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Swara Bhaskar’s Powerful Open Letter Personifying Sexism Gives You A Lot To Think About

Let’s admit it, our society is sexist. Sexism is everywhere, right from the disappointment on a family’s face when a girl child is born to the frown on the face of every male employee when they have a female boss. Even those who proudly announce themselves as being of progressive thought, tend to have a subconscious bias purely by virtue of the people they interact with on a daily basis.

Recently, Swara Bhaskar penned down a powerful letter about sexism. She points out, in striking detail and with just the right amount of satire, how sexism has plagued every corner of our society and as a result, made the life of every woman a living nightmare.


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Dear Sexism,
Trust you are well. I think you know me; though you may not remember me – you meet so many like me on a daily, sorry hourly, sorry secondly basis. Yes! Google says 4 children are born every second in this world. I wager at least 2 of those would be girls on an average – except in Haryana where it would be 2 boys, 2 BUFFALOES and minus 2 girls!
Anyway, I know you. And I know you well. I met you the day I was born. It was when my dadi had called – Baammaa we say in Telugu and her first question on learning that it was a grand daughter was: “Is she fair or dark?” My naval officer father who was already dealing with hitherto unknown emotions and replied indifferently saying, “She’s pink- looks like a rat to me.”
You then followed me into my life as I grew into an infant, then a toddler; into my newly forming infant thoughts; into my very reflexes. Almost from the very moment I acquired the powers of cognition. Quite a sneaky little chap you are haan, I must say – you’d make a commendable stalker.
Yes, you sneaked into my reflexes. As soon as I developed the powers of cognition, I began to realise in some subconscious part of my infant psyche that if I smile – people would fawn over me. That they would LIKE me. I wonder how many little girls learn this infant lesson “Always smile and you will be liked.”
Now I know you are going to be like it’s not a girl thing – it’s a baby thing. Everyone likes a happy baby. Not really! It’s the girl babies who have to smile to earn the title of Pari, mitthi, misthi, gudiya… The boy babies are all bloody born Raja beta only! Now while you establish the statistical veracity of that I will return to the smile.
That smile soon translated into other lessons. Be nice and you will be liked. Be a sport and you will be liked. Take a joke and you will be liked. Be a bro and you will be liked. For some reason, my reflex began to understand that as: Don’t complain and you will be liked. So much so that, in the space of my work, you know that contentious thing called the workplace, the ‘professional’ context… when in my workplace, men in positions to hire me, or give me work… made a pass at me or a proposition or just grabbed me and began to try and neck me. Instead of being offended I smiled. I was nice! I didn’t say NO! I was apologetic even. I said- “Please! Please! I can’t.”
– When a director (struggling himself) rejected me for the female lead part saying,“You look too intelligent to be the heroine!” I smiled and said – “I can try and look dumb! See.” (Aditi face)
– When another director (also struggling may I add) rejected me for yet another female protagonist role saying I don’t look like lead material – I smiled and started wearing heels! (stick out a heel).
I mastered the art of appearing well groomed on the treacherous war zone known as the award function red carpet. Mastered the art and exhausted the bank balance on hairstylists, makeup artists and clothing stylists. And it worked! I started looking like ‘lead heroine’ material! Okay, so a couple of films I featured in were super hits and my role was appreciated but FUCK that! I was looking the part – who cares that I was also playing the part!
And that’s when I had my epiphany, you dear Sexism. You are my friend. You are my saathi, my humsafar! to use terms from Bollywood film songs – my humnawaa! Okay, I don’t actually know what that means. My simple point being: you are not the antagonist. You are a friend. I mean, you are what you are, but we can learn SO much from you! You are like the ultimate management lesson. You are like Engel’s False consciousness; Gramsci’s hegemonic manufactured consent and Prashant Kishor’s Election advertising success mantra all rolled into one. Let me explain your own working by pointing out your various tricks.
TRICK 1:
You descend upon us in the very infancy of our consciousness… Smile.
You give us values – collective cultural values and impulses that we as an entire culture inculcate. Different values for girl and boy children.To the girls, you teach us to be Be nice! Be dutiful. Be polite. Be responsible (responsible towards others feelings). Be obedient (to elders and teachers). Be respectful (i.e. obedient). Be strong i.e. be sacrificing. Be forbearing i.e. suffer in silence.
And the boys, what values do you give them? MUMMMMMMMMMYYYYYYYY!!!!!
And then you give us the double dose values ka Fevicol- so that these values are ingrained in our psyche – Forgetting ourselves and guilt .i.e. Forgetting our desires And feeling guilty when we remember to feel our own desires.
I swear!
I don’t know how it was in the age when the famed ‘Kamasutra’ was written, but there is a strange collective unconscious that we as Indian women inherit when it comes to matters of love, sex and desire. Oh wait, the ‘Kamasutra’ was written by a MAN! Seriously, desire and acknowledging desire is an act of guilt. A matter of some shame. I remember my first kiss ever. It was pretty mundane and banal actually. An abandoned part of the playground in the junior school building after school hours. I was 17 and a half, nervous and didn’t really know what to do. The young man in question was apparently the Casanova of the school but kind of missed my mouth when the moment of reckoning came! Nevertheless, the first kiss is the first kiss, even if it succeeds only the second time around! Apart from the excitement and momentous nature of the moment when I lost forever the threat of the ‘never-been-kissed’ tag; I keenly remember the acute feeling of guilt that possessed me soon as the moment had passed. So much so that I rushed home immediately (leaving behind a bewildered Casanova) and got to my Math tuition homework – as if finishing my homework were an act of penance. I felt less guilty after that.
Achhaa its not just matters love and sex!
My mother’s yoga group friend Sarla Aunty is unable to keep her diet because her husband doesn’t like sprouts!.. and she’s a HOMEMAKER. She lives in the kitchen!
My very own friend, whose name I cannot take because this will be on YouTube and she is a YouTube junkie – she of the fancy shmancy corporate job and 5 and a half figure salary, is unable to spend money on herself. Yes! She shops generously for her husband; his clothes and gadgets but all her childhood lessons of frugality and savings come in when she has to buy something for herself.
Now you will say this has nothing to do with sexism. It does if these values are not found in the same widespread manner in men- and they are not – one India Today Survey will prove that- then it’s sexism.
TRICK 2:
Vocabulary, stereotyping
Complaining is uncool. That’s it. Simple. And for the complainers, you have this two-pronged attack.
Vocabulary: You have appropriated the vocabulary of the resistance to yourself – and come up with counter terminology. Every time we complain you come back at us with words. FEMINAZI! And Hashtags – #NotAllMen, #MenAreTheRealVictims, Youtube videos, sketches, songs, that are all genuinely funny! Humour – you’ve aced using humour to your offensive strategy – and yeah well we laugh too!
Stereotyping:
Bra Burning FeminazisSINBAD: Single Income No BF and Desperate Feminist who Needs a fuck
And my favourite, Flop – Publicity – Hungry -Actress. And maybe let’s throw in Anti-national-sluts also.
You are the Shakespearean inspiration behind the terms Anti-National, presstitute, Libtard of our troll Twitterati!
But Trick 03 is your winning stroke:
TRICK: 3
I am not a Feminist waaley feminists i.e. Aurat hi Aurat ki sabsey badi dushman hai
This is the beauty pageant answer or superstar actress answer that makes me want to bounce off the walls in defeat. And this is the secret to your success.You created a secret army of Non-Feminist – Feminists to counter us, Feminist Feminists. You know one Ivanka Trump for every 100 Women’s March activists.
Classic Divide and rule – aapas mein bhidaa doh. I feel like the British imperialists learnt from you!
This not feminist wala feminism has that women are equal but biologically different so kinda also not equal thing going.
They will come to us with hormone studies to prove my so many months of paid maternity leave are unnecessary, or with pap smears to tell us how female ambition causes cancer.
And then there’s ROMANCE!

There are several open letters out there, each of them calling out sexism at the workplace, in school and more or less in every aspect of daily life. I have had readers remark about the sheer volume of these letters and sometimes even be annoyed about it. To those, I ask you this: If you want to hammer a nail into a particularly stubborn wall, is one blow of the hammer ever enough? 

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