The same-sex wars
Why do women persist in being their own worst enemies?
Honestly, there are times when I despair of my own sex. It’s not the small stuff that gets me down – that I can live with by gritting my teeth and counting slowly to ten so that I don’t have a meltdown in public.
You know the sort of thing I’m talking about: the kind of meanness that only women are capable of subjecting each other to. Oh, she’s gotten so fat after her baby! We all know how she got that promotion (by sleeping with her boss, didn’t you know?). My God, can that hemline get any lower? Honestly, if she dresses like that, it’s only a matter of time before she gets molested. I could go on and on, based on my vast and varied life experiences, but you get the general drift.
Yes, all of this annoying, but it is still small potatoes. You can take a deep breath, tell yourself that you’re better than this, and stay silent.
But it’s the big stuff that I really can’t sweat. That’s what makes me foam at the mouth, shout dementedly at the TV set and mutter balefully when I read the papers. That’s what makes me so angry that I can barely form a cogent argument to explain my views. But for the benefit of all of you reading this column, I’m going to try.
It all began with the Park Street rape case in Calcutta, which the fabulously rational chief minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee, helpfully characterised as a ‘conspiracy’ against her government even before the facts of the matter has been established. It is to the credit of two other women – the rape victim herself, who refused to lie down and play dead; and a courageous police officer by the name of Damayanti Sen – that the culprits were hunted down and that the wheels of justice were set in motion.
But I was revisited by the same despair I felt at the time of the Park Street incident by the curious case of Zohal Hamid and the molestation that never was. We were all riveted by the appearance of this US national on TV, telling us how the Australian cricketer Luke Pomersbach, had molested her in her hotel room. And that when her fiancé, Sahil Peerzada, tried to protect her, Luke hit him so hard that he had to be rushed to hospital.
So, there we were, feeling outraged on behalf of this brave young woman who had had the courage to take on an influential group of people in a foreign country, in an attempt to gain justice for herself. We hissed and booed at a media that suggested that because she was always so well-dressed, perfectly coiffed and made-up, she couldn’t possibly be a victim. And we felt a strange pride when she threatened to sue Siddhartha Mallya, who sent out a sexist, offensive tweet about her after the incident, if he didn’t apologise forthwith.
Here was a woman, we felt, who was willing to fight for her rights, no matter how hard and arduous a battle it might be. This was a woman who was not willing to take things lying down, no matter how powerful the people she was up against.
How wrong we were!
No sooner had Peerzada been released from hospital than Zohal’s entire body language changed. In a joint interview conducted with the two, she sat poker-faced while Peerzada resolutely refused to refer to her by the ‘f’ word (as in ‘fiancee’). And she didn’t raise as much as a murmur when he referred to Sid Mallya as a nice guy, and suggested that things would soon be sorted out between them.
Sure enough, the case has now been withdrawn by Zohal Hamid because she wishes to ‘go back to her own country’. And by backing down so cravenly because her boyfriend/fiancé/whatever he’s calling himself this week patently wanted her to, she has made it doubly difficult for other victims of such drunken misbehaviour to be taken seriously by the authorities.
All of which makes me wonder: just how long will we women go along with taking the lead from the men in our lives? Just what will it take for us to accept responsibility for our own actions, and live with the consequences of our behaviour, however unpleasant they may be?
Well, that day is a long time coming if what I read in today’s paper is anything to go by. A woman has sued her live-in boyfriend of eight years, accusing him of ‘rape’ because he married someone else citing parental pressure. The court had admitted her petition and the man could soon be in jail facing rape charges – all because he refused to marry his live-in girlfriend.
Now, I can understand a woman being upset about being dumped after living with a man for eight years. I would get it if she wanted to scratch his face, throw his clothes out on the street, or even egg his car. But to accuse him of ‘rape’? All because he didn’t marry her?
Frankly, it beggars belief. And it reinforces the idea that matrimony is some glittering prize that men are good enough to bestow on us. And that a woman’s reputation is ‘ruined’ if the man she is sleeping with neglects to make an ‘honest woman’ of her.
Are we really buying into this tosh in the 21st century? If that’s not cause enough for despair, I don’t know what is.