We live in a society where only two kinds of people are generally associated with troublemaking - little children and women. See the range? Because apparently kids creating a ruckus in the classroom is equal in measure to a grown woman asking for gender equality. A daughter who asks to stay out as late as her brother? Troublesome woman. A wife who doesn't enjoy cooking? Troublesome. A professional asking for pay equal to her male colleagues? Very troublesome. Think about it - who is boxing us up within these patronising parameters of trouble? On what grounds have these character definitions been laid down? What does 'troublesome' even mean?
One doesn't have to be a genius to figure that the classification of what counts as 'troublesome' emanates from a patriarchal male gaze, and is reserved as a slur for women who choose not to conform to it or who have chosen not to take inequality or discrimination lying down. These women are labelled "bold" or "outspoken" - from Richa Chadha, Taapsee Pannu and Sona Mohapatra to all the Indian women who have spoken up in the #MeToo movement. But are they really being outspoken or are they only just speaking for what's right? Have we gone so far down the pit of depravity that calling out injustice, or siding with truth, or abiding by ethics is seen as a rare instance of exclusive "boldness"?
The Prototype of the "Bad Woman"
We must ask - who is a troublesome woman? Someone who aspires to be independent? Someone who makes choices for herself in aspects of sex, finance, marital status? Someone who isn't afraid to call a spade a spade? Someone who dissents again patriarchy? Well, all of the above. The most recent example that comes to mind of such a woman who checks all those boxes is an unusual one, perhaps because she is currently being held in a Mumbai prison.
To the Indian imagination, Rhea Chakraborty, in the past few weeks has become the ultimate prototype of the fallen woman - a living, breathing lesson of all that an Indian woman shouldn't be. She lived with her boyfriend, earned for herself, wore what she like, dared to look her naysayers in the eye, was bold about her opinions on smashing the patriarchy. Citing her, parents may already be telling their daughters - "See where all her troublesome choices led her? Behind bars." (disregarding the actual drug case that led her there)
And so the suppression happens with all women who live life by their own rules, and attempt to break down those unfair ones that society fences them in with. There is zero to no tolerance for a woman trying to question the powers that be. Dia Mirza, for instance, has always been one to make her voice heard on social media. Even now, as most Bollywood actresses are being vilified through media trials in the drug case linked to Bollywood, Mirza has had the mind to call out the media channels who are dragging her name through the dirt. And for that, she is being ridiculed mercilessly.
"my career" lol.— THE SKIN DOCTOR (@theskindoctor13) September 22, 2020
My dog read it and laughed like a mad, ran out of the house and jumped into the well. Missing him already.
Why Is Calling Out Patriarchy Seen As Troublesome?
The idea of women asking for dignity and opportunities level to their male counterparts seems outrageous, simply because it stands to overturn the status quo of power. Households, offices, religions, streets - these are spaces which have been commandeered chiefly by men for centuries. A network that feeds into and is inversely fed by patriarchy, where men stand on a pedestal expecting women to press their feet so they don't get tired standing.
It is what affords a husband the luxury of sprawling on a sofa while his wife slogs in the kitchen preparing a rajbhog for him. It gives a male passenger on the bus the authority to grope a woman, catcall her, or eve tease her with the knowledge that he'll get away with it.
And when against these very injustices women dare to raise their voices, they are dismissed as being troublemakers who are looking for attention, or are moody, or don't know how to take a joke. This is how it has always been, and this is how it will always be; Deal with it, we're told. But why should we just deal with it? Is injustice something to be adjusted to or something to actively counter? Shouldn't men (the gender in power) be the ones making adjustments to give women the space they need to flourish, succeed, and grow?
Let's Go Ahead And Create A Little Trouble
In India, step a toe out of line, and you'll find a family elder warning you with the prediction - Ladki ho ke itna zyada bolti ho? Shaadi nahi hogi tumhari. Sometimes it's our own mothers, who would find better mental peace in you inheriting her own silence or tolerance to gender injustice in the family. And if at all you dare to quip back saying that you're a woman for whom marriage is not even an agenda, then god forbid - all hell breaks loose and you instantly become the black sheep of the family, a blot on the culture.
Today, when the term "feminist" is used as a slur meaning to degrade or shut a "troublesome" woman up, the price of feminism is high. But as women, we need to decide how much significance to accord these labels society confines us within. Should we stop rallying for equality for fear of being called troublesome? Should we allow other people to decide for us what counts as trouble and what doesn't? Is there even such a thing as a good woman and bad woman? The answer to all those questions should invariably be NO. It's time women take the reins of their lives in their own hands. And if that comes at the cost of being troublesome, then ladies, let's go ahead and create a little trouble.
Views expressed are the author's own.