Monday, March 08, 2010

Women's Day

I've been enjoying Dorothy Surrenders for some time now - mainly because I love the writing, because I love fawning over the same women they fawn over, and because reading that blog makes me feel like I'm talking to a friend who gets me. Plus, where else am I going to get my fix of androgyny?

And thus, in tribute to International Women's Day - I decided to read all Buffy-related posts on the blog, and intend to fall asleep to the sounds of Season 7. The logic may seem rather strained, but well, it makes sense to me.

I have two younger women working with me, aged 24 and 22, and I love them to bits. We rarely talk in the office, but a couple of days ago I had some time alone with them and asked them how they handled the "eve-teasing" (I really shouldn't use that word) situation here in Dhaka.

As a bideshi, I have the luxury of fighting back. Either by acknowledging remarks with a glare or a stare-down, or a good old-fashioned slap. As locals, their only option is to ignore the cat calls and lewd comments.

I found out that just days earlier, the younger one had been grabbed by four guys on motorbikes who blocked her as she was walking to work. She said they grabbed at her, and there was no one around. She was so scared, she did not know what to do. The guys left when some other pedestrians came by.

The other told me that the last time she tried to confront a guy who had said something rude to her, a crowd gathered and she ended up feeling embarrassed and ridiculed because the guy simply denied having said anything.

"If we say anything, we get in trouble." The two girls laughed it off and giggled while talking to me. It seemed they are so used to it that they regard it as just another instance of how ridiculous life can be.

And yet, when I told them about how a friend had smashed a phone (guy trying to show us porn videos on the street) and how I slapped someone -- their glee was unmistakable. They were overjoyed that we had done those things, and I wonder if they wished they could do it too.

Yesterday, I hinted/suggested/ordered the men in the department to GET US SOME CAKE - and they did. I wish I had planned something better than this.

I'll admit that I never really thought much of having a special day for women - in the same way I find Valentine's Day, Friendship Day, and all those other Days basically meaningless. But I suppose I only thought like that because I had the luxury of never needing to be reminded that I had rights, to be reminded that equality was still something we had to strive for, to be reminded that things have to change.

Today, as I sat in an office filled with laughter and the sounds of people enjoying free cake, and I listened to this speech by Joss Whedon, I realised its time for me to arrange for a Buffy marathon in my house.

I love his words so much I wanted to write it down. In his speech, Joss reenacts his replies to the question he is always asked during press junkets:

So, why do you write these strong women characters?

Why are you even asking me this? (This is like ) How is it possible that this is even a question? Honestly, seriously. Why did you write that down? Why aren't you asking a hundred other guys why they don't write strong women characters? I believe what I'm doing should not be remarked upon, or even honoured... But seriously, this question is ridiculous, and you've just got to stop.

So, why do you write these strong women characters?

Because. Equality is not a concept, it is not something we should be striving for. It is a necessity. Equality is like gravity. We need it to stand on this earth as men and women. And the misogyny that is in every culture is not a true part of the human condition, it is life out of balance, and that imbalance is sucking something out of the soul of every man and woman who is confronted with it.

We need equality. Kinda now.

So, why do you write these strong women characters?

Because you are still asking me that question.


Lin the Finn said...

Just thinking about this makes me so angry that the physical effect of the adrenalin in the bloodstream is similar to that of a a liter of espresso.
Living (and walking) in Bangladesh used to bring on these extravagantly violent revenge fantasies, and one recurred just now when reading about your colleagues. And that was without ever getting harassed myself. I'm glad they enjoyed the phone story.