Misogyny is the hatred of, contempt for, or prejudice against women or girls. Misogyny is manifest in numerous ways, including social exclusion, sex discrimination, hostility, androcentrism, patriarchy, male privilege, belittling of women, violence against women, and sexual objectification. Misogyny can be found within sacred texts of religions, mythologies. Why this thought process exists is very simple to judge. Nature has created humans as males and females; females have been given a very important job of giving birth to children. The science of childbearing and giving birth has made the male and female bodies differently, with women’s bodies between certain age are made ready to conceive. In the initial phase of history, the marriages took place even before the girl’s body was ready to conceive and both husband wife hardly knew anything about the birds and the bees.
Over a period, the so-called legal age for marriage went on increasing and now it is theoretically minimum 18 years for girls. The monthly cycles of women, created different thought process in the initial phase of history, but it seems not much has changed even today. The women are supposed to be impure in that phase of their monthly cycle. Many women have difficulty handling menstruation both physically and mentally. Handling this aspect on a practical basis was also very difficult, even 70 years back, due to lack of knowledge and lack of proven clean methods to handle periods. This led to calling women impure, weak and what have you! Also, during pregnancy and childbirth, women needed to take it easy or sometimes rest, completely! This led to calling and looking at women as weak and inferior individuals. Probably if a male is made to give birth to a child, then he would know who is weak!
I read a news item in today’s Pune newspaper that in a crowded public place, a guy tried to misbehave with a woman. When he was caught and taken to the police station, he said, “Oh, I thought she was a whore!” This is purely a misogynist statement. This is our society’s behaviour with women! Reading the M J Akbar and Sabarimala stories, this is the type of reaction we are getting from men and some women too! These are so-called strong women who think women should have retaliated there and then instead of being crybabies and complaining years after the MeToo event took place.
Many are surprised with the way people from the advanced, highly educated Kerala are behaving against the Supreme Court Verdict on Sabarimala, not allowing all ladies (including those of menstruating age between 10&50) to visit Ayyappa Mandir. Kerala is the most literate state in India with the literacy rate of 110% (it is jokingly said that 10% are monkeys from Kerala which are also literate!). Many including women have stopped the ladies from entering the Mandir. I am sure most of you are not aware of Kerala’s poor history in sticking to so-called traditions.
The Channar Lahala or Channar revolt, also called Maru Marakkal Samaram, refers to the fight from 1813 to 1859 of Nadar climber women in Travancore kingdom for the right to wear upper-body clothes to cover their breasts. I will not go into too many details but it was a tradition in those days of baring of the chest and shoulders in front of people of higher status and was considered a sign of respect, by both males and females. Only Nair community ladies were allowed to wear blouses but Nadar community, from so-called lower caste, were not allowed to wear them. Uneasy with social status, many Nadars embraced Christianity and started wearing long clothes. Nadar women later started wearing blouses, similar to Nair community. This led to Channar revolt which went on for 40 plus years though British rulers and Royalty from Travancore tried to force this issue.
We are all aware that the humans started with wearing loin cloth made from tree leaves. But the concepts of civil behaviour started evolving too. Wearing clothes was part of this evolution. The Kerala region has been way ahead of other parts of India in literacy and education, from the beginning. But religion and castes superseded the normal thought process in the brain of Keralites too, and the result was Channar Revolt! It was logical that Nadar women should have been allowed to wear blouses.
With this type of thought process, it is not surprising that in the whole of India Misogyny has been the common trait. The basic difference in Me Too and Sabarimala is that at the heart of the matter, is the question of the body. In Sabarimala Case, the celibate body of the lord counterpointed against the “impure” body of the menstruating woman. In Me Too, the sexually entitled body of the male (any male) over the sexually vulnerable and dis-empowered body of the female (any female).
Underlying both conditions is a deep-rooted misogyny, casual in Me Too and customary on the part of Sabarimala. Yet both are two sides of the same patriarchal coin, and both betray such a profound contempt for — or fear of — the female body that they have to either punish it by casting it out or control it by subjugating it.
What these two phenomena have done? Sabarimala has openly said, let us continue with a different kind of untouchability, to hell with the constitution. What MeToo has done is that it has brought out in open, what has been happening for a very long time and one of the dirtiest open secret; some people are already saying that it is an elitist movement but in India the elite and the maid servants are so close on a day to day basis, that this movement will also spread in non-elite strata, thanks to the elite ladies who are leading this revolution.
What MeToo in M J Akbar and other’s case, and the Supreme Court verdict on Sabarimala have done is to unshackle the troublesome business of female sexuality from patriarchal control. MeToo has called male sexual predators to account not simply by naming and shaming, but by refusing to succumb. By not ceding control over their bodies. By rejecting them and registering their revulsion. The Supreme Court verdict, similarly, has called out a discriminatory practice based on a sexual taboo — an unspoken endorsement of different untouchability — and simultaneously challenged male primacy in the matter of worship.
Friends, this sudden loss of power at the hands of women in one instance, and via a judgment on the other, has hit patriarchal privilege bandwagon in an unexpected — and unwelcome — ways. What causes resentment is that it is female sexuality, under patriarchal control all these years, that has upset the apple-cart. The fact that it cannot be used to justify discrimination/untouchability under a different garb, even in a place of worship. In future, it cannot be abused at will and with impunity. The fact that women will no longer fall in line, and or remain silent.
Misogynists of the world, be careful and warned in the future! The ladies brigade and the Indian constitution are now slowly waking up! As far as Kerala is concerned, Sabarimala is only one month and it is early days, compared 40 year plus war of Channar Lahala!