Rampant sexism continues to prowl the corridors of what are believed to be the best universities of India. Students who raise their voice against it, are named, blamed, and ridiculed. The few who have the courage to speak out against the prevalent misogynists, need to be heard, loud and clear. This is an eloquent piece by Nupur Raut from NLSIU who has taken it upon herself to educate her peers.
This post was originally published in Quirk Magazine, run by NLSIU students. We regret not putting the original link earlier.
What It Means to be a Vedica at NLSIU
A couple of days ago, someone at NLSIU tried an anonymous Occupy 19(1)(a) [the public noticeboard on the NLSIU campus] by posting snippets of conversation they heard around campus about women and feminists. A large set of posters, titled ‘sexist quote of the day’ (sic), listed comments on how “women who put up a post on being sexually harassed are seeking attention” and that “feminists are sex addicts.” The makers of these comments were not named. But naturally, the Harvard of the East devolved once again into a battleground for pointless argumentation. Debates were fought in class and online about respecting ideologies, quoting out of context and maintaining the sanctity of jokes made in private. People were bitched about. Friendships were broken.
But amidst this hullabaloo, no one minded the newest addition to the board. Lying (mostly) unnoticed next to the feminist posts on 19(1)(a) was a poster of Vedica Natural Mountain Water.
Why is Vedica worthy of 19(1)(a)? Did Modiji announce that you can buy their water with old notes? Is Vedica the title sponsor of Strawberry Fields?
No, my friends. Vedica is much, much more than that.
Vedica is a term coined by some men at NSLIU to mean the following:
Vedica (n.): a ‘hoe’ who ‘spews leftist shit’ (widely read to include feminist women as well), and whose mouth should be ‘stuffed with something else’ to shut her up.
Eg. “She said my sandwich joke was not funny! What a Vedica!”
Sure, many leftists are vehement proponents of their views, and they can be annoying. Criticising an ideology, or a person’s approach to an ideology, is perfectly alright. Jokes about people do lighten up the mood. But in all earnestness, let me tell you why using ‘Vedica’ to joke about stuffing the mouth of an outspoken woman is deeply, deeply problematic.
First, using ‘Vedica’ to describe outspoken women amounts to plain and simple sex discrimination, and eventually, oppression.
Society often expects men and women to behave in a certain way, simply because they’re men, or because they’re women. Obvious examples of these ‘gender roles’ are how women are expected to cook and clean, and men are expected to earn. Men are generally more free to do what they like, while women are punished for deviating from being the ‘good’ woman. This is a form of oppression, in that women can’t do what they’d like for fear of backlash. We see this often in schools and colleges, where women are expected to act, speak and dress in a certain way in order to be appreciated by men. It’s what Gillian Flynn calls the Cool Girl:
“Being the Cool Girl means I am a hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer, loves threesomes and anal sex, and jams hot dogs and hamburgers into her mouth like she’s hosting the world’s biggest culinary gang bang while somehow maintaining a size 2, because Cool Girls are above all hot. Hot and understanding. Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner and let their men do whatever they want. Go ahead, shit on me, I don’t mind, I’m the Cool Girl.”
Women who speak out against sexism don’t conform to the Cool Girl role. They can’t take jokes. They call out sexist comments. They will be ridiculed for it. But go ahead, shit on me, I don’t mind, I’m Vedica.
This is oppression because nonconformist women who feel uncomfortable with these inside jokes will eventually stop doing what they like because they can’t take the ridicule. However, the men in question will continue hanging out with those who aren’t offended by their jokes, no one will say anything, and life will go on. This is called normalization. And that’s not okay, because we’ve now begun to accept discriminatory practices as the norm.
It may be pertinent to note that the widely accepted definition of Vedica has been challenged by certain persons, claiming it to mean a girl with poor logic, but “a capacious sense of well-intentioned emotion.” This is again a gendered insult, given that it is a widely accepted stereotype to characterize women as emotional and illogical and oppress them for it. Illustratively, is there any similar word to characterize overly emotional men? Why not? A Malaika, by the way, is a “slutty woman who hooks up with many men.” Note that neither of these code words can be compared with the “Virat” stereotype, which is a gendered insult for an “aggressive male who does nothing but obsess about his physical strength”. Is it really as oppressive as attacking a woman’s capability of being an individual capable of discourse merely because she’s perceived to be capaciously emotional, or because she has many sexual partners?
Secondly, using ‘Vedica’ to mean that a woman’s mouth should be ‘stuffed with something else’, imparts a sexually violent connotation to the term (sure, you can tell me that you want to gag her mouth with cloth or something, just like Trump claimed that Megyn Kelly had blood coming out of her “nose”. In any case, stuffing anyone’s mouth with anything against their will is an extremely violent act). It also implies a lack of consent, given that the individual in question would like to do it to prevent her from doing what she wants: talking.
We know that in (obvious) cases of violence against women by men, women are beaten up, yelled at and sexually abused by men to ‘put them in their place’. It is well-documented that this putting-in-place mentality is an essential aspect of what it means to be a man for most men around the world – a desire to maintain the hierarchy in their own favour, regulate the behaviour of women and punish those who depart from their gender roles. It’s important to note that violence against women can take more forms than just physical – it can be emotional, sexual or even verbal.
As I said earlier, outspoken leftist women are nonconformists at law school. They won’t keep mum. They’ll probably report sexist things you said about them. And women who do not conform…must be put in their place. Let’s make violent jokes about stuffing her mouth, let’s perpetrate some verbal violence, let’s call her Vedica. Joking in such a manner trivializes discrimination and violence against women, and has, in fact, successfully regulated women’s behaviour at NLSIU in the past (in the debating community, for instance).
Until a short while ago, ‘Vedica’ seemed to be specifically directed at women. So what does putting up a seemingly innocuous picture of Vedica water next to a poster full of sexist quotes mean? An inside joke from the locker room, obviously pointed at the makers of the ‘feminist’ poster. A crude way to ridicule the (anonymous, mind you) calling out of (anonymously made, mind you) allegedly sexist comments. But not very well thought out, really: are they now broadening the definition of Vedica to include all people against sexism, whatever their gender may be? Should ‘something’ be stuffed in the mouths of men who helped make this, and men who support this, too? You probably don’t know, because you’re too busy trivializing their attempt at discourse by laughing at them flapping about and being Vedica.
Of course, there’s many of us who will dismiss this as harmless because, “the targets are friends, they know and find it funny”. But, really, Targets Who Know and Find it Funny, is it funny to joke about having things stuffed in your mouth because you annoy your male friends? It may, to you, for whatever reason. But is it also funny when they direct it at women who are most likely uncomfortable with such humour? Do you really want to let boys who make fun of women who speak their mind, stay that way?