I had chanced upon the trailer of a film called 2 Penkuttikal on YouTube while mindlessly scrolling through the app. The first few seconds of the trailer had me thinking about how transitory women’s lives are. They have zero to little control in most situations. And then an incident occurred to me which left my blood boiling. I had to address the common things women hear and normalise in everyday life.
Also Read: A Crash Course on Sexism
Despite living in the 21st century, as the daughter of well-educated, middle-class working parents in the city, I am often subjected to sexist remarks and words of caution from immediate and extended family members. However, it is not possible to fault one individual for these actions. As they are a product of years of cultural conditioning. Listed below are things most women from a conservative Keralite household have heard growing up.
The ‘Prim and Proper’ Rhetoric (Aadakam Odhukam Vennam!)
Every girl or woman in Kerala must have come across this line either as an insult or a compliment. Often used as a term of praise, the ‘Adakam Odhukam’ rhetoric describes women who conform to what is stereotypically considered feminine, the docile, mellow-spoken, dutiful girl/woman who does not question the men of the household. They are the society-manufactured, perfect, all-purpose wives in the making. This is also the most common class of insult thrown at women who do not fit the mould of femininity.
The Almost Rape Threat (Anungal Olla Veedu Aa Ethu.)
This line is often used to discipline and control the way women dress. Modesty is taught through inciting fear and obvious authority of the men in the house. For all those who wonder where the ‘she asked for it, because she was dressed like that’ discourse started, here’s your answer. A woman, living in her own house is told that her body is a sexual object. What is even more ridiculous is that the men of the said house cannot control themselves.
There are a few sexist things that all women hear which are so absurd that you begin to wonder how these still exist within society. This is one of them. When you endorse skincare, self-care and healthy living, it needs to be for an increased quality of one’s life. We need to practice them for ourselves. Unfortunately, in Kerala, girls present themselves as desirable and attractive so men can have their ‘trophy wives’.
Shhh, Men Are Talking (Annukal Samsarikanodthe Ninaku Endha Karyam)
This is a line that is often thrown at any woman who stands up for herself. Opinionated women are dangerous, they ask all the ‘wrong’ questions, so this is a way to silence them. This line comes to play in two ways: some of them choose a slight chastising tone to suggest that women should not have a say in the matter. Others end conversations with terms of endearment such as ‘mole’ or ‘kutty’ immediately infantilising your experiences.
Instructions on Sitting (Pennunkal Ingane Irikarilla!)
This one of the most common things women hear. The judgement that women receive for the way they sit is not an Indian cultural practice, but a global phenomenon. If you were to stop and think about it for a second, judging and criticising a woman for the way she sits is basically telling her that her modesty or sexiness is more important than her comfort. The problem with this statement is the objectification of women and their bodies.
Also Read: You Don’t Have To Be Fair To Be Beautiful
The Chef-In-The-Making Pep Talk (Veetil Cooking Okke Arre Cheyum)
Most girls and women in conservative households must have come across the infamous ‘learning to cook for your husband’ line in various shapes and forms. Growing up, a lot of women in my household had to wake up early. Their male counterparts take their own sweet time to complete their relaxing morning routine before showing up for breakfast. This culture also extends to the smaller kids. I have been called to the kitchen, to cook, clean and wash dishes while my siblings have been allowed to sleep more and work on their personal projects.
Obviously, there are a few honourable mentions. One cannot escape a discussion of sexist remarks without talking about the ‘why do you wear so much lipstick’ or the ‘quit your job so your children can have a better life’ or the ‘wearing dark colours does not match your skin tone’ and finally, the ‘just adjust, it’s easier that way’ comments. Things we women hear, we tell you!
When you see these sexist remarks listed out like this, anyone with an ounce of common sense can see how oppressive and humiliating they are. Yet, we practice them so nonchalantly. Questions need to raised and people should be held accountable. So, ask yourself, where did these rules come from and why are they still here?