Chalak, Badmash: Why Are Outspoken Women ‘Villainised’?

Women Regret Getting Married, thappad re-release
Hello dear reader. Before I start my article, let me ask you a question. How many times have your parents labelled you as ‘chalak’ or ‘badmash’ or ‘zaban ladane lagi ho’? I guess a lot of times. Because in our Indian society, to be outspoken and opinionated is assumed as negative traits that should be called out, especially in the case of women.

Girls are raised with the indoctrination that women should internalise silence as a part of their identity. Women are never expected to demand, oppose or opine. They are rendered as subjects of patriarchy that wants to see women as subservient members of society.

Let me tell you about my own experience. I was at my friend’s birthday party. My father came to pick me up. My friend’s family convinced him to stay till dinner. And while he was at it, I asked him to take more puris as he does at home where he demands my mother to be on her foot while serving him food. This incident alone was enough to anger my father. When we reached home, he slapped me, pushed me out of the house and warned me against talking too much. Everyone expected me to be shy and conforming.

If you have watched the movie Thappad, you must remember the scene when Amrita’s mother and mother-in-law ask her to be quiet and not do anything about the slap. If Amrita would have agreed and conformed to what her mother defined as appropriate, she would have lived with a toxic husband throughout her life. This is exactly what happens in real life. Since women are never taught to be outspoken, they don’t share about their sufferings. They don’t speak up in cases of domestic violence or any other injustice happening with them. As a result, as per NCRB data, housewives who were oppressed through domestic violence and dowry harassment, accounted for the second-largest number of deaths by suicide.

Is it fair that women are forced to pay such a huge price? Is it right to make women submissive just because traditionally women have been the secondary members of society? Is it fair to expect women to be quiet just to maintain the status quo? Is the status quo more important than the safety and happiness of women? In fact history or mythologies also don’t support that. Moreover, what is exactly the status quo that society is trying to maintain? Does it even involve women with the agency? What about the women who are actually outspoken? Are they an aberrant, a lack or a mistake? History has proven it otherwise.

Haven’t we had women revolutionaries in history who raised voices of change? Haven’t we had women freedom fighters devoted themselves to the country? Would we have the freedom that we enjoy today if women like Sarojini Naidu didn’t speak up? Moreover, Ramayana would have been different if Sita had not opposed Ravana’s advances, or spoken against the society’s unjust judgements and retired into the earth.

So from where does the idea of ‘villainising’ outspokenness and opinionated nature come? Who said that women with voice and agency will disturb the harmony of society? History is proof that women who speak have the power to bring a revolution and make society better. Even in the present times, women are breaking barriers and the world is reverberating with their voices. So it is high time we understand that and make our women the change-makers of tomorrow.

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