It’s just a joke, why are you getting so offended? By Riya Gawand
Updated: May 8
Recently in India an incident came to light, infamously known as the 'Bois Locker Room', but a digital more updated form of similar sexist and degrading conversations, that the original term (locker room talk) has been always associated with. Thanks/or not to social media, due to which the screenshots from a few groups created by some teenage boys in Delhi, on platforms like Instagram and Snapchat, went viral, where they not only talked of girls they knew, in a very objectifying, sexist manner, but went to the extent of discussing possible option of rape. Since then thousands of people, including influencers and celebrities took to their social media, condemning the act, sharing their feelings, showing solidarity, suggesting punishments, but many also came out in support. Support, of these just being harmless conversations, or some defending 'men' in general, with their favorite #NotAllMen Riya, a Youth Champion from Mumbai meanwhile was working on this article, which co incidentally talks exactly about how these 'harmless' conversations or jokes, which have especially increased during #COVID19, and the need for them to be called out and taken a stand against in our every day lives.
There is a lockdown throughout our country, as the Corona Pandemic is spreading world-wide. But it isn’t just the virus that’s disturbing, it’s also the patriarchal ideology that irritates me. Sexist humor. Specifically-- jokes that belittle women and are often perceived as ‘harmless fun’. Jokes stereotyping women have always been around, but the lockdown and the resulting boredom has given people a fresh reason to display their prejudices. If u haven’t read these jokes let me give you some examples:
The “jokes" about nagging wives, that the girls should always be in the kitchen, how one needs to pamper his wife for food, how the husband wants to run away because the wife is somehow “torturing” him with the house responsibilities. They both live in the house so how come these are only ‘hers’ to begin with?? And then when the husband is asked to contribute then it is torture? I have seen my relatives reading and laughing about these which distresses me. These have become so normalized for them that they don’t even understand how it is devaluing. Growing up, we have all heard our parents saying, “Make round rotis, be in the kitchen, otherwise who will marry you? What would your in-laws say?” Why is cooking so gender biased? Why are domestic chores not seen as a basic necessity for survival for everyone? Why is it something to learn only so that someday you will be an ideal wife/daughter-in-law?
Now that all of us are at home, suddenly it has become a default that the women are to take care of the house and everybody in it as the maids are not available in so many houses. Why don’t we realize that maids are not to help women in ‘their work’ they are there to take care of the ‘house work’ which is for everyone, so in their absence how does it happen that women have to do all the work? Why can’t everyone contribute?
When pictures of men crying over a cut onion are showed as ‘the wife’s rule’ why is it funny? I mean you actually got yourself to help out in your own house and shared some responsibilities instead of making an unpaid maid out of the woman you married? Wow. That’s hilarious!
Forget the casual sexist jokes, the Malaysian Government actually went one step further when their ministry for Women, Family and Community Development issued a series of posters for Facebook and Instagram with the hashtag #WomenPreventCovid19 This campaign was started with an effort to suggest tips on how to keep domestic violence at bay during lockdown.
The posters suggested that women should ‘avoid nagging their husbands’, ‘do “their” house chores’, and even ‘always use makeup & dress up at home’, to ‘keep your husband happy’.
So, it just meant, "shutup and go put on some lipstick, look pretty and keep me comfortable to avoid domestic violence?”
It did not even occur to them to make a similar set of instructions for the men? Appreciate your wife, respect her, don’t hit her. Is it also not shocking that we are raising our boys to become men who would even need such instructions?
Of course, that is nothing new that women are seen as objects for male pleasure and comfort but this is definitely a new level of audacity. They are just seen as pretty and someone who can do your chores. Not to forget they are victimizing the woman for domestic violence. Maybe we all should just die but that would make their life very inconvenient so we need to live and put up with this nonsense, with lipstick and make up and a smile.
The lockdown is frustrating for all the family members. Imagine a professional woman working from home for several hours and then doing the household chores, asking for help or expecting to be assisted resulting in “aren’t you the woman? You are supposed to be in the kitchen and look after the children."
For every person who says ‘I am meditating for hours before getting on calls and then I have a nice chat with my family in the evening before joining everyone at dinner table, there is another person in that house who wakes up before everyone does to prepare breakfast, make lunch, clean the house, wash the toilets, take care of garbage and so on (I could go on but you got the point).
So, don’t justify by saying ‘But we go out for groceries’ like some war heroes.
Getting back to the WhatsApp university, which is now an inseparable part of India's culture. It is widely used by millennials but it's really the older generation— people like my older family members, their friends, and extended family-- who've embraced it with striking passion and sincerity.
It's not surprising that all I had to do was search their group and family groups to get all this information. They keep forwarding good morning messages with different flowers every day (who can’t relate to that?), personalize their cakes for Birthdays of course, but if you think that's annoying--wait till you see their misogynist jokes.
Hope this quarantine you will help the women in your house, appreciate what they have been doing and get off that sofa and zoom call with your meditation group and contribute in taking care of the house that is equally your responsibility as it is hers.
The best excuse I have heard till date is that ‘I would have helped but I don’t know how it is done or that where everything is in the kitchen because I was never taught these things’. Fair enough that the patriarchal system never seemed it necessary to teach boys about these things but my dear--it has been over a month since the lockdown, you could learn how to build a house in this much time let alone run it!
Maybe try seeing how incapable you are in performing the most basic activities, instead of saying you are being tortured at home.
I mean you want us to wear makeup because it is easy on your eyes?? What about me relaxing during this so called off time?
To all my friends--YES I will take offense in a joke that's demeaning to women, that sees a woman as an object or as someone who would just cook for you and do your chores. These jokes are actually a reflection of your arrogant ignorance and incompetence, entitlement and insensitivity.
It is 2020 and IT IS NOT FUNNY ANY MORE.