“Oh my God! Why are you eating like this? People in this restaurant are sophisticated! You are so dumb! You don’t know how to conduct yourself in front of these sophisticated people!”
“You can’t do anything properly. You are very useless. You cannot manage a single thing. Pathetic!”
“You spilled food. Oh God. Can you tell me a single area where you didn’t mess things up? A single area?”
“Hahahaha. THAT is your idea? Listen, your idea is dumb and that is because you are dumb. You don’t know ANYTHING. So chuck that idea out and listen to mine. Unlike you, I am pretty knowledgeable about life, get it?”
“Have you seen our neighbor? She is so smart and stylish! And look at you!”
People reading these sentences might be forgiven for thinking that this is a conversation between a parent and a child. Actually, these are the things that my father says to my mother, every day (Of course, emotionally abusing a child is also wrong.). My mother tells me that she used to cry a lot as a young bride but after being subjected to such things every day, she got used to it. And after sometime, she started believing in the labels and judgments that my dad saddled her with.
I always used to wonder..why is my mother not like others? Why is she not confident? Why doesn’t she make her own decisions? Why does she have an inferiority complex when she is with other people? I went through my teenage years hating her. I hated her for her low self-esteem and also for my own low self esteem for which she was responsible. My father compared me to other girls and she just stood there. She didn’t stand up for me or for herself. I used to see other mothers making their daughters confident and here was my mother who hated herself!. I started distancing myself from her and looked for maternal figures among other women.
But one day, I read about Sunitha Krishnan who is standing up for thousands of women. A woman standing up for complete strangers! She gets death threats almost every day and she was hit by goons on numerous occasions! If she did it for them, can’t I stand up for my own mother? I realized that a true revolutionary is one who stands up for others. I had the urge to speak up against my dad but I was selfish. I felt that if I spoke up against him, he would stop paying fees for my education ..after all, it was his money. So I just kept on tolerating his abuses, towards my mom, every day. Another reason for not speaking up was society’s philosophy that has been hammered into my brain from my childhood: “Be happy with whatever you have/get. That is the best way to live your life.” My mom didn’t stand up against my dad for the same reasons.
‘Be happy with whatever you have/get’ doesn’t apply to things like corruption, domestic violence and emotional abuse. The most popular word in our society is ‘atleast.’ Your husband yells at you and humiliates you every day? Oh you are lucky! Other women are getting beaten up. You are *atl east* not beaten up! This word and the attitude attached to it is probably one of the biggest contributors to emotional abuse. If every victim starts taking refuge in the word ‘at least’, there will be no change in this world. Rape victims will be happy that *at least* they were not killed. A women who was raped once should be happy that *at least* she wasn’t raped 10 times? Women subjected to eve-teasing should be happy that *at least* they were not raped?! Maybe we should be happy that *at least* we are not ruled by a dictator. You cannot negate/ignore wrong by comparing it to worse. Wrong is wrong.
When I realized this, my urge to speak up, became stronger and stronger. But no matter how much I tried, I couldn’t speak up because of fear. After all, I was almost a clone of my mother.
But recently, when my father insulted my mother (again!) for dressing poorly, my brother and I stood up against him. We didn’t care about our education fees. We told him that she is our mother and we will NOT tolerate his labels and judgments about her. He cannot impose his ideas on her. He shouted at us as he is not used to defiance from people. But after sometime, he mellowed down. He apologized to us and promised to correct his behavior though he still insults her. My mother is still diffident and is still trapped in my dad’s labels but things are better than before.
The best part about all this was that for the first time in 23 years, my mom stood up against my dad! Recently, my brother and I decided to change our career paths and this was completely against my dad’s wishes. But my mother stood up and fought for us. Imagine a woman who has never disagreed with her husband in 23 years, doing something like this! Though we have still not won our fight, my mother’s defiance was extraordinary. Her defiance was a product of her love for her children. Love really conquers fear.
This really shows that when family members and society stand up for the victim, things change. People who are not committing a crime, but are watching it, are also passively contributing to the crime. So don’t wash your hands off it, saying, “but I didn’t commit any crime! Why are you blaming me?” Speak up against emotional abuse! DO NOT compare emotional abuse with worse things and ask the victims to ‘adjust’ to it. You don’t ‘adjust’ to wrong, you fight it.