Earlier today, @wavehit tweeted me asking me to join the protest against the content of the Tamil talk show Neeya Naana that aired on Pongal Day. I had watch a part of the show until the constant and extra-long ads breaks finally got to me and I switched off the television about 40 minutes into the programme. With wavehit’s tweet, I decided to watch the show on You Tube and then get down to the onerous task of registering my protest without getting angry.
Now, this discussion features a motely group of men dressed smartly, some in veshti and other in more Western clothing. Sitting on the other end, are women, dressed in jeans and tees, some in skirts and all sorts of Western clothing, ostensibly representing city-bred women. As it is, the difference in clothing i’s stark and sets the tone for what is to follow. Gopinath, the anchor puts a loaded question to the men. “What have you studied and how do you want your future wife to be?” The combination of questions is telling, because the rest of the show just goes on to prove that education doesn’t get you anywhere.
All men wanted to get married to good village girls, the reasons being wide-ranging. Without going into intricate details, I noticed that some of the points raised by the men ranged from the ridiculous to the outrageous.
“My wife should wear only sari, or salwar kameez. She should wear the dupatta in V-shape. She is not permitted to wear jeans or any other such western clothing. She can dress in skimpy (read western) clothing inside the four walls of my bedroom and only for my eyes.”
This attitude of curtailing women’s clothing seems rather widely-prevalent irrespective of social, educational and economic status. The general impression seems to be that a woman who dresses unconventionally is: a) easy, b) difficult to control and c) unfit for family life. Also, the permission ostensibly granted to the wife to dress in similarly unconventional clothing inside the bedroom reeks of commodification of the woman in question. Enough said.
“My wife should be a good cook. She should be capable of multi-tasking, of cooking, cleaning, taking care of kids, and then going to work and still coming back on time to make a hot, fresh dinner for me. City-bred girls are incapable of it all.”
Ok. So basically, these men want an unpaid cook, a maid, an ayah and a wage-slave (rolled into one) who will bring home the paycheck every month to keep up the lifestyle they are used to. Right! And I was thinking marriage is about partnership, caring and sharing. Maybe we are a bunch of fools here.
“City-bred girls lack respect. They call their husbands by name. We do not want such disrespectful wives.”
Uh oh. We have a problem here! If I am not supposed to call my husband by name, what else am I supposed to call him? Prananatha? Aryaputra? Come on guys! Let’s get real!
“My wife should be sweet-tempered and friendly with my relatives and hers. But it is not acceptable that she be equally sweet-tempered and friendly with her friends.”
Apparently, friendliness should be the exclusive right of in-laws and the rest of the world does not deserve the same. A reflection of possessiveness, lack of trust and respect perhaps?
“Chennai girls have a lot of boyfriends (read pre-marital sex). Village girls will be sweet and virginal. My wife should be from the village.”
Apparently, they have never taken a look at abortion statistics in the city and elsewhere, as the good doctor and psychologist Shalini later points out. Also, the general attitude seems to be that they can sleep around all they want but still want virginal wives. What’s sauce for the goose is obviously not sauce for the gander.
Apart from these obviously chauvinistic comments, one thing seems certain: none of these men seems secure in his own skin. As they finally admit, they seem extremely scared of a woman’s (obviously superior) intelligence and social skills. They seem to truly believe that a woman who is smart, intelligent, independent and outspoken will not stay in the marriage.
Now that I have made these observations, on to rebutting each of them.
- No man has any business dictating terms to his wife on her choice of clothing. We don’t tell you to walk around in veshti-chattai all the time do we? Neither should you. We will dress in what is comfortable for us. If you have a problem with it, live with it. Or handle it!
- If we are married to you, it means we expect you to treat us as equal partners in that relationship. We are not competing with you for supremacy and neither should you. If you can’t do that, maybe you need to rethink getting married at all.
- We can be pretty to you within the four walls of your bedroom, but that does not mean we are sex objects. In case you did not realize, we are human being with real feelings and emotions.
- Some of us truly love cooking and make it our life’s mission to keep you well-fed and happy. But some of us detest cooking and the thought of the kitchen makes us cry. We come in different hues and shades, just like you. If you want a cook, get one. Don’t marry her.
- Some of us may work at home and outside, managing multiple tasks, deadlines, client meeting, personal commitments and kids perfectly well. But some other are less-adept at doing all that. We admit we have our limitations. Maybe you can help by getting your butt off that couch and putting the clothes into the dryer or mopping the floor for us.
- We call you by name because we believe that is why you were named so. In case you wish us to call you mama or athaan or even prananatha like I mentioned earlier, kindly return the favour by calling us bharye.
- If you want a friendly wife, please acknowledge that she will have friends. We cannot turn on and turn off friendliness. We do not have an inbuilt “friendliness switch”.
- As for pre-marital sex, we are human too. If we have had relationships before and are honest enough to tell you about it, you should appreciate that we are willing to let go if the past and make a new life with you. And it’s not as if you are pure and virginal anyway. So get over it!
I could probably go on, but I think 1000 words for a post is a bit much. Have your two bits to add? Please go ahead. That’s what the comments section is for.