As avid participants of pop culture, we have all witnessed the rise of memes depicting aunties as the Chachi Cartel who are closely surveying the day-to-day activities of everyone in their friendly neighbourhood, especially the youths.
Aunties are perceived as middle-aged women who are stubbornly upholding the patriarchal status quo and moral policing young people, especially girls.
Now the question is: Why and how did the aunties become the comical villain of our life ? Well, the answer lies in our projection of middle-aged women in the entertainment industry and the contents of social networking sites, which is riddled with internalised misogyny.
Estella Tincknell in her article "Monstrous Aunties: the Rabelaisian older Asian woman in British cinema and television comedy" iterated that aunties in Asian culture are universal figures, omnipresent in extended family networks and in quasi-familial relations, who possess either compassion or danger and are respected with crisp trepidation by the offspring.
Aunties in Bollywood cinemas, television series and comedy sitcoms have long been depicted as the central component of the moral guardianship of social norms and ingrained patriarchy.
Some are also portrayed in the image of a so-called rebel, who expresses her suppressed desires through heavy drinking and smoking.
We all grew up watching figures of the so-called vampy or flirty aunties in Indian television series whose only job is to create nuisance in extended family functions and comment on the romantic relationship brewing between the protagonists, or being an active supporter or conspirator in separating the romantic leads. We probably all learned the concept of Power of Attorney or property papers from these vampy aunties.
This distorted notion of middle-aged women in the entertainment world indisputably shaped our views towards aunties.
A majority of individuals encounter sexist attitudes externally on a day- to-day basis. However, sexist attitudes are confronted internally as well, which is an uncharted concept known as internalized misogyny or sexism.
The concept of internalised misogyny deals with the enactment of sexist attitudes and behaviours by women, projecting onto themselves and other women and girls. It is one of the major contributing factors in stereotyping women to restricted roles, where women project sexist ideas on others and themselves through instruments of self-objectification and acceptance of passive gender roles.
It is a byproduct of the hegemony of patriarchal society. The exact nature of internalized misogyny is unknown, since it goes unnoticed, owing to the established notion that a woman is another woman's biggest enemy. Such a distorted notion undermines the concept of female solidarity.
In a study conducted in 2009, it was found that women, in a conversation, use vernaculars related to internalized sexism on average 11 times per 10 minutes, which appallingly reveals the extensive nature of internalized sexism in our day-to-day life. Further, researches show that there is a correlation between internalised misogyny and psychological distress.
We often witness young people being subjected to body shaming, colourism and being further judged for passing their so-called appropriate age of getting married by the aunties. It is a vicious cycle to which aunties themselves were subjugated to at their young age. Like a family heirloom, it was passed on to them and now they are passing it on to others. Instead of putting an end to these stereotypes and breaking this rancorous chain, we are fixating on the wrong spectrum. From my humble point of view, let us see aunties in a better light and make them feel validated and valued.
Well, I will be honest. Women like 'Sima Aunty' do exist. But we must stop stereotyping every middle-aged woman and place them in that distorted category just for the sake of funny memes.
Nevertheless, we are all fighting against inequality and biases in our society. Let us not become what we are fighting against. Let us change the way we describe and discuss aunties so that we do not end up as the aunties.
Nusrat Zahan is a lawyer and a certified human rights trainee.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of The Business Standard.