Opinion

Women, Wombs and War

The media, the state and the masculine narrative of war ignores women’s contributions and roles. The mainstream accounts sees war as a man’s zone where “physically inferior” women have no space

Photo Courtesy: social media

Mrinal Pande

In spring time young men’s fancy, wrote the Bard, turns to thoughts of love. But what is equally true is, ageing men’s fancy may just as predictably, turn to potent thoughts of war. War has always been seen a masculine affair even though in the animal kingdom the female of the species sets the prime example in fighting, remember tigresses? Mother bears with cubs? Even in Hindu religion it is a Goddess that male gods will turn to faced by an uncontrollable demon wreaking havoc. She then arrives armed to the teeth with her army of armed women and begins to kill : Madhu, Kaitabh, Mahishasur. You name them and the female deity will kill him and drink his blood.

In Kaliyuga, war has a male face. It needs high testosterone levels. It needs uninterrupted supply of arms and young men. It needs lots of money, lots of expensive imported ammunition and lots of hatred to fuel the conflict. The kind of intense hatred early nomads had for the settlers, the Suras for the Asuras, the grand empires for the barbarians, the NDA for the rest of Milavati opposition.

So before the dates for the election are announced we are taught early on that as through most of history, even in 2019 elections men will fight, women will stay at home and mind their primary business : kitchen, caring for children and the old and wailing when their dear ones are returned to them in coffins. If they are ministers, they will defend their Party like fire breathing furies in Parliament. But as election nears, they will tweet condolences or messages of goodwill, visit the dead and the dying and attend international meets where no particular decisions affecting the Party’s fortunes will be taken.

In TV debates the panelists and Party Spokies, are also mostly men. They wage great verbal wars, yelling, thumping, foaming at the mouth and calling all peaceniks impotent and urge them to wear bangles and petticoats like women and migrate to the enemy land. Then the political leaders call for public rallies and ask the scared nations to vote them back to power for their own safety. Emblems of masculinity : mustaches, guns, colourful head gear, thunderous declarations from the top about forcing their way into the enemy’s house and killing each one of them, Chun Chun ke..

But through all this the unalterable biological fact remains that men can not replicate themselves. Women are the sole crucibles for producing cannon fodder for the next war. Legitimacy and steady production of sons then becomes very very important national duty. And the indoctrination starts with, “Bring forth a thousand Veer (brave and legitimate) sons !”the standard blessing for young brides. However sensuality and expression of public joy remains taboo for women. Films glorifying the Sati by pure hearted wives, or a suicidal war waged against white intruders by a young widowed queen, become tax exempt. At the same time, jeans, using cell phones, going out with men other than brothers and/or husbands invites the wrath of Bajrangis and Ram Senes.

They address them as Matao Behenon and promise them cheap gas cylinders, skill up gradation courses and freeships and cash for for their daughters’ weddings. They address their brothers and husbands and sons killed in senseless war against a terror as martyrs, Shaheed

This over emphasis on dogma and punishment for breaking out of the sanctioned moulds of masculinity and feminity has steadily strengthened the concept of the State as repressive, militaristic and nationalistically aggressive is becoming common almost all over the subcontinent. With the newly added bonus that in India a freshly militarized and angry looking duo of Ram and Hanuman is always on the side of the macho government from Ayodhya to Ram Setu.

Do India’s increasingly literate young women want a society that mirrored only their particular moral and religious beliefs and no others ? Do they need a plural liberal society where as ordinary citizens or ministers they will be treated on par or pushed back whenever decision making is going on , as per one Party’s concept of a militant male dominant Hindutva ? It isn’t as if any one is asking them. No wonder so many of them wish to escape to the west, drug ridden, socially different or racist as it may be.

The politicians misunderstand India’s young women because they see them as mentally and physically inferior. Those from villages , the semi literate ones whose husbands drink pesticides to die and get away from the ignominy of hopelessness are to them, the archetypal Indian female, ignorant, weak and indecisive. So they are printing Saris and posters with the face of macho men and guns and aircraft, to distribute them during elections. They address them as Matao Behenon and promise them cheap gas cylinders, skill up gradation courses and freeships and cash for for their daughters’ weddings. They address their brothers and husbands and sons killed in senseless war against a terror as martyrs, Shaheed . The terror wars they always overlook, have been raging since India and Pakistan were ripped apart, by the male oligarchy of the Britons. From them along with a few Generals trained in Sandhurst, they have also inherited the same misplaced priorities and vanityon both sides of the Wagha border. So from Zia to Modi, arms and priestly class loving politicians sit comforted by their knowledge that each time they whip up war hysteria, women will vote for them, for security, for the safety of their children .

Freedom, wrote Sartre, is what people do with what has been done to them !

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