Success comes to those who Rebel

To every woman who comes across this letter, I am writing this to let you know that being a rebel is the only recourse you can take in order to become successful in a society that constantly tries to hamper your progress. The social conventions that bind women are a part of the whole matrix of norms that give fixity to an opinion and naturalise it, debasing anything that tries to change, for betterment, the way our societies function.

My letter is to all the women and the generation of youngsters that do not think twice before following blindly the social norms set before us. I would like to bring across a point- that being a rebel is necessary in a society that imposes discriminatory norms on its people, being a rebel is necessary for a woman to be successful, it is necessary for every oppressed class if it aspires to find freedom from a tyrannical social convention. I will digress and wander. However, I hope my wanderings on a general topic help you discern what is in my mind- that how we receive a specific kind of education, as women or as the younger generation, that makes us think of these socially constructed rules as natural and never question them. Change will come when we question social norms, and when we realise how simple events in media express discomfort over social norms, just like Alok Nath memes.

When media starting trolling Alok Nath as the sanskari “babu ji”, we knew what the universe was trying to communicate. From the early morning bow-down-before-your-lord, meaning your parents, to the listen obediently to the elders- the world has been hard on everyone who has tried to be acknowledged as an embodiment of the goodness the society has ascribed to certain actions and stances.

To annul the pressure that the society exerts on us, the only path to be taken is that of resistance or indifference. If indifference helps you remain unaffected by the censure and ostracisation that comes after dissent, resistance lets you own it up and spread it by expressing your discomfort.

This is a sermon on how not to be obedient. You might as well start here and stop reading because it is a sermon after all. But wait, you wouldn’t do that, or would you? Okay. For those who still have the damp earth of societal norms stuck on their boots and can’t do away with the training that all those family members gave them, you will have to stop following those social norms and there are many reasons why. First, they mostly lack any logic that might justify their getting that adherence, secondly, they sometimes are the roots that generate larger evils that we are faced with.

The younger generation, with a special stress on the females, have always been taught to keep quiet. We have to listen and follow instructions without questioning our parents because parents are always right. What we need to ask ourselves is, are they?

Are our parents right when they ask us not to talk to a classmate because he doesn’t belong to a “good” family? Are they right when they ask you to not wear short skirts outside because you are a woman and should protect your innocence?

Are they right when they follow those gender rules where the women toil endlessly and the men in the house refuse to help with the housework? Considering how our society treats its women, how children are getting sexually abused, where men and women are caught in the politics of caste hatred, where violence gets nourishment due to certain structures and customs that exist in the society, we can very well conclude that societal norms breed and propagate various forms of bigotry and need to be abandoned in most of the cases as they are the veils that hide the ugly faces of prejudice that exist in our society.

Many top inspiring women are what they are today because they were rebels, many inspiring women achievers who understood gender as a “performance” and took a stand on sexuality and theorised how sexual orientations that the society condemns are also natural, were women who did not blindly follow societal norms. The inspirational women around us, the numerous successful women startup stories that we come across, where built on the foundation of disobedience, nonetheless disobedience towards shallow and vicious customs and conventions.

It is the societal norms that hold together the sanctity of the caste system.

The caste system in India was considered an undisputed division of social classes. Many other societal norms were born out of this- the norms that upheld endogamy within castes, the fixity and the prohibition on occupational mobility within these classes, among other things.

Reformists who tried to abolish these practices, these societal norms were witnessed like snakes in a world full of cute, god-fearing mice.

Women getting formal education was degeneration. For a woman to hold a book in her hands was something that could make skies fall upon the earth. It was against normativity for women to be the ones dealing with knowledge, and it was a social norm for them to behave like bonded labourers, saying yes to their masters.

When women started hiding their stolen books under the mattresses, or in the kitchen under the drum of rice, they were saying ”no” to the societal norms they understood as deeply biased and exploitative towards their intellectual and psychological growth as one-half of the human population.

These women were labelled mad, called witches, were stoned, killed and tortured for disobeying the social regulations that defined right behaviour, but weren’t these the inspirational women who started the train of rebellion that barged into the bunkers of male domination. Today, when we follow without question every little thing that the society expects from us, are we not being that woman who was scared , consciously or unconsciously, of the stones? Or, are we being the woman who was so enslaved in her mind that the idea of freedom never came to her? The advice is to become the woman who ran away with the gypsies to evade the oppression at home, who stealthily left her husband’s bed to write her own novel when the world was sleeping: the advice is to become a rebel.

The most gruesome fact about societal norms is that they have justified violence as a means of keeping them intact.

Sati pratha, the burning of widows on their husband’s pyre, was also a norm, domestic violence comes from the societal norm that the husband will control and discipline his wife, that the wife will not speak against her liege, her husband.

Corporal punishment in schools comes from the same need to discipline children and turn them into abiding students. This need to discipline also comes with all this unjustifiable violence.

These social norms that give power to one section and reduce the other to slavery, or give power to one to produce other conforming subjects, embrace violence as a means to achieve their ends. To be a conforming individual is, therefore, equivalent to being party to the criminal core of these societal norms.

What I’d conclude is that you need to stop following societal norms, mostly those that are not rational, and definitely those that use violence to make people adhere.

Had there not been inspirational people who disregarded these rules, we’d still be in a society massively casteist, sexist, classist and homophobic. Whatever progress we, as a society, have made is because we know how to disobey.

So, here is to all the women (I address women specially because I believe gender is what creates all other classes, castes and races- how heterosexuality and rules of endogamy play a vital role in constructing every other closed group), and other oppressed sections of the society : You need to ask the society to step back, give way to you, for you are moving towards change.


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