DEFEATING THE PATRIARCHY WITH EYELINER

This is an article I wrote for my school magazine that I thought was worth sharing with Medium.

There is an Indian/Tamil factor present in some parts of the article, but it shouldn’t distract from the main focus of the article.

My sister and I polar opposites. While she is known to be the well-mannered, responsible, and hard- working daughter who finished working out her XI — standard RD Sharma textbook four times before her final exams, I am the more outspoken, trouble making yet inexplicably lazy slouch, who worked out only the simple problems from RD Sharma at midnight the day before the mid-term exam started. Clearly, we both have extremely different and distinct qualities, however hard they are to mask, and this most probably stems from the differences in our opinions.

Of course, we do share a number of common interests (that kept and still keep us from going overboard while roasting each other), like cricket, k-pop, books, and a perpetual love for writing, but at the same time, a number of our ideas differ in radical ways. She believes that Janardhan is a modern name, and that peas taste good, ideas that I would not support even after death.

However, one of the biggest differences we used to have was whether objects and ideals generalized to be ‘feminine’, a concept generalized in itself, were detrimental or not to the female community. While my sister didn’t believe that such object/ideals were detrimental as such, she could not see their use in the real, dog-eat-dog world, where vanity and ‘beautification’ were unnecessary. This was expected, as my sister does not care about how positively or negatively other people receive her. Her fault, however, was in believing that make-up, and nice clothes, simply served to please others.

Now, presenting this kind of an argument to someone who is absolutely obsessed with eyeliner, loves wearing earrings of all sorts, and enjoys ‘beautifying’ herself whenever she can never elicit a positive response.

She was wrong. I don’t wear eyeliner, and make sure my earrings go well with my clothes (which are probably mismatched, something I attribute to my lack of fashion sense when it comes to my own clothes; I might like clothes, but I can never seem to wear anything nice for myself) to please anyone. I couldn’t care less whether people, utter strangers whose opinions are of no use to me, outside approve of my face, of my body, of the clothes I wear, the hair style I sport, and the make- up I adorn. Yes, I do like dressing up nicely, but I wouldn’t mind going out right after waking up, my eyes still bloated and the hair reduced to a wonky sort of hay stack; but I still make it a point to spend five minutes on winging my eyeliner whenever I can. Therefore, I obviously am not ‘beautifying’ myself, and spending tons of money on tiny sticks of darkened wax for anyone other than myself.

I enjoy such things as it gives me satisfaction, an almost egotistical contentedness that comes from looking at a nice face in the mirror and congratulating myself on successfully pulling off a French braid without any hitches.

I have no qualms about flaunting myself off (however bad I may naturally look!), and it is no one’s business to tell me if what I’m wearing, how I’ve accessorized myself, and how I am showing myself off is acceptable or not, because, in actuality, there is nothing unacceptable about following my own sense of style for my own satisfaction. Nobody can dictate how I present myself to society, and while I will acknowledge the fact that my style may not match with others’, it does not give anyone any right to stop me from continuing with the same style, and should not even go to the extent of degrading me and oppressing my identity- my gender, or race, or anything else, just because someone else doesn’t support the same ideals. And if you believe that wearing certain types of clothing, using varying degrees of make- up, and doing my hair up in different ways is detrimental to my identity, my gender, and that by doing away with things that bring us happiness, confidence, and security, you are fatally wrong.

Unfortunately, this misguided sense of conviction is so often seen in today’s society, predominantly in our country. A good example of this the recent controversy regarding the ban of leggings in many colleges across Chennai, with a Tamil magazine even publishing an article about the ill-effects of wearing these ‘obscene’ articles of clothing. These people believe that the discrimination and oppression, the abuse that women have to face on a daily basis is because they are stepping over the line with such ‘provocative’ pants, which will warrant unwanted attention. It is entirely the woman’s fault for facing abuse, simple because she wore leggings.

The article took up the cover of the magazine and was met with good amounts of distaste. Note that these pictures (of women’s backsides) were taken without their consent and circulated throughout Tamilnadu, or even outside, for that matter.

It is just depressing, firstly, that leggings are being used as an excuse for abuse! They are stitched pieces of coloured cloth! How can a piece of cloth be termed provocative?

Instead of judging people based on what they wear, we should start taking stock of the actual problems that plague our society and take the necessary action. If the perpetrators of such heinous crimes are provoked by a piece of cloth, there is obviously something wrong with the ideals and values they’ve been taught, and the fact that a woman is wearing leggings does not call for any kind of protest.

People who advocate victim-shaming need to be taught that the clothing I’m wearing, the make-up I put, the hair styles I like, the length of my fingernails- they are not signs symbolizing that I want to be abused or oppressed; they are signs that show I am confident in my body and my gender, and there is no one who is allowed to tell me any different. Moreover, you definitely cannot discriminate against in the name of progression or the alleviation of my gender, and I will not listen to anything you have to say about my choices-choices that must be respected by others instead of being used to condone the insecurity you force upon me, to rationalize the abuse you inflict against me.

Another very often debated argument is whether using make up, wearing delicate pink skirts, and the like, are feminist or not.

Why not?

A person’s sense of fashion and keenness in appearance has nothing to do with whether they support equality among sexes, and it is incredibly insensitive, ignorant, and almost bigoted to say that it does.

The concept of ‘femininity’ is misconstrued by society itself, and, contrary to the misconceptions we are forced to accept, does not simply refer to ‘girly stuff’, because one cannot label something to be girly or not. Genders do not have labels. One can be a girl and enjoy what is stereotyped to be masculine, and in the same way, a man can enjoy what is supposedly ‘feminine’. That is one of the basic ideas that feminism is built upon. Feminism does not call for criticizing everything that the male community espouses; it is just the want for equality.

So to say that, by wearing scintillating red lipstick, and enjoying adorable pink tops, and putting in some effort in my appearance, is succumbing to society’s conceptions of the female sex, is anti-feminist in itself. Yes, I am vain, and enjoy glitter eye shadow and butterfly hair clips. And the same things can be enjoyed by anyone else- by degrading my passion for such things, you are degrading the feminist sentiment of equality between sexes. Saying that enjoying something that is traditionally feminine will bolster the patriarchal motion is extremely judgemental, almost calumnious, as I wear make-up, not to please others, but to please myself.

While, I have since inducted my sister into the modicum that is those who understand these arguments, a lot of our society still believes that wearing my choice of clothes, and my passion for make-up, is useless, anti-feminist, and justifies oppression.

Successful entrepreneur and pronounced feminist Tyra Banks once said, “I love the confidence make up gives me.” That’s right, confidence, not a sense of subordination. Happiness, not a sense of oppression. And it’s our duty, aside from being our right, to fight for the eradication of any opinions that try to dictate what we can do or cannot do, just because they believe we do not deserve that happiness or confidence.

As the women of tomorrow, let’s step up and fight with our own voices, whether we like dressing up or not, whether we enjoy wearing make-up or not. In the end, the both sexes can continue on in a life of eternal equality, regardless of our personal choices.

-Inori