A little bit of Womanly Hysteria
Megha Kajale & Vaishnavi Ganpule
“No one likes a mad woman,
You made her like that”
21 July 2023. Manipur was burning. A video surfaced on social media, alarming many. Others found new fodder for debate, without a care for the very real human beings that featured there.
Two Kuki women were paraded around naked in the streets of Manipur as a crowd of men surrounded them. They were stripped off their clothes, their bodily autonomy, and dignity. They were dehumanized, used as objects to satisfy the thirst for political vengeance. This was an obvious display of power. A gruesome, heinous act. Anyone – any woman – who came across this video was horrified, mortified that such a disturbing act would ever take place so close to home.
Our names are Vaishnavi Ganpule and Megha Kajale. We are 19 years old, fully equipped to fall in the category of women most likely to be raped. In our lifetimes, we will be catcalled, verbally abused, sexually harassed, raped, be susceptible to domestic violence or be killed. This is the reality of the world we live in.
The news about the viral Manipur video sent shivers down the back. A suffocating tightness clawed at the chest, and sheer hopelessness crept in at the mental image of hounds of men surrounding the two women. Rage. Despair. Anguish. Betrayal. But most of all, fear. Fear for our future, fear for our life and fear of the men in our lives.
We treaded lightly minced words for years. In the eyes of the ‘civilized’ society, we were good girls. We were taught to not disturb the peace, but this storm inside is fighting to break free. But Alas! A bloody revenge is a far off dream. All we can do is wield the sword of writing as we bequeath to you our callous rage and sordid insecurities.
Dearly, respectfully, sincerely,
To men, with hate,
The irony is amusing. I am filled with hate for our fellow human beings when heinous crimes happen. Yet, this burning visceral hate inside me, can never hold a candle to the oppression and hate women have faced at the hands of men for generations.
It started with little boys on the playground throwing insults like ‘weak’, ‘crybaby’, ‘girly.’
‘Why do you scream like a girl?’, ‘don’t cry like a girl’, ‘how could you lose to a girl?’ were a constant. 8 year old me was proud that I didn’t cry like a girl. That I didn’t like dresses. That I didn’t like the colour pink because I wasn’t like other girls.
Cue puberty- Periods. Pain. Peril. I was sucked from the age of innocence right into womanhood, whose sacred rules were not to be broken. I was supposed to dress modestly. Shave my body hair because it was an unpleasant sight on a woman. Jeer at the girls who gossiped and tried too hard. Come home before curfew. Condone misogynistic comments because boys will be boys. Never question why boys didn’t have the curfew. Learn to blame the girl who wore the mini skirt. Endure the whistles and catcalls from boys as I walked down the street. Learn to be afraid of any strange man because it’s better to be safe than sorry. Oh but ‘get over yourself,’ not all men want to undress you with their eyes, you Vixen!
At this point, you think you’ve made peace with the fact that society will treat you differently. Corporate girlbossing, beating boys at sports and laughing off sexist whatsapp jokes was enough to get you through. But it was the phone which became the gateway to a plethora of information. It opened up a perspective to the cold, harsh, cruel reality of the world. The revelation of the systemic injustices and the broken system left you stunned.
Information is empowering, but ignorance is bliss. One realization (and call me paranoid) was that women are hated everywhere. In everything they do and everything they decide to be.
The downward spiral into the rabbit hole of female erasure from history was maddening.
This was the rage when I realized that the world was just not made to accommodate women.
Not really. I have a list of things that make me seethe with rage.
- There is always a fear at the back of my mind when I step out alone. Always. The privilege to walk around at night without being scared is not destined to be a woman’s. Going out alone at night is like shooting myself in the foot.
- Unwarranted attention is not a compliment. Ever feared your life while walking past a group of guys? No worries! Cause I have <3
- A boy band fan is a crazy fangirl, but a football fan is dedicated and cultured.
- I NEED POCKETS ON MY CLOTHES TOO!?
- Sex education for girls is a myth. Non-existent.
- The worst thing a man can be is a woman. And this is reiterated time and time again through insults and swear words.
- Rejecting someone for not liking them back can get me killed.
- Sex workers are looked down upon when the whole reason the industry thrives is because of creepy, misogynistic men.
- Childbirth is a fact, not a choice. The woman is merely a vessel without any autonomy over her body.
My blood boils when men offer their sympathies and give their opinion on how we should be confronting this problem.
Stop it. You act like passive allies, your hollow sympathies mean nothing to me.
No man will ever understand the position we are in every second of every day. No man will ever understand what it is like to live in a system that is actively against women. No man will ever understand the pain and anger I feel when I realize society capitalizes on my insecurities every chance it gets. I hate that I have to justify basic human rights like bodily autonomy. I hate that I’m apprehensive of calling myself a feminist because you might not take me seriously. I hate that I have to validate the things I like. I hate that I think I need to be cool enough to talk to a guy. I hate that a lot of times, I wish I wasn’t a woman.
You know what’s funny though? The issues above are just the ones that are explicitly seen.
CPR, a life saving procedure, is only practiced on male dummies. This makes people hesitant to perform CPR on a woman because of lack of training. For all the love for breasts that men have, it conveniently fails to show up in the important things.
2023 was the first time that female dummies were used in car crash simulations. Studies suggest car crashes are more fatal for women.
Medical research also shows a gender gap. Historically, women have always been excluded from clinical trials. Under Medication or overmedication is common because of this. It’s 2023 and we’re still clueless about female bodies. Women are more likely to die from heart attacks.
ADHD is often misdiagnosed in women. Women are less likely to seek healthcare.
The common sensical notion that women talk too much has also been debunked by various studies. While research suggests that men talk more than women in public places, they also overestimate how much women talk. The reason men think that women talk too much, is because they would rather have them not talk at all.
This just goes to show the extent of systemic oppression that almost half the population of the world faces.
The fear I feel when the algorithm shows me an ‘alpha bro’ podcast numbs me. The discomfort I feel when I see women being sexualised and objectified for a joke is alienating.
You consider yourself the odd one for not feeling comfortable enough to laugh at the joke with others. But over time you realize you were never the problem. You were not a prude or a killjoy. You were just a girl, who deserved respect.
Both of us write this, dripping with privilege. We fight to wear a certain dress when millions of women fight to stay alive. It is hard to comprehend that both rebellions can fall under the umbrella of feminism. However, in the end, our rebellion stems from the same fear. All we want is the same rights, the same respect and the same opportunities as men. We long for justice for the two Kuki women who had to go through such a traumatic experience. Even amidst war and destruction, women continue to bear the brunt of gender-based violence.
This is not an article to preach for change. These are our innermost, most vulnerable thoughts, unuttered till now. Change seems impossible. It is exhausting to be angry at a different rape article every day. It is exhausting to fight the same fight every single time. People don’t seem to change. People don’t want to change. Those who benefit from the existing arrangement are never going to care. Maybe a millennium later, things will be better. But as the wise man John Maynard Keynes once said, ‘In the long run, we are all dead.’
I have to live with the fact that I will always be the lesser sex, I will always have to fight for respect, and that some day, my body will cease to be my own. I am ashamed that I am scared to publish this article. I am ashamed that multiple times while writing this article I felt the need to justify my fear. I am ashamed that I felt the need to sugar coat my words so that the men around me won’t be offended. 15 year old me would be ashamed that I care about what people think. I don’t want her to see me like this.
So to all the men, to the patriarchy, to the victim blamers, and the slut shamers,
You made me hate the world. You made me hate myself for being a woman. You made me scared of dreaming. You made me scared of just being. You can ruin me anytime you want and erase me from history. As long as I’m stuck in this body, I am powerless.
I envy those that haven’t met you.
Megha, Vaishnavi and our feminazi shit.
Feeling faint, might delete later.