Momma, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up

3:07 AM Saturday February 26, 2000

I was hanging out with Pritha and Meher tonight and we had a nice long conversation. They're both educated Indian women who have been to the west. We were sitting there in Pritha's gorgeous apartment talking about all manner of things and I was thinking about the men in their brown uniforms picking their noses out in front of the police station next door. I thought about these two women: gorgeous. Then I thought about the men. Can you see where this is heading? Men and women. I'm always interested in what my women friends are doing to forge a new sexual equality in the society. We got started on it because people love to talk about the upper 1 percent of the population, the 2000 or so people that hang in that group called Bombay Society. The way I see it, it's up to them to write the new rules. This whole thing has only been blowing up for a few years as far as I can tell and right now seems like the time. It's kind of like a lab experiment right in the middle of a big cesspool. Can you make a turd sterile?. Everybody knows everybody and no matter how different the rules are, it's still a closed society. And in it, from what I can tell, women are running from the great unequalizing forces of religion that rule the east right into the great unequalizing forces of beauty and money that rule the west. We started to discuss, or I have to admit, I started to discuss the situation of women in India. I kinda goaded them into it.

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I mentioned that I'd seen so much inequality and Pritha said, "What do you mean?" I thought she knew very well what I meant, having seen the Simone de Beauvoir book sitting on her bookshelf, but she wanted to see what I would say about it. I took the bait and proceeded to rant about it for a few minutes. There are numerous blatant injustices that happen daily but what gets me is the subtle stuff. One of the most subtle is the segregation of the sexes. I couldn't help but compare it to the "separate but equal" crap that was happening in the American South in the middle of the century. After quite few people got killed or had their butts chewed by German Shepard's or had their lives ruined we seem to have figured out that you can't have equality and segregation at the same time. It doesn't seem to occur to people here. Actually, what occurs to people is that men and women are not equal.

A Video:

Bombay Old Man and Little Girl

:32 seconds
click the image or download 1.3 megs

My first couple days in India were spent walking around Bangalore one of the most liberated cities in India and shopping. I can remember walking into a store and starting to talk to a saleswoman and then having her look blankly at me and then glance over at the male clerk. When he caught wind of what was going on he stepped in and literally stepped right in front of the woman and said, "Yes sir, may I help you?" I said, "I was talking to the woman" but he just kept right on like I had been talking to the wall. Right then I realized that she was the "ladies" clerk and he was the "mens" clerk. Like toilets, I thought. I walked out. I hadn't noticed much bullshit before that point but once I saw it I couldn't help but see it every where I turned. They didn't need to have signs posted that said, "colored drinking fountain" for me to see how blatant it was. They also didn't need to have signs because it's taught to everyone by their parents.

You might think this is pretty harmless. I can see where it fits into the scheme of things. You keep men and women from talking so it's easier to marry them off to a complete stranger. So men and women are strangers to one another but does that mean one group controls the other? It always does when you keep them separate. Things are only kept separate because there is a group in control that wants to keep it separate. It's not because everybody has agreed that they don't like each other. And men keep it separate so that what they got, they don't have to share.

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What I mean by separate is this: men get to have jobs and women don't. No women in the workplace if you can help it. The men want to keep their quality of life, their freedom. The freedom to whore and spit and drink and feel important. These are all plain-faced facts to most people but nobody wants to do anything about it. The argument that Pritha gave was that given the hordes of uneducated men that will not be convinced of a woman's worth, it's a "barbarians at the gate" kind of situation. Educate 50 and there's 50 million right behind them. But these liberated women can't live in their castles 24 hours a day. They have to go out into the street. Where they're not allowed to smoke a cigarette. Where they're not allowed to sit in a restaurant by themselves. Where they have to cover themselves from head to toe in the stifling heat so as not be branded a whore.

Just start talking about it with some women and pretty soon the stories come flying out. Each one trying to top the next. They're rightly too proud to let me have the last say about their situation. Stories of a brilliant young woman who had started her career as manager only to be married off and told that she had to quit her job and change her name. Her whole name. The family wouldn't let her work. The family. The loving, hospitable cradle of India. Where fathers-in-law routinely rape their daughters and then banish them for shame from the family. Shame on them for being raped!

You see, when you hear about all the crazy injustices that happen to women over here you just figure, well, that's a very different culture and if you aren't going to say that the people in Africa should stop cutting young girls' labia's and that people in the south pacific should stop eating other people then you can't, as a westerner get all huffy about what happens here in the east. I'm huffy about it though. I'm right in the middle of it. It bugs the shit out of me. The wonderful household in Rajastan that I visited, the beautiful, pastoral village, was punctuated not too long ago by women throwing themselves onto the funeral pyre of their husbands. They were *expected* to kill themselves. To burn themselves alive in the ritual of "sati". It still happens. I only read (thank god) about the rape-shame-banishment cycle that happens to those gorgeous Rajastani women.

RU-486, "the morning after pill", is very popular with my landlord Dr. Mehta. He considers it a wonder drug, able to cure the sickness of religion and old culture blighting the women that come to his hospital. It's not legal here 'cause India is waiting for the US to approve it but he scores it in loads on the black market. There's usually not a problem with having a baby here in India 'cause there's always a big family to take care of it if the mother and father can't, but damn, there's a whole lot of incest and in-family raping going on. Can't have the product of that walking around the house now can we?

Bring it down, bring it waaayyy down. Yeah, I know. But it's what I'm thinking about. Women are half the people after all. It's not nice to bash people but these men deserve to be bashed. They've had it all over the women for too long. They're running the place into the ground anyhow. God, look at Bihar. That should show you how much trouble the men think it's worth going to in order to save their dominion even if it is over a pile of trash. Every day I pick up the paper and another 15 people have been shot. There's not even a war going on. This is only a stupid election. Those people don't deserve democracy.

I'd like to end on a pleasant lyrical note. But I did promise to save this rant for later from the very first day I started writing about India and now it's out. There's more where that came from of course but it will have to do. My optimistic best is that no matter how big a place is, no matter how many barbarians roam, everyone alive right now will be dead in 100 years. I see it as a humane "term limit" on the current administration's backward policies. Unavoidable genocide every 100 years is our only hope. Teach your children well.

This one's for the ladies.