The Curious Case of Two Women And A Wine Shop

Last updated 10 Jul 2018 . 1 min read

Two Women And A Wine Shop Two Women And A Wine Shop

A day before yesterday was Saraswati Puja. Back home in Assam, it is widely celebrated. Mostly students all over the state celebrate it jubilantly. However, yesterday a journalist from a well-known media house shared this photo of two young women standing in front of a wine shop. Now, the image was supposed to shame these two women wearing the Assamese traditional wear in front of a wine shop.

Nandan Pratim journalist

Though later the journalist apologized after the Internet schooled him on his hypocrisy, this opened the discussion of bullying, judging and condemning women in public spaces.

After the picture went viral, the first to jump in was the ‘Apologia brigade,’ who justified that the women were in that shop may be to meet their brother, uncle or father (note the relationships the apologia brigade jumped into), or may be asking for direction or ask for change. Another brigade joined in, saying that the picture is old and from 2016 when demonetization was underway. They left no stone unturned to justify that the two young women were not out there to buy wine but for other purposes.

Then the ‘blame the women brigade’ joined in, where they could not believe their eyes that two young women wearing their traditional wear, could go to a wine shop to buy wine, hence demeaning Assamese culture.

But it was the ‘Sane Brigade’ that saved the day, standing by the rights of the women to be in any public space where men have walked around with impunity over the ages.

This discussion takes us to the everyday terrorism women go through. The kind of terrorism we neither address nor want to deal with. In the comment section of the same photo, a girl commented how on wearing a Saree or Mekhela Sador, where the midriff stays revealed they hear comments on whether their midriff is slim, fat, fair or dark. Young boys passing by making sure that something is spoken about it as if it is their duty to comment and make women in public spaces uncomfortable.

Patriarchy says that women belong to the house. To the kitchen. To the child. And if she walks anywhere out of it (remember Laxman Rekha), she is asking for all the things that make her uncomfortable. In the public sphere, a woman is made aware of her gender and the fact that she is prodding a man’s domain.

Once in the public space, there is no boundary a woman has because she is asking for it. That also includes getting her pictures clicked, questioning her motive and character and uploading it on social media.

I often wonder what is it about a woman that needs so much of speculation in the public space? Get inside public transport and we get pinched, touched, groped and grabbed. It is the same mentality that urged the journalist to upload that picture. It’s a silent commentary on the so-called ‘fall of the society’ where women dare to go to a wine shop wearing traditional attire. But in case it was two boys in their traditional attires in a wine shop, no one would have batted an eyelid. Because it's women who cause any fall (remember eve?), and men are forever forgiven because to do what they please in the public space, is their birthright; whereas women need permission from the moral brigade.

(Also Read about 5 Amazing Indian Women Who Broke Gender Stereotypes)

It’s interesting to note that women in Assam or Northeast have often consumed homemade wine like Xaaj or Apong in public spaces without any public shame or humiliation. However, when two young women go to a wine shop in their traditional attire, the moral brigade loses their sleep. I wonder what gives them the right and privilege to do this with impunity each time.

It is important to mention here that the same news channel aired a program in 2016 where they compared girls wearing western, or so-called revealing, outfits with monkeys. Because according to the news channel, a monkey too would want to dress up covering its body unlike the young girls, who reveal and take down the society.

When there is a constant bullying and shaming of young women in public spaces, it is a constant reminder to women that public spaces do not belong to them. We hardly address how hard it is for a woman to survive a public space and make her way through it. Bullying is a constant companion. A woman’s body is in constant vigilance. Her honour, or that of the society, is constantly attached to it.

It’s a burden she has not asked for or signed up for. But it’s there like an invisible rock on her shoulders that bogs her down. With this constant vigilance, can someone imagine the pressure one goes through? Or how difficult it is to be a woman in this country?

Public spaces belong to everyone but as Thomas Sowell says, "When people get used to preferential treatment, equal treatment seems like discrimination." So, when spaces are opening up for all the genders, the ones who enjoyed it with impunity for years feel it is a discrimination and they need to school the invaders with a lesson. And this happens every day.

What is a civilized society? A society where all genders can express themselves in all spaces - public or private - without being bullied or terrorized. If one gender has to be bullied in preference to another, it only shows the insecurity and the privileges that run through the society.

But we are far far away from that society. But an act where two young women are bullied and shamed for exercising what is their constitutional right must be condemned. And condemned now.


What are your views on this issue? Tell us in the comments.

Paromita Bardoloi
She loves life and God. She believes in the power words. She is a writer and a storyteller.

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