Blogging 2017

Freedom of Choic(es)

I once had a moral science teacher who taught the concept of freedom with a funny mime. She’d point to her nose, pin the end of it down with her forefinger and say, (in an emphatic, sing-song voice), ‘My freedom ends where your nose begins’. I still do not know why this was so funny back then. I’d laugh, amused at her antics and miming, and like is typical of a pre-teen, miss the point behind it.

I’m sure a lot of my classmates weren’t sure either, but the teacher probably knew that. She knew that we’d all remember the words as a mime first, and that will sustain until we were old enough to realise the meaning behind it. For me, it did. I now appreciate the inference behind that sentence, and I’m glad she drilled it into our heads in her own unique way. It was because of teachers and educators like her that I have many of the good qualities I do possess.

As I grew up, though, I had to accept the fact that not everyone had teachers like that, and boy, wasn’t it shocking!

Freedom of choices – women empowerment are all great debate topics. Those are limited social media posts and coffee shop discussions that burn with the fiery passion of a firefly and last as many minutes. Most often misconstrued, freedom from oppression is the nomenclature for all the ‘revolts’ that encompass the attempts to completely overturn all that is existing, without analysing the effect on the actual progress. There is a lot of distance that is covered by this movement, but the displacement is minimal.

There is a widespread ridicule amongst people who are ‘still in the same backward mentality’ and there is also a discontentment that some women are so. The fight against patriarchy and actual oppression has been diverted into a fight against women who still follow certain practices they are comfortable with. Because feminism is in the dresses we wear, the accents we show, and the posts we write on social media. Feminism is, apparently, not the fight against oppression, but rather taking a stance by trying to reverse tradition and ridiculing those who refuse to do that.

It is incredibly easy to agree that no one should dictate a woman’s choices in dressing and her hobbies. But it is also very easy to forget this rule when the woman in question is ‘not a feminist’. If a woman should not be ridiculed for wearing short dresses, is it okay for another woman to be ridiculed for wearing longer ones? The judgmental attitude surfaces amongst peers and friend groups in the form of innocent comments, more than the people who are actively for or against the cause.

If feminism is claiming one’s freedom by reversing the rules of patriarchy that dictated that women shouldn’t wear ‘revealing’ dresses, what is the name of that practice that ridicules and condones women who wear those dresses by choice for their comfort? In what world is one’s dress sense a topic of regular discussion no matter which way it leans? Does the needle of political correctness lean only towards the way that is more popular or has more purchase at any given time?

Cloaking abject and obsolete tease words with such a novel concept merely by the process of misinformation is one of the most hypocritical activities one can ever witness. The freedom of choices should extend both ways, and the realisation that the outwardly appearance do not define a person should set in if the concept is to be understood in its entirety.

The freedom of choices has a limiting clause, the small asterisk that marks ‘conditions apply’. You have a freedom of choice if you agree to behave in the popular way of the society, and ‘do as the romans do’. The vicious cycle of repeated ridicule and the ‘holier than thou’ attitude has confused the middle ground people so much that nothing seems right anymore. To go against the tide is to be a ridiculed rebel. To go with the tide is to be a spineless rat. The middle ground is a dangerous place to be, and sadly does not exist.

In a subconscious level, letting people be themselves is an irritant because some had to force themselves out of their natural state to follow the direction of the stream. It is a disquieting feeling to realise that the real freedom of choice is in choosing to be oneself, whether or not it is the ‘in thing’. When that realisation comes, and a feeling of worthlessness for all the changes someone has made settles in, and this discontent bursts out in the form of ridiculing those who are daring to not change their core to fit in and accommodate.

The basic human need to see someone else’s victory as a personal loss extends to that point where their freedom of choice is resented if it does not conform to the common, popular point of view. Ridiculing someone for daring to change is as stupid as ridiculing someone for daring to remain in their natural state. The perceptions on both ends differ, and while the popular opinions get more likes on social media, the other opinions get more nods of approval from the purists.

There can never be right and wrong in this argument and anyone who actually advocates the freedom of choice in dressing will not try to wonder why some people remain in the original state. It becomes hypocrisy when those who fight for their rights ridicule those who don’t, thereby indirectly declaring that their choices are the acceptable ones.

If Yudhishtra was wrong in pawning his wife, was Duryodhana right in disrobing her? If Ravana was wrong in abducting Sita, were Rama and Lakshmana justified in cutting his sister’s nose off? Why does accepting one choice was right have to mean that the other choices are wrong? Is there no room for two radically different happy people in one room? Isn’t that the ultimate meaning of freedom? To be able to be oneself without the fear of ridicule, no matter what one’s leanings are!

Does freedom of choice exist? Or is it as mythical as the manticore and the hippogriff?

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