You're not the boss of me now (or ever)
Never were, never will be
I’ve been thinking a lot about ownership and how so many men in 2021 still feel entitled to think of women as their “property”. Something in their possession that they have control of. It’s so bizarre but so real and shows up in the subtlest, most unexpected places.
For example, I was watching new episodes of Selling Sunset on Netflix this week (don’t judge me, it is the best) and without giving away any spoliers, Chrishell, one of the realtors, is invited to a colleague’s yacht party. Because she’s newly single, her friend tries to set her up with someone she knows — a middle-aged, white man who’s also a father that Chrishell saw a photo of and described as handsome.
So everyone’s having a fun time when the girls decide to climb on the deck and dance. Chrishell joins them but all of a sudden, this middle-aged white dude who’s supposed to be the set-up, decides it’s okay to “carry” her off the stage. Without her consent. And then proceeds to say, “You’re coming to sit down. You’re too hot,” followed by, “Okay, I’ll let you dance,” when Chrishell says she’d rather dance.
Who asked you for permission?
If you’ve watched Dil Dhadakne Do (also on Netflix), you’ll remember the scene between Rahul Bose and Farhan Akhtar when Bose, who plays Priyanka Chopra’s husband, says he “allowed” her to run her business. Here’s the scene for reference:
For anyone who doesn’t speak Hindi, the guy in the green sweater starts out by taking a jab at the guy in the grey sweater, who’s a journalist, by saying that journalists blow everything out of proportion. If the news is anything to go by, readers would think all women in India are unsafe all the time. Grey sweater guy responds by saying that’s what the surveys say but women’s issues isn’t just about safety, it’s about equal rights as well. So green sweater guy says, quite proudly (obnoxiously) that until his father’s generation, women in his family weren’t allowed to work. But he’s “allowed” his wife to work. And grey sweater guy says he’s just helped him make his point by explaining when you give someone permission, you put yourself in a position of authority and control, and that’s not equality.
I urge you to watch the full film on Netflix with subtitles not just because it’s a good, fun film that follows a classic Bollywood formula of beautiful people in beautiful places but also because it breaks down multiple painful dysfunctional family dynamics quite artfully.
I recently learnt that the husband of someone I know won’t “let” her wear certain colours. We were out shopping for gifts and couldn’t buy her clothes in bright colours because he wouldn’t let her wear them.
We can guffaw all we want but how many of us know women like that? Whether it’s about clothes or if she can go out/travel on her own, stay out late, work or meet her family/friends. I think sometimes it’s easy to forget that these archaic ideas of women as wealth who travels from a father’s house to a husband’s with a transfer of “responsibility” between the men is not something that only lives between the pages of Hindi lessons.
It is alive and well in the world.
Each of the examples above isn’t where you would naturally expect this sense of male entitlement and ownership to exist — on a yacht in California among white people, in what is supposed to be an affluent family in India, in my family which is progressive and evolved in many ways. But it’s there. In plain sight. And the degree to which we police our women says plenty about us, collectively, as a people.
*This week’s headline is inspired by Malcolm in the Middle’s title track.
I’ve been accidentally MIA here for the past two weeks because I’ve started something new and full-time after a while and it’s taking me a minute to find a rhythm. I might consider turning this newsletter into a monthly or bi-monthly.
There’s something about December that makes everyone (me) want to do the bare minimum. I’m doing what I need to/want to and winding down. I had originally planned to keep this newsletter going for a few more weeks but I’m going to give myself permission to take off and see you soon in the new year.
We entered 2021 with promises of how this year would be better than 2020 — and in many many ways, thankfully, it was. It was still also weird. I wish you a great holiday season. I hope you find time with loved ones and remember that for all the endless lists of errands in the world, sometimes, not doing anything at all, just sitting still, and allowing yourself to be, without rules or expectations, mainly from yourself, is the biggest accomplishment you can strike off your list.
Everyone is struggling to get reacquainted with the world, learning how to socialise again and enjoy it. We’re all where we’re at and there’s no race, no point to prove. While nudging ourselves to wear something other than sweat pants and get out of the house to get fresh air or to meet friends and family or even to go into the office and see colleagues is nearly always a good idea, I saw something the other day which stayed with me.
Thank you always for reading. I started this newsletter in lockdown and your positive messages and encouragement, your friendship and your company have kept me going. I’ve enjoyed writing this newsletter so much because your engagement shows me why we need to talk about women’s affairs more openly and frequently. I hope it has helped you because it has helped me tremendously.
Lots of love, light, cheer.
Happy New Year.
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