After a fulfilling day at work, I was passing by a buzzing street adorned with tea and fresh juice stalls and bakeries - all of which have colourful stools reserved for job holders, passersby and so on.
It is a happy street filled with laughter, chats, and salacious discussions (read: gossips), covering both relevant and irrelevant topics- whichever suits you to burn off steam after a hectic or fulfilling day at work.
However, I dread passing this street and my friend from work testifies to that . The reason is the repugnant smell of urine from the streets.
Now, the question arises: Why would such a lively street stink of urine? The answer is fairly straightforward. In our country, predominantly men, and I am being considerate and humble here, do not bat their eyes before urinating on the streets.
Many people reading this may jump up to contest this notion and say that not all men do it. However, if you are a human being living in a civilized society, regardless of your gender, you ought to maintain a decent manners and etiquette, uphold good moral values and not showcase uncouth attributes - a word predominantly used by my mother.
For centuries, etiquette has always been an instrument to control women. There is a copious amount of do's and don'ts that are affixed and paraded around as societal etiquettes and rules to police women on how she should talk, walk, dress, sit, travel, etc. All of these disproportionate and arbitrary rules are targeted towards only women.
As it is aptly iterated in an article published on The Swaddle, the onus of decency has always fallen on the woman while men can enjoy vulgarity and endangering women. The same can be evidenced from a very recent instance of a woman in Rajshahi being harassed by a man for smoking in public. The very contestable contention was that the behaviour of the concerned woman was "unladylike".
Seymour Parker, in his book "American Anthropologist", illustrated that gender etiquette ritual is an institutionalized social performance whose smallest constituents or symbols serve as vehicles for the transmission of socially normative meanings of gender. These social etiquettes and rules imposed on women were borne out of patriarchal notions that indicate the ingrained and prevalent bias in society.
Furthermore, the coercion of being "safe" during travels contributes to the well-established notion of "Ammu dibe na" (my mother won't allow). Even if your mother permits you to travel, women are always instructed not to be opinionated or argumentative and not to engage in conversation with strange men.
In the article by The Swaddle, a section was dedicated to the behavioural pattern of housewives from early times in which Michel Curtain's observation was iterated by "Manners influenced the most important battle a woman ever fought for a social class that is, her struggle to win a desirable spouse." and "Post marriage, a woman's manners could also help her husband's career and social standing prosper."
It is a well-established notion that society often excuses men for their poor manners if they are talented or hard-working. However, for women, all of a sudden their manners, self-worth, identity, hard work are brutally questioned if they fail to uphold the norms of being a nice girl.
In this era of dating apps, the concept of a "cool girl" has emerged. If you do not fit into the criteria, narrative and the myth of cool girl, you are simply not desirable. However, a cool girl can also be subjected to slut-shaming if she does not precisely present herself to fulfil the wholesome picture of one.
It is deeply disturbing to be acquainted with the fact that we are still living in such a patriarchal society where women are still shamed for smoking in public, women are still stuck in the toxic cycle of looking her best while bumping into her ex, women are still considered overly advanced and desperate if they are on dating apps, women are still shamed if their undergarments are peeking from underneath their clothes, etc.
Centuries have passed, but examples remain the same. The burden of being proper and nice, and now with the added pressure of being cool, is predominantly on women.
Isn't it time to free women from these societal filters and just let them chill? Now, many people may get triggered by this article and to those, I would humbly say, what Gloria Steinem said: The truth will set you free, but first, it will piss you off.
The author is a lawyer and human rights activist.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of The Business Standard.