An open letter to Indian women,a year after December 16,2012.
Congratulations. Youve survived this far. You have forged a large and diverse movement in 2013 that has resulted in a stricter law against male sexual assault and made visible womens oppression at home and in the workplace.
You have broken the silence against your oppressor,even though they were your friends,colleagues,brothers,and fathers. You have found the courage to overcome your so-called shame and stigma and finally shifted the blame to your abusers in Goa,Gujarat,Delhi,Maharashtra and West Bengal.
You have survived being called a man-hater,a family-breaker,revengeful,frigid,shrill,divisive,ugly,and not feminine. Youve paid the personal price,when you confronted your father for assaulting your friend,or your boss for assaulting you. Youve survived men yelling,This law is too strict,women are falsely accusing us. You have survived bitterness,when your abuser got off scot-free and you were told you seduced him by wearing the wrong clothes. You have survived guilt for not being a good mother or good wife.
You have succeeded in facing off a conservative backlash from a society that wanted you to stay indoors after dark,wear certain clothes,behave in a certain way and not give you jobs because you were female. You have shown those who said they would fear hiring you as their secretary,that you would now be the Boss looking for a secretary male or female.
Youve endured despair,when only the failures felt real when the numbers of repeated and continued rape seemed unrelenting and when feminist victories got conveniently dissociated from feminism when some people declared that over the past 30 years,the Womens Movement didnt care about class,caste,homophobia,the environment,men,or that the womens movement was different from other movements against inequality.
Despite a barrage of hype telling you that you are interested in only your own freedom and power,you have created an inclusive,connective politics thats capable of saving life on this planet we call home. You have created eco-feminism,you have stood by the LGBT community,you have marched against caste discrimination,for peace and for Maruti workers.
You dont care about labels and just want to get stuff done. If you want to control your own life and body and help others do the same,youre riding a tidal wave.
Identity politics matters,but patriarchys genius lies in emphasising differences between people,so we may as well emphasise similarities wherever we can find them. For instance,were against pornography and prostitution because were anti-sexism,not anti-sex (thats the right-wing bad guys),and its because we love the delight of great sex that we oppose porn and prostitutions message of domination and violence.
You now know that jail is not romantic and that teargas stings like hell. But you have learned two essentials: one,we have to hunger for our goals even more than the other side does,and two,decisions get made by those who show up.
Its assumed that when women act politically,we do so for the sake of future generations. But heres the real truth,and may it set you free. We did it for ourselves,each of us finding herself crushed against some moment of outrage so intense she could no longer not act. Picketing is a fine exercise; who says buildings arent still there to be seized?
So do it for yourself. Run for office,go into space,write songs,save the world. Make love,demands,policy,a fuss,and miracles. Honour your own audacity. Act from choice,not obligation. You owe yourself everything.
The writer is founder president,Apne Aap Women Worldwide,a grassroots movement to end sex trafficking
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