Posing irrelevant questions to women is a form of moral policing which masquerades as social habit in our country. No one feels any qualms in walking up to a complete strange woman and question her choices in life, clothes and what not. While I will concede that even men do face a barrage of unwanted questions, for women the drill is akin to custodial interrogation. If you fail to answer these inconsequential questions to the interrogator’s satisfaction, you stand the risk of shaming and blaming.

As per an article in The Indian Express, K Pavana, daughter of activist Varvara Rao (who was arrested as part of a probe into the January 1 violence at Bhima Koregaon, Pune), alleges that she faced a barrage of irrelevant questions from a police officer who visited her home to conduct an inquiry regarding her father.

She claims the officer asked, “Your husband is a Dalit, so he does not follow any tradition. But you are a Brahmin, so why are you not wearing any jewellery or sindoor? Why are you not dressed like a traditional wife? Does the daughter have to be like the father too?’’

All things aside, where does this woman’s preference to not wear jewellery or sindoor fit into the scheme of things?

Irrelevant questions always find a way to creep up on women

Be it policemen or bhaiyyas sitting next to you on a bus, everyone, men and women alike, in this country assumes that it is their right to pose inconsequential questions to women. Most city women these days refrain from wearing jewellery because it makes you a walking target for chain snatchers. Every now and then, we hear of women who got grievously injured by snatchers in the process of retrieving chains and jewellery from their living breathing bodies. Also, sashaying around the neighborhood bedecked in fine jewels is not exactly every woman’s top priority.

SOME TAKEAWAYS-

  • Often irrelevant questions are posed by people to women as a form of moral policing.
  • Most such questions are a reaction to our diversion from ideal Indian female conduct.
  • Should we not stand up and refuse to be put through this charade of inconsequential questioning or bear them with a smile for being the demure gender? 

We wear clothes which are comfortable. We choose footwear which meets our demands and we wear sindoor or bindi only if we like to. However, we do expect that our choices and dignity are respected irrespective of whether we are wearing sindoor or not. But I guess it is too much to ask for from a society which feels compelled to discipline women and tell them what to do all the time.

These irrelevant questions are a form of policing, to let us know that our diversion from ideal Indian female conduct hasn’t gone unnoticed. One must bear taunts and questions for challenging social norms. Choice to live on your terms is a luxury which comes at a high cost of nagging, name-calling and unnecessary Q and A sessions for us women. And one must pay it on every possible occasion. On bus rides, during family functions or even job interviews and even waiting room at a clinic.

Everyone from nosey relatives, or colony ladies or conservative gents, who get hypertension at the sight of liberal women, feels obliged to course correct our wild streak

They pose these questions often with a straight face, but mostly with a tinge of tease. How do you get away with not doing any house work? How come you husband doesn’t mind that you can’t cook well, despite being a woman? Why are you out for dinner with your friends, wearing that dress, while your husband and children are at home? Almost every time there is no context to such questions, to the conversation happening. These questions also break the barriers of space and time, and relevance as per the situation.

The answer to all these questions is “none of your business”. But alas, only men can get away with such a colourful display of attitude. We women must endure it in the name of being the demure gender. But till when? Do we wait it to become full-blown policing? Or do we keep wading through the sea of irrelevant questions with a coy smile, till we finally drown in it? Now these are some relevant questions we need to answer for ourselves.

Picture credit: dnaindia.com

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Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section.  The views expressed are author’s own.

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