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10603235_10154576729995093_6487279017006580629_n (2)So something happened to me recently, something that angered me to the point that I was almost blinded with rage. I was touched inappropriately on a footpath, a man (let’s call him that till I explain that he is actually scum, not a man) touched my thigh.

I know in retrospect that sounds like a very little thing to garner such a big reaction from someone. But let me tell you what went through my mind when this happened … A man touched my thigh and, for some reason, it reminded me of all the men that have ever touched me inappropriately, assaulted me, or made unwanted advances on me.

Ladies, you know who I am talking about: that creepy cousin, the uncouth uncle, that f-ing friend, the pervy private tutor, and, most likely, the disgusting scum on the street. Some of them, and sometimes all of them, have breached our personal space and made us feel absolutely horrible.

At that moment, I felt all of it: the years of pent up anger and frustration. I screamed and ran behind the man saying, “Eitorer bachcha tham!” I screamed at him in a mixture of Hindi, angry Bengali, and English (I live in Nepal). And, at that moment, I took an oath. I promised to myself that never ever again will I let my personal space be breached and not do anything about it. If a person crosses the boundary and touches me inappropriately ever again, I will scream. I will make a scene. I will make them wish that were never born. As the tagline for my blog goes: Hell hath no fury like a Bengali woman scorned.

For my foreign friends reading this, us South Asian women are exposed to sexual assault from a very young age. A depressing example of this is the fact that Delhi is the rape capital of the world. It’s not that men are just disgusting pigs (with a minority of them being great human beings) all across the world, but men in South Asia feel entitled to do this: To harass women, to touch us.

I have concurred that there are several reasons for this, one of them is depicted by the cartoon attached to this piece. God made men inferior to women and therefore gave them a penis to think with. Other theories of mine involve the interlink between fascism and sexism and how to some men it happens to be the same thing. Whatever the reason, it is baffling that men, who come from a continent that values family so highly, are so disgustingly abusive towards the very women who gave them life.

We call our country “motherland,” and yet we treat our women with so little respect. And when I say we, I mean we, not just the men in our country (although the men are the biggest culprits). Us, the women of South Asia, are brought up with the notion that men and women are not equal. From birth, we are restricted based on our sex, what we can or cannot do. We are cautioned to be careful as little girls and encouraged to be carefree as boys.

Why is this? Why is it that our first reaction is to warn our daughters instead of teaching our sons to not think with their genitals? Why is it that society asks women to dress “modestly” instead of asking men not to rape? Why are we the ones who have all the responsibility? In doing so, we are not only undermining the value of women as human beings, we are also holding men on par to brainless animals who act on the commands of their genitalia, and the need to assert their power as “real men.” Don’t even get me started on how pathetic that is on how many levels!

How many times have you heard your grandparents or your parents or some other relative say, “You should wear a scarf or cover your chest to protect yourself because boys will be boys”? Let me clarify something, THIS IS NOT AN EXCUSE! It’s a pathetic attempt to nurture the pre-existing socio-gender apartheid that is eating away the core of our society – the patriarchy.

Let me tell you a little something about patriarchy in Bangladesh. It’s omnipresent in every little crack of our country. Some say it stems from Islam and justify how women should dress, act, and in general, exist as the religion dictates and as a Muslim country, it must obey. You know what else Islam preaches? About how we should not kill others, how we should give zakaat to the poor. How we should not lie or cheat or sexually harass others! How about following that? How about instead of oppressing an entire gender of humans, you try to do some good, like help the poor and not kill people?

On the matter of oppressing genders, I feel that it is important we talk about feminism, shall we? To the specifically unaware humans out there on the Internet reading this, feminism is the theory that women and men should be treated equally. Yes, that’s what it means. Well actually, the textbook definition of the word is “the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.” I will let you soak that in for a moment because I am pretty sure you did not see that coming.

No, feminism does not mean women are better than men, it means we are equal. The feminist movement, which is also known as the women’s liberation movement, came into being in order to bring equality in terms of work, and education, and sexual, reproductive and other rights. So to those of you who were thinking feminism is some kind of radical view which only fat lesbians with hairy armpits have, think again.

It’s for people of all genders, races, body types, body hair compositions and creeds. All we, the feminists of the world want is equality, dignity, respect, and opportunity for all. Now that I have explained that all we seek is equality – and so should you, since you know, we are all humans – let’s move on to why I am angry because feminists are always associated with being angry.

You see, we South Asian women (or women across the world) go through hell growing up. We get harassed, teased, sexually assaulted, consistently discriminated, and subjected to glass ceilings all our lives. How do you think it makes us feel? Angry is the word you are looking for. We feel angry, frustrated and victimised as any normal human being would. Despite having great amazing parents who gave me everything I could ask for, I was consistently prey to the socio-gender apartheid called Bengali society.

I was still harassed, often enough sexually, by people I knew and didn’t know. And you know what’s worse? So very many of us are. I can’t say I personally know any Bengali women who have not been prey to abuse and mistreatment. So of course we are angry. We are angry because we are abused, used, mistreated, and stunted in a way that is almost institutionalised and the sad part is we accept it. We bear with it. But I think now, enough is enough, it’s time to change this and until we vehemently protest the consistent miscarriages of justice that happen to us almost daily, we will never rise above the evil that is patriarchy.

So I urge you, the feminists of the world, help get this message through! Especially trying to reach out to you, fellow Bengali feminists, it’s time to change the course of history. Jaago Bangladesh, Jaago.

Shudha Chowdhury is a Bangladeshi Human Rights Activist.

18 Responses to “#AngryBengaliFeminist”

  1. show

    i would like to say i disagree with the notion of equal rights.as a male muslim i believe women should deserve more rights then men.Islam teaches the men to lower their eyes before it tells the women to dress properly. i think the main problem is the movies,item songs and what not every where you look women are objectified as mere objects.women should be projected as leaders. i would just like to remind one more thing before our Father of the nation Bongobandhu gave his famous 7th march speech he asked advice from his wife.

  2. Akteruzzaman Chowdhury

    Sex problems and sex crimes have a biological origin and should be controlled properly by social and legal means. The male human may be the most promiscuous species in the world biosphere. In matters of sex a male human is always dangerous 24 hours a day. Actually we make a big mistake when we say “animal instinct”. In the animal world, often the female has to come in heat and has to seduce the male counterpart to do the ‘rape’ act. Normally the mating act is quite rare in the animal world, but there are some small exceptions. But nothing like the human world, sex, sex and sex. In the insect kingdom, the female is always dominant and, mind you, the insect kingdom is bigger and more versatile than the human or mammalian world.

    Feminists should think like the Queen Bee, Praying Mantis, the Hydra or a Newt. The latter two species don’t need to be raped by the male Homme to produce babies. Scientists in the west have developed reproduction without a mammalian sperm but have kept it under covers for ethical reasons. In the future you may not need a Homme to perpetuate the human civilization. The menfolk will just become a pain in the ass.

  3. Kayes

    Shuda:

    I wrote a response but the system somehow ate it. I like your ranting an raving.You have a really good style. I do, however, want to make a commnet about Feminism. I think the radical posture you take maybe of necessity but maybe counter productive. In the West (I live in the US) there is subte movement agaist Feminism. It is subtle but it is pervasive. Women are moving towards femininity as opposed to Feminism. Women have figured out that they are not Men and they are embracing their feminity. I work in place that has 90% women. They are mostly youngish and are driven people. They dress elegantly, the look pretty and they are fully conscious of their sexulaity. They pursue relationhsips just like the next guy and they have hope, dreams and fears like the rest of us. What I think make them diffrent from the bra-burning type is that they are simply not compromising their feminine side and becoming hard-edged and unapproachable. Which I think happens when you paint a whole gender in broad brush.

    The thing is when you make sexulaity a morbid taboo then the attacks that you talk about happen. Yes, there are lot of stupidity in all places but it is more pronounced in places where the thing is forbidden and demonized. So, cut the guys a break in the land of my father. It is a generational thing. We need to have laws that forbid harassment and need to have braod educational camoaigns that do not alienate women with some fire breathing ideology that simply makes them weary. The girls in Bangladesh and in the US think of relationships, marriage and the future (I am no fan of marriage as an institution) and unless you can give them indepence they will revert back to the mean. The way to parctice what I think you belive in is to find more employment for the women. I employ something like 900 women in Nepal for a prodit making venture and I have seen firat hand the changes in their societal status. You want to empower someone? Give them the means to make a living and care for the ones they love.

    Keep writing. Love you style kiddo.

    Kayes

  4. dr

    Ms Chy, I am not sure why people that I do not know keep on sending me links to articles from this online link. I really don’t. I suppose bdnesws24 has my email and that is why anyone can send it from there. Anyway, no big deal…it’s just a link that I get sometimes. I didn’t get a chance to read your article…just glanced through it, and the picture amused me. I looked through some of the comments. You wrote about things that are not discussed in public..though everyone knows about such ugly things happening. I am surprised that in Nepal something like that happens because I thought they are timid and well mannered people with dignity. Uneducated people do those sort of things. So be careful and keep vigil and next time inform the authorities. I am right now reading a book called Video Night in Kathmandu and it is hard to believe that perverts are lurking on every street corner!! I am sure you know that women around the world are welcoming the 4th phase of feminism. I am sending you a link and hope you will find the article interesting. My everyday motto is: men are beneath me, and after that mantra I go on with my day. There are so many other interesting things in life, and wasting time on men or rather pervert-minded men is a colossal waste of time. Women need to stick together and look out for one another. As a group if women do things to bring change then things will move along a lot faster; otherwise it will take a very long time. For example, are you aware that in the recent weeks there has been a Big commotion about women not getting enough space in BD media? Well, it was a one woman crusade and finally things are changing. One BD editor is now going out of his way to include women because he has been publicly challenged. These are very difficult times for women around the world, and women need to fight for their rights. If you choose to write about ‘why men touch women’ when they are out & about, then it is your right to do so. I don’t think bhadraloker chelera do such despicable things…and again it comes down to people being illiterate, and vulgar behavior is a direct result of lack of education. Next time when you are out, do carry a bottle of pepper spray and it might come handy. Anyway, I think a reader has a right to point out grammar mistakes for as the writer your work should be flawless. I think in most BD papers they do not edit any articles. That is your job. Reading enhances your mind…so I don’t think it was meant as an insult. No matter what don’t stop writing. Good luck to you & be safe.

    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/dec/10/fourth-wave-feminism-rebel-women

    • hasna begum

      are you referring to mahfuz anam? yes, i know how he is highlighting women in his opinion pages for the last few weeks. if anam had any self-respect, he should have resigned after the way he upset PM. then acme on national tv to explain his position. what can be more humiliating than that? now he is doing his best to keep the government happy and is afraid of Joy. ha ha. i think daily star should be run by a woman editor like Irene Khan. anam is old and his ideas are ancient and his writing is boring for he says the same thing over and over. now he has convinced rubana write for him about RMG junk for her husband has money. daily star has no journalistic ethics and it should be under the editorship of a woman. period. after all, women are smarter than men and a woman would do a better job and will give women journalists best assignments and will value female voices. women are the brain and most men are idiots. bdnews24’s best women columnists are getting snatched by other dailies and what are you guys doing to prevent it? sorry got off track shudha, but it needed to be said. you got many comments and i am with you in your trashing men for they are not nice, not at all. keep the fight going for we need to teach disgusting men not to mess with women. i know karate and anyone ever tries to pull something funny, i can kick his a… (explicit) so hard that he would wish that he wasn’t born. jerks are all around us but the one who wears suit and tie and touch women at a workplace are scums and the lowest of the low are the ones who look like gentlemen, but when no one is looking can undress you with their eyes…even if they are 65 years old! i wish we could expose all the perverts and those who harass women sexually and could have a mass trial in an open court, put them in jail and throw away the key. keep it up shudha. you are a brave woman. shudha.

  5. Andy Chakraborty

    Shudha,
    I am glad you screamed at the guy. I am very glad that you pointed out very eloquently that we feminists are angry not because it comes with the territory but because we have been pushed all our lives until we have nothing to do but raise our voices in opposition. I disagree with you on two fronts. 1> You keep saying ‘most men are pigs’ – I have felt like this on more than one occasion but I know that it is unfair to say this even if it might be true, we as feminists must refrain from generalisation of any kind lest we send the wrong message to those who are unaware of what feminism truly entails
    2> you speak of rape and sexual violence as though the only perpetrators are ever men. I can tell you that as a child I was molested by my female teacher at the tender age of 11.

    YEs, a change is in order. Down with patriarchy.
    I sincerely hope you didn’t mean that bit about men being stupider than women and been provided with a penis to do their thinking for them.

    Regards,
    a feminist man

    • Shudha Chowdhury

      First of all, I don’t know you but i like you already! 🙂 Lets start with that.

      I wrote “It’s not that men are just disgusting pigs (with a minority of them being great human beings) all across the world” I am not sure why everyone is missing the “NOT” part of it. As for your second part, please read my first article with bdnews ever, its about male rape. I have definitely addressed this issue before, for the purposes of this article i did not touch on the subject. But thank you so much for your constructive criticism. 🙂 Much appreciated.

  6. Catkins

    Shudha,
    Let me point out some of the words you used are inappropriate I think: all men. Fu..ing friends. How could you blame all men? Its true all the fingers are not same but that doenst mean all are bad. Dont you think your father brother aren’t in the same group? such a poor mentality! you have to admire you havent seen the good morale person so far. you know what there is a proverb saying, a man is known by his company she/he keeps. I wonder if your friends having such characters how about you? First look before you then write about all men.
    Self safety is the first priority all over so I dont think if your parents advice you to wear modest dress isn’t one sided because they cares about you not others. Religion is for the human welfare if you can follow it properly. Good luck.

    • Shudha Chowdhury

      “It’s NOT that men are just disgusting pigs (with a minority of them being great human beings) all across the world”, NOT being the operational word. You may have been a little too angry to read properly? All the examples I mentioned, they don’t apply ALL apply to me, but some do. As do they for most women I know in Bangladesh.
      Thanks for pointing out the proverb – ” a man is known by his company she/he keeps” Other than being a sexist proverb, this must mean every time i got groped in Gausia or New market, I was asking for it right?

      Also note “We call our country “motherland,” and yet we treat our women with so little respect. And when I say we, I mean we, not just the men in our country” I blame society as a whole as well.

  7. Anonto

    While I agree with you in some occasion. I think you are getting overboard when you are saying “all men” and “most men”. You have no right to accuse men as a whole. It sound’s similar to “all muslims are terrorists”. But I agree most women go through the same experience as you do. But that doesn’t justify you labelling everyone with the same label.
    You are only sprouting your frustration here and you ignore that fact there will be men reading this who might want to agree with you. Your writing will mean nothing to them as you are ignoring the fact it is not problem with men it is a social issue.
    We human are at base animal of a superior kind. One of the few things that make a difference between animals and us human is that we don’t give into instincts rather we choose to do things based on right or wrong, good or bad.
    The “men” who are in your writing have gave up the reason for which they were human because they succumbed to their animal instincts. Now the question remains “why did they?”
    One answer “social”.
    Yes the society which teaches us what is right and wrong, good and bad, it a responsibilty for everyone. How can you expect a boy who is growing up in the slums, get slapped around every corner in his life as he is struggling to survive, who is exposed to things he is not suppose to see or hear or judge from his childhood would turn out to be one of the nice man. Because when he is a man he hasn’t lost the concept of good and evil, but he understands well that it is easy to prey on the weak and you can get away with it.
    Think of kids of upper class some of them take advantages of their money and power again easy to get away with wrong doings.
    So as a society we hae failed to provide our women the freedom the deserve. I believe we are still decades if not behind achieving it because technology communication has advanced us but our mindset remains unchanged.

    • Shudha Chowdhury

      This is some very constructive criticism right there! I appreciate it very much! I will make sure I don’t alienate men so much in my next writing but as a friend of my rightly pointed out, it is more to wake up men than to speak to them. But I really do fully get where you are coming from and I thank you for this comment 🙂

      • saleh mohammad mobin

        i know from ur heart you are deeply raged by all men…yes we have sexual needs..that’s not the proper way to approach it..to push a woman for sexual needs…but in reality though you are so much hatred of man, you will again and again fall in love with man…we all are not bad…in this world creator never make this world all good and all bad..take the good of it..donot generalized anthing for something bad..man and woman can never live alone..from history in every chapter it is proved that woman always need man more than man need woman..because creator made us that way..even ur heart wants to love man even if you deny it or hate it..be positive..take good of it not bad..

  8. Anonymous

    Shudha,
    You should be careful about grammar, okay? Were you not harassed once for using incorrect English? The phrase should be ‘pent up anger’, not ‘pent of anger’. Besides who is editing the Opinion page at bdnews24? Doesn’t he/she give the piece a final read? Aside from grammar, you experience is pretty horrific. Some will ask what did you do to get this kind of ugly advances from gross men? Did you dress provocatively? Were you looking too sexy? You somewhat are coming across like Taslima Nasrin in your rage about men. Just because you went through hell doesn’t mean every girl went through similar experiences. Right? I grew up in Bangladesh, and I don’t recall being groped ever. My family made sure that such things never take place. We girls in the family went everywhere riding a car where there will be a chaperon to watch over the driver, even when he was an elderly man. We never went to Balaka or Gulistan cinema without another elderly woman who was a lot senior than us. So darling, it all depends on where in BD you grew up, and what kind of family environment was there for you. You could say I was raised in a privileged household by educated parents, and they made sure I enjoy my adolescent years doing the typical stuff young girls do – like reading, watching movies, going out to have fun with friends etc. I wasn’t even bad to look at, quite the opposite and yet do not recall any of the things you mentioned ever happening to me because of the way I carried myself. No one would dare! So sister, you wanting all of US South Asian women hating MEN to support you ain’t going to happen. I hope you go to therapy; otherwise you will live with such anger for the rest of your life, and perhaps deprive yourself of a great relationship. Think about it. It seems you have been carrying on this rage against men for quite sometime, and hopefully writing about it will help you but you seem to have very serious and deep issues about men and sexuality. You need help. You also need to step up your reading and without that no one can write very well. You are trying to write and your effort should count.

    • Anonto

      Dear Anonymous,
      Basically you are just saying that all girls should born in a privileged family (definitely with atleast a car and an elderly chauffeur), have educated(!) parents, go to Balaka and Gulistan cinema(with an elderly woman ofcourse) and voila!~! no more harassment. All because every single girl in the continient is born in a privileged and well educated family. How convinient for them!!!
      Well as for the perverts, they are still trying to figure out a way through the defense created by elderly women(who by the way can be harassed), cars with elderly chauffeurs and well educated parents(!). Unless they can change their sexual prefernce and start groping each other to satisfy their perviness!!
      It seems you are trying to advise(by the looks it’s more like a personal attack to me) the writer with extremely shallow and immature logics. I should rephrase you “You also need to step up your reading and without that no one can write well.”

    • Shudha Chowdhury

      I love this comment! It reiterates my point perfectly. Bangladesh is a country with 31.5% of it’s population living below poverty level, if you think all women in our country can afford the luxury of being chauffeured everywhere then I suppose you and I are from different planets, not to mention the fact that you are then implying that the right to not be harassed is one that should be exclusively available to women who are from rich upper class families. And whilst i appreciate your patronizing suggestions regarding my writing, grammar, education and need for therapy, the entire point of being equal to men is lost if I need to be chaperoned everywhere. However, I do appreciate this comment, thank you for having a read 🙂

      • fzaman

        Men are maintainers of women and family.Our craving for the material has driven out our women on the streets gathering money, for what and at what costs to home and society?Corporations have lured women to streets and catwalks to be a major contributor to their bottom lines.Women has listened to the corporate call and responded without coercion.Women’s place is the greatest as home builder and producer of leaders. women have abandoned their homes and left their children in the care of the uneducated. what may we expect!
        I think the B-girl on the foot of everest is churning out the same report for the thousandth time as consultant.She is not created for such tasks. And these countless reports are useless. iF ONE LINES UP THESE REPORTS THEY COULD ENCIRCLE THE CONSTELLATIONS SEVERAL TIMES WITH NO EFFECT. 0THERWISE THE WORLD WOULD HAVE BEEN A BETTER PLACE. REPORTS AFTER REPORtS ARE BEING PREPARED AND STORED FOR EVENTUAL TRASHING.
        WOMEN NEEDS MEN and man needs womAn. they have distinct roles to play. men and women are equal only in terms of responsibilities and piety.otHerwise they are not equal.
        wOMEN PLAY YOUR ROLE AS HOMEBUILDER AND PRODUCER OF LEADERS. mEN DO YOUR JOB TO MAINTAIN THE WIFE AND FAMILY AND BE THE GATHERER AND NOT WOMEN.THIS WILL SAVE WOMEN FROm GOING TO THE STREETS.
        why is the authoress back-trapping. have not much confidence in chaperons. cHAPERONS CAN WRITE TOMES THAT MAY SURPRISE YOU.

  9. Jeremy M

    Shudha, I always enjoy reading your work! Such eloquent and needed arguments.

    • Pulak Sen

      Gullible ‘fireengee’, eh, if that’s who you are!! You don’t have a clue about where she is coming from, do you?

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