In a world where the lives of girls are violently ended before they even begin, how can we decolonise our minds to change this? Mafazah has some answers…
There is a particular kind of cruelty in anticipatory violence to punish for a sin not yet committed. The plague of female foeticide that somehow still exists in this country, beyond every measure taken against it is the best possible example of it. It continues to flourish, despite all laws and from time to time, we hear of horrific incidents or large-scale rackets and then, life resumes normalcy and the cycle continues.
Patriarchy exists in our lives like rusted metal at the bottom of a pool, slowly, but constantly leaching into our lives. It is often much easier to call men out on perpetuating the patriarchy. But what does one do when the enforcers are the victims too when centuries of gender based discrimination has created a society within which women not only allow unfair treatment, but agree with it.
This tragedy is terrifying to read about. Doctors and nurses arrested for performing over 900 illegal sex-based abortion, not in some rural corner of India, but from a hub of education where you see women in expensive cars driving themselves to work every day. Where the professor who fails you for low attendance has a crisp sari on. The horror of reaching through the sands of time and stealing every opportunity, every single thing those girls could be. To take the miracle that is the conception of life, impossible without the womb, and to kill the child inside for being born with a body that can do that too. Nine hundred lives lost to the patriarchy.
Kenyan novelist and post-colonial theorist Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o believed in the idea of decolonising the mind. While this was in the context of the British occupation and enslavement of Kenya, I think the principle of it applies here as well where the fight was not just outward, but inward too. He believed in the idea of erasing a kind of slave mentality, to fight against the ideas of us provided to us by the oppressor. The oppressor is not just the oppressor, but the ideologies he plants.
Killing the life inside you because it had the audacity to be born with the wrong genitals (which, by the way, is determined by the sperm that fertilises the egg and entirely on the father of the child) is never step one. It is a culture of degradation that is so enmeshed in our lives that we enable it even while being oppressed by it. It is every mother saving the best parts of the meal for her husband and sons while she and her daughters eat what remains. It is the men with three children who haven’t changed a single diaper while their wives laugh about it with their friends. It is every casually misogynistic joke in your family group chat. It is how it is always the aunties criticising your appearance, still held in a chokehold by the idea that their value lies in beauty and ever so willing to pass that shackle onto you.
The patriarchy prides itself on control. To look with lecherous eyes, to act with lecherous goals, and still control the outcome. The title of this article is from a poem by famous feminist poet Christina Rosetti critiquing the male gaze upon a woman’s body. One face looks out from all his canvases/ One self same figure sits or walks or leans:/ We found her hidden just behind those screens,/ That mirror gave back all her loveliness. For centuries, women have been fighting for rights upon their own bodies. Be on the right side of this fight.
It is high time we stopped doing the patriarchy’s dirty work. Refuse to be a pawn in this elaborate, unending labyrinth of a game. Be vocal in your support of women, and start with your own life. Take it all back, for the sake of the women who came before you and those who will after, if you cannot do it for yourself. After all, the patriarchy does love demonising feminine wants and needs. The protection of girls who come after us begins with the protection of the mothers who will bring them into this world.