I have been working for over 20 years and have never stopped being surprised by the heady cocktail of power and control that seeks to create innovative exclusionary environments for women. Recently post a heated discussion on my role definition and my agency to raise questions and offer points of opinion, the discussion meandered to an altogether interesting level.
I was told that I am deliberately protected from some meetings and discussions because sometimes arguments can get a bit lively and degenerate into use of cuss words which are not only in Hindi but meet a gold standard so far as indignities to the human being are concerned. Therefore, for the preservation of my dignity and sensibilities, it is best that I should not venture “where no sensible and sensitive woman should go.” I can well understand the sentiment of the person wanting to prevent me from the onslaught of crude language, however my rational mind was still not willing to turn a blind eye to the unfair implications of this situation.
Let me however be absolutely clear, that I have no desire to be part of conversations, clubs, meetings and groups that are not civil or polite and need to depend on slurs or relationship shaming and parts of the human anatomy to ostensibly convey a more “effective” point of view. But mind you, “effective” can also be easily replaced by other adjectives such as liberated, powerful, and dominating and therefore can alter the balance of power between those who use them and those who can’t. There is also this key question whether mouthing foul expletives is a necessary characteristic of manhood and a qualifying criteria to ensure male kinship.
The very fact that profanity ridden conversations offends female sensibilities, also ensures that there is very little female gate crashing of typical male bastions. I don’t think that there can ever be a more fool-proof method of having a proprietorial membership of a club without explicitly stating a exclusion criteria. This can be that of clubs, meetings, societies, and even whatsapp groups etc.
Since my education on the subject of expletives is possibly at the kindergarten stage and therefore my ability to speak in a language replete with one is a grave question mark, I naturally turned to Google for figuring out the “choicest Hindi gaalis.” Lo behold, and one finds that 70% of these abuses are either prefixed or suffixed with mother or sister, or have to do something with the female anatomy, or allude to a profession sometimes adopted by her to keep her body and soul together under extenuating circumstances. I believe the English language abuses follow the same line of practice as well. In fact, one would not be wrong to suggest that not only these two languages, but nearly all the world’s languages are similar in the liberal use of the female gender, her anatomy, and her last-refuge profession to construct the lexicon for abuse and expletives.
Coming to the feminist perspective to this deeply entrenched societal phenomenon, because these discussions, meetings, interactions are barred for women using “the sensibility criteria”, they also end up being exclusionary for women. They somehow manage to convey to her that some things are just not up her ladder. Further, since she is not privy to “important” conversations that happen in those profanity packed meetings, it is best that certain decisions are taken by others and she should neither ask for information, nor give her opinion and definitely not question them. So we have a situation where typical male clubs decide to use abuses using constructed feminine analogies to keep the very same females out. It sounds like convoluted logic, doesn’t it?
Unfortunately, this is a situation where no legislation can come to the rescue and hence will continue to guarantee exclusive male membership of quite a few meetings, clubs, discussions etc. Therefore at best, I can only hope that good upbringing, conversations about gender equality, and importance of inclusive practices will bring about some change in this practice. The best of course would be if people just start valuing the really good things of life such as polite and decent conversations that come sans demeaning “choicest Hindi gaalis”