Saturday, April 21, 2012

Beyond the Claims of Abuse

Kartikey Sehgal

A woman, who breathes in and out the concepts of feminism and equality, is unable to apply them in real life. Interestingly, we don't question the ideal; we just want to hear the sob story.

Meena Kandasamy, in her article in Outlook dated March 19, 2012 (I Singe The Body Electric), gives an account of the abuse and torture she faced at the hands of her lover, who beat her, whipped her, forced her to perform fellatio, among other atrocities. She cites the inability of law to help her, "When I press for his punishment, the police speak of jurisdictional issues. You lived elsewhere, they say. Lady justice does not serve displaced women."

If she has been wronged, then we wish the best for her and ask that the perpetrator be punished after proper investigations. However, the ordeal Meena has undergone is a crime. It has no connect with patriarchy, or with nature of men, or with oppression by men. All of which seem to be Meena's pet topics in her literary career.

It is only a crime. And an unproven one. Yet.

Let us trace the time-line of Meena's ordeal as stated by her in the Outlook piece. She moved back to her parent's home in January/February, after her four month stay with her lover. We can assume that she moved in with him by August/September last year.

Meena was already a feminist before her recent affair commenced. She had already published books and essays on oppression and feminism. In May 2011, she had published an article in Tehelka titled, "Celebrating the loud slutty sensibility", in which she talked of sexual harassment and prejudice, both of which she claims she faced in her stay with her lover.

I would like to point out that her understanding of the world, of feminism and women rights did not prevent her in her relationship. Second, she was not forced into the relationship, and could have, in any of the preceding months before the fourth one, sought help from law, friends and police (in another state).

I reiterate that she ought to be given justice if her claims are true. However, her writing is not an encouragement for women to walk away from abusive relationships. Instead, it brings out their weakness and failure of logic. it promotes the idea that women are not good decision makers. The patriarchs, whom feminists detest, could simply quote Meena's "It appears that there is no escape from this unending cycle of abuse, remorse-filled apology and more abuse" to make way for their philosophy of righteous upbringing of women, and make the claim that women, like men, ought to be guided by a male.

I firmly hold the view that wisdom is no guarantee of personal happiness. This goes for Meena and her feminist ideals, and is apt when you read her Twitter byline, "My Kali kills. My Draupadi strips. My Sita climbs on a stranger’s lap. All my women militate. They brave bombs, belittle kings, take on the sun, take after me."
None of this 'fashionistic', provocative and 'brave new women of modern world' ideology applies to Meena herself. This is not a comment on her but the fallacies of holding invented ideals as truer than actual human behaviour.

After stating that she deserves justice if her claims are true, I ask you readers: despite the assumed truth of her abuse, is over exaggeration not a possibility? "It becomes a bargain, a barter system. For the sake of survival, I surrender my space."

Until her charges are proven, we cannot condemn her lover as so many of the respondents to her story have done. Has the magazine sought to get the lover's point of view and cared to provide it to us? Or any notes from the police? The paramilitary personnel that she quotes? Doctor's? Maybe it is sufficient to take the woman's word for it. Or we are only interested in words and phrases of pain and misery.

Until these questions are answered, we have to consider the possibility of her story being a plug for feminism and 'women abuse'.

I ask these questions because I have met acquaintances who have contemplated suicide because of failed marriages. They are men. And they are battling charges of abuse and threats of charges of abuse. And no magazine will pick their versions of marriage as sacrament. No matter how romantic and prosaic they make them sound.

Published at The Young India


natbas said...

Wow! I didn't expect this :)

This article was translated into Tamil and received wide sympathy. None have been critical, as far as I know.

Shouldn't you have cross linked this post with that in Young India?

Thank you.

Kartikey Sehgal said...

Done. have also linked to Better Failings on Home Page under events/ads category.

natbas said...

Thank you. It looks better now.

Balajhi Narayanasami said...

I just read that article in outlook. It's strange to think that a self professed feminist, who is egging women to militate was a victim at the hands of a man. As you said, if it's true that guy must be punished.

Kartikey Sehgal said...

Yes Balajhi. The glories of 'victimhood'.