I was so taken by Mean Girls when I first watched it back in high school. More than being in awe of the leader that Regina George was, it made me introspect. It made me reminisce of all the times I was a mean girl myself in middle school. And now watching that film as an adult it makes me think of all the middle school mean girls that never outgrew their meanness.
We live in the millennial era. An era where woke-ness is a much more valuable currency than the purple notes we’re constantly craving for. But with this woke behaviour qualifying as the coveted status quo, where does the ingrained patriarchy and inherent judgment for anything un-woke go?
Nowhere. It just parades itself under the guise of accepted behaviour.
Personally, I love that we’re living in an age where people are trying to be more woke. I love that there is a tacit, if not an overt, but a definite effort into watching one’s behaviour. But this demure endeavour isn’t complete without the occasional toxic behaviour leaks.
This comes from a place of unrecognised ambivalence. This ambivalence is a rather precarious position to be in. Where, on the one hand we so desperately want to believe that we’re woke enough, while still unconsciously latching on to the said toxic behaviour.
When your online behaviour reeks of judgment
Phrases like “What is she wearing?” or “She looks fat in this picture” or “Isn’t that like her third boyfriend in the last six months” come very organically to us. Because patriarchy is so deep seated to the extent that we don’t realise when we ourselves are becoming its proponents.
Think about it, when was the last time you came across an Instagram picture of one of your female acquaintances and thought to yourself “She should not be wearing that.” Or tried to console one of your male friends having a bad day by saying “Don’t cry yaar, be a man.”
Because men should not express emotions. A beautiful woman is supposed to have a tiny perfect body. The perfect woman does not fraternise with too many men. And a sensible woman dresses according to where she is heading. This is what we have been taught. And any anomaly in this pattern doesn’t qualify to be likeable.
Aren’t men tired of being MEN? Aren’t women tired of having to see the waiter hand the bill to the man on the table? And aren’t men tired of feeling obligated to pay for every first date?
This is the shell that needs to be addressed and stepped out of. While a lot of us do make that effort and try to catch ourselves before saying something incriminating – the aforementioned said leaks of patriarchal prominence is what needs to be worked on.
And one of the most common places where this intrinsic patriarchy makes its presence felt is the world of social media.
The ease of cheap and good wifi availability coupled with the anonymity that the internet promises is certainly not a combination that is conducive to the ultimate goal of being self-conscious about one’s intrinsic patriarchy. And no, I don’t just mean the plethora of bad TikTok videos doing the rounds.
Social media hate?
There are endless content driven platforms and social media pages today that initiate excessive discussions on being woke. What constitutes feminism, how that does not translate into man-hating, what exactly is this evil everyone calls misogyny and what qualifies to be called one. And as helpful as these platforms are in influencing its audience on to the path that we all need as a society, several of the responses that they receive, is exactly what elucidates the purpose of their presence.
It was one such response that drove me to writing this piece. As a writer working in a space that requires me to churn out over 5K words a week, and then have those words publish on public platforms for the world to scrutinise as they please, I prefer recluse to engaging with online trolls. But this particular comment made me realise both the need as well as the futility of engaging with commenters.
One of the comments on the article we had posted received a response with a viewpoint different to what the article postulated. But the viewpoint was expressed in a manner that it was not meant to initiate a healthy discussion but rather demean the author. The comment did not critique the argument or the article but rather the author in itself. And this sparked a comment thread where I tried to explain how I arrived at the conclusion that I did but the persistent response was that of being completely rigid to hear anything but what the individual’s comment emphasised.
Ultimately, the idea of sparking a healthy discussion somewhere got lost along the way and the whole debate reduced to a series of digs and jibes at one another.
You are not your opinion
In a world that is so socially impulsive and so quick to respond, the very clear distinction between an individual and their views somehow gets missed amidst all this impulsivity. But with the lines between the real and the virtual growing hazier by the day, the arrival to this position is a rather convenient one – which needs to be addressed and stepped out of. Your opinions do not define you. Your social media presence is not all that you are.
It is in this constant back and forth of value judgments that patriarchy wins.
When women call out other women for expressing behaviours that are contrary to the conditioning that they have been imposed to, there is a sense of failure to understand the need to break free from older regressive patterns of behaviour.
Neeti Palta, a brilliant and successful comedienne who occasionally talks about everything feminist, very tactfully talks about the basic difference between how women get ridiculed on social media versus how men get trolled.
In one of her sets, she speaks about another male comic and the kind of comments he received when he first started doing comedy. The comments ranged from “Oh his work is so bad” to “He is not funny enough to be a comic.” But for Palta herself, when she first started out, her hate comments ranged from “This woman is ugly” to “Women aren’t funny” and “Maybe she should do what most women are capable of.”
While men have the privilege of being critiqued solely for their work, the women, more often than not are relegated into positions where they have to tackle personal remarks and comments made on their femininity.
The importance of a cheering squad for women
So in a world where we have enough gendered hurdles in almost every walk of life, it becomes especially important for the women to be each other’s cheering squad.
It is in cases like these that the concept of empathy takes foreground. We’re living in an impulsive world. A world where the quickness to judgment almost beats the quickness of our typing speeds and empathy is a strong need of the hour.
It becomes especially important for women then, to share their stories. When one woman fights a battle and shares her journey to educate others, she paves the way for a whole new generation; equipping them to not have to fight the same battles. By creating an empathetic internet, a much more sensitive social media, by watching and calling out yourself before making hurtful statements, will we be able to tackle and take this inherent judgment head on.
It is with this thought in mind that Kool Kanya is bringing about the Kool Kanya Network. With our belief in empathy and the need to create a safe space for women sans judgment, the Kool Kanya Network is a platform that supports and helps women create their own professional journeys – a platform where women can have their own cheering squad. And it is through communities like these that we can go on to become woke in not just the streets, but the sheets.