The veil on women on WhatsApp

Last Updated 30 January 2019, 10:53 IST

Jokes on women are virtually overflowing on WhatsApp. Especially on the rough, shrew of a wife and the poor, battered husband.

There was one on the wife wishing the husband, “Happy New Year” and the husband asking, “Promise?” followed by a ‘laughing to death’ emoji. “Men are ‘husbands’ as they ‘bend’ too much in their ‘houses’; women are ‘wives’ as they have too many ‘whys’ for their husbands,” was another.

Jokes on addiction to the mobile phone mostly focus on the wife, the mother. A woman is so busy reading on her mobile phone that she falters while serving food to her husband. Children are suffering because their mothers — only mothers, not parents — cannot get away from the mobile phone.

Of course, there are jokes criticising the general public for such addiction. A blind father points with his white cane towards an open manhole, while the son is busy with his phone, as they walk on the road. But, when it comes to men and women, I am yet to come across a case where the man is joked about.

Questions will arise: why make a fuss about this? About anything and everything with women at the receiving end? Just sit back and enjoy! Where’s your funny bone?

Very often, my phone has buzzed with pathetic, horrible WhatsApp jokes on women, right when I am editing reports on domestic violence, sexual abuse... need I add?

I am stunned by the irony of the situation. There are two tales on women in front of me, in two different forms of the media. The speed of social media and thereby its power to spread news is well-known. The joke has probably crossed more than a dozen hands and will move ahead faster and faster. If it is shared in groups, one reluctant, ‘silent’ hand hardly makes an impact.

But the report I edit worries me. Even if print media is still very much alive, how far will the report reach? Will it reach where it should? Also, will it draw the right response? In contrast to the joke, how many people will respond to it? There might be some sympathy for women and cursing the condition of the society. But, as against so many enthusiasts to share the joke on WhatsApp, will the story in print give courage to more victims to tell their tales?

When the scale tilts sharply one way, there will be a need to speak out — probably, a voice will be heard. Arguably, the best example in recent times was the MeToo revolution. No perpetrator of a crime against a woman had expected to get exposed like he did, totally out of the blue. It is besides the point that people, as always, felt that the MeToo movement had more fake cases than real. Of course, “I’m sure this one’s a fake!” is a reaction every such storm faces, just too many times, on its way.

A joke, an atrocity

Back to scales and voices, it is a horrific experience for me to watch a joke on the horrible wife and poor husband go simultaneous to the tale of a heartless man and a silenced woman. The joke and the tale go together, rather they are sent together — very often, by women too — without a care in the world. If the media, even social media, is meant to eschew fake news and reflect the truth, then what could be farther from reality than these WhatsApp jokes?

If the jokes should be taken as mere expression of humour, I look to the line by saint-poet Kanakadasa, “Nee maayeyoLago, ninnoLu maayeyo?” (Are you within the illusion, is the illusion within you?). Are we cracking these jokes on women — so far on paper, now on social media — to escape from the truth about who is really the battered? Are we drawing a shield of illusion and hiding behind it? If the illusion is within us about the social condition, then how desperate we must be to tug it out, using this humour!

I also received a joke on WhatsApp, comparing the sport of Jallikattu and marriage: “The former is at least only one tough round against a mute animal. The latter is a lifelong battle with a talking ogre.” A word for whoever created the joke.

In both cases, I would say, men land in trouble thanks to blind faith in that illusionary power called manliness. Faith that it gives them the ability to deal with any situation — taming a goring bull or ‘a thundering shrew’, which is how the illusion makes them see their wives — just too easily, simply because they are men.

Standing before the mirror is often not a funny, beautiful experience. Reality on this ability is still to be faced, Indian philosophy calling it ‘bhramanirasana’ or disillusionment. It is also like being desperate and blaming the woman of being too tough on the poor man.

A mist of illusion, therefore, is preferred at least on social media.

(Published 29 January 2019, 18:42 IST)

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