Zoya and Aparna
Women’s bodies have historically been politicized to fit the agenda in a male-dominated society. This ideal has not only been made normal but also romanticized – the Trojan war was fought for the beauty of Helen, movies regularly idolize a certain kind of woman, and public policy often victimizes women and takes away their autonomy. All of this has resulted in a sense of ownership of the female body by those that have no real understanding of the same and a lack thereof on part of females. This in turn impacts the quality-of-life lead and the choices forced upon individuals who lose access to basic human rights.
Take for instance times of war where the female body is seen as an object of conquest by the victors with the violation of the same symbolising the defeat of the enemy. Such has been the case since wars of the ancient times and which Joshua Goldstein terms the “feminisation of the enemy”. Here, the female body is used to represent each of the parties involved. For one it serves as the representative of values and cultures of a society while for the other it is a means of making a statement about overcoming the same. Women are often the most victimized in wartime and have to take on additional roles to protect themselves and their households from the instability.
During the lockdown, as we already covered, domestic abuse rose to staggering numbers, and thousands of women were denied abortions and natal care.
Society’s double standards also undermine a woman from being able to freely determine her own future. Additional dimensions suddenly feature into a woman’s plans that do not worry men. Safety, rigor, competition, duration, and how it affects marriage prospects are additional items that have substantial importance. Having to cater yourself to the male gaze, while also avoiding it is challenging and incomprehensible by anyone but women.
It is unfortunate that the powerbrokers and decision-makers rarely take into consideration the point of view of the very people such decisions are made. Menstrual products have been inappropriately taxed, contraception has been made a woman’s responsibility, abortions are severely restricted and subject to a lot of scrutiny, women rarely receive equal opportunities and attention in matters of education, employment, health and political agency. Having open and educated conversations, and engaging with the intended beneficiaries of such decisions is absolutely vital.