As a young girl living in an urban metropolitan, sexism couldn’t possibly be starker to me. I see it leeching on my body when I leave the house, I see it in the eyes of the men staring at me on a bus, I can feel it making me conscious of my body every day, every second. But something about the entire Hard Kaur fiasco during Kamala Nehru College’s ‘Ullas’ showed me how sexism is so internalized in our systems, our minds, our lives – in a manner that spotting it becomes hard, even in the midst of controversy, where each detail is made to glare right into our faces.
Hard Kaur was told to leave the stage because of the swear words she used and a few obscene gestures here and there – but nobody raised any objection to how she made it a point to objectify the male performers on stage by asking them to show their chiseled midriffs to the crowd; nobody said anything about her comment on women being ‘sexy’ and men being ‘dirty’; no newspaper reported it, no righteous person in the crowd spoke about it. It was almost as if nobody really minded it – like it’s okay to insult one gender to praise another, like we need to ‘get back’ at people of one gender and blame them for all our problems – as if they are not affected by patriarchy at all. It seemed like men being ‘dirty’ was the only way women could be ‘sexy’; much like how women being timid and weak is the only way men can be assertive and powerful.
The categories of masculine and feminine and the social connotations attached with them are becoming more complex by the day. We live in a world where a woman who knows her mind is ‘loose’, a man who likes clothes, make up and kids is a ‘sissy’, anyone not associating with the gender binary is nonexistent and the sexes are always at war.
What was in fact, so offensive about Kaur’s language? How was it so offensive that it engrossed us enough to overlook the obvious sexism her statements reflected? What should really be angering us? Taking pride in being one of the best universities in the country, and even the world, how did we let this go unnoticed?
We’ve got to change this. We’ve got to get offended at sexism – every form it takes has to anger us, regardless of the gender identity it is targeting. Only then can we conceptualize the equality we have all set out to achieve – an equality that first requires us to notice its absence.
Image credit: Abhinav Arora for DU Beat