glass slippers #AintNoCinderella.” Another young woman posted a picture of herself with a bottle of beer and tweeted: “Dear Sanskari BJP, it’s well past midnight n I’m out having beer in Delhi. Join me? #AintNoCinderella.”

The women were clearly having fun; one even said I am all dressed for a party even though I have no party to go to! Tweeted Pooja “Dear regressive India, I will do as I please, night or day. Don’t ever think you have the right to stop me.” Added Sana: “Oops 1.45am and I am out on Delhi Roads, In a short Dress. stop me if you can!!!” Sharmistha Mukherjee, a Congress politician and daughter of former President Pranab Mukherjee tweeted: “If I’m out at 12am, it DOES NOT mean I'm to be raped, molested, chased. My dignity is my right 24X7 #AintNoCinderella”. Last year she had made public the lewd messages sent to her on Facebook to shame the perpetrator, forcing him to delete his FB account. It was amply evident that the crass and inevitable attempt to blame the victim had irked these women. The gist of the outpouring of support for Varnika was nobody tells me what to do, where to go and when to go. The messages had humour, defiance, assertiveness and a warning to politicians to note this changing face of India. And it was great to see most of these messages getting likes and retweets in ranging from a couple of hundred to a couple of thousand! The tweets, though mostly, were not only from women. Many men, at long last, are joining this fight.

Who’s listening?

But then do our obtuse netas listen? Evidently not. Union Minister of State Babul Supriyo further embarrassed the BJP by first questioning why a kidnapping case should be filed, and then asking why drag his father’s name into it, and finally sending a deplorable tweet that immediately brought to mind Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh’s infamous “boys will be boys” quote. He said: “We all went to college and know, like reel, ‘Boy chase girl’ exists in real life too.”

And so, on the eve of Independence Day, another hashtag was born: #AzadiFromPatriarchy and an event under this banner was announced at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar so that women can clearly, publicly and assertively seek deliverance from misogyny. Amen.

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Published on August 14, 2017
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