The conspiracy of status quo

28 09 2009

“Any woman who chooses to behave like a full human being should be warned that the armies of the status quo will treat her as something of a dirty joke. That’s their natural and first weapon. She will need her sisterhood.”

Gloria Steinem

O well. We knew that. Most women – and especially south asian women – absorb the laws of status quo at our mothers’ knee. Interestingly, this education is neither classed nor dependent on income group or language or any other factor, excepting only our womanhood. How we deal with it, and to what degree we accept or attempt to reject it is another matter.

Maintaining the status quo literally means ‘to keep things the way they presently are’. In sri lanka this often seems to be the guiding principle in virtually every public or private activity. Fear of change (closely followed by ‘the protection of the fabric of society’, treading on whose heels comes of course – ‘what will people say’,) is what governs many important, potentially life-changing decisions in all our lives. It is the powerful voice of a conservative majority that celebrates conformity and stifles that dangerous activity: original thought. And by extension, the capacity for and drive towards great art, music and literature.

My question is: are we even aware of how much we have all embraced the status quo? If we were to dissect the subtle, unwritten laws by which we all live they would make a most miserable list and their number would be legion. These laws apply to all of us – men, women and children but sri lankan women carry a responsibility far greater. As the back of every bajaj constantly reminds us – we are everyone’s Mothers. And as such we are expected to relentlessly uphold the traditional virtues of chastity, purity and dignity while manifesting a goddess-like disdain for all things new, radical or different. So how do you rebel against anything when you carry a burden like that? How can we see what’s out there when our eyes are modestly on the ground?

Some random things that are frowned on:

Disinterest in cooking.

Disinterest in cleaning.

Pre-marital sex.

Dressing ‘immodestly’ (revealing your arms, legs, stomach or cleavage).

Short hair.

Not practicing your religion.

Smoking, drinking, doing drugs.

Homosexuality.

Being loud.

Being aggressive or confrontational.

‘Disobeying’ your mother, father, boyfriend, husband.

Not being resigned to things (or disregarding the principle of ‘what to do’).

Drawing attention to yourself.

Living alone.

Being single (or uninterested in marriage anytime after the age of 18).

Not having a vast wedding/reception/’homecoming’ (so everyone is quite clear

that you are actually married).

Not having children after marriage.

Having children without marriage.

Disinterest in childcare generally.

Divorce.

Questioning the status quo.

I could go on and on. But as someone who would rather slit my wrists than conform (to the point where my obstinacy has often worked against my own best interests), I often wish we could lighten up here. If only we could all stop being so terrified of the idea of change – of unraveling centuries of fossilized beliefs and behaviours that are accepted as the rule simply because ‘that’s the way it’s always been’ (ie: the status quo). If only we could celebrate the individual who stands out rather than the one who successfully blends in; if we could create an environment where a different voice would be greeted with screams of joy, not quickly silenced, mocked or hounded into oblivion. Where original and liberal thinking would prevail and the status quo would no longer be the altar at which we would all be required to worship…

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7 responses

29 09 2009
Tortilla

Wow! Wow! You go girl! ‘I’m screaming with joy’! I think I know a lot of women these words would inspire beyond belief! They are not women who would have access to the internet, but will get it to them and get back to you with what they think. Let the revolution begin! Ha ha (evil laugh).

29 09 2009
pp

there’s a lot of food on this blog no? 🙂

great post. it’s funny and also worrying how much of the women you’d think at first glance are liberal are actually not, under the surface.

29 09 2009
Dee

Bleh. Hate it. But…:( have to keep the family happy na. Wouldn’t be fair otherwise would it? At least until under the same roof.

29 09 2009
who else but me

good post. and i agree. and battle with it everyday as a woman. the fact is it is a hard fight because often the people you love, like family, your peers and friends are the ones you get the most pressure from. and the bonds of love are far more restrictive than a prison sentence. but in ways it is not their fault either. all in all the road less traveled is more often than not a lonely one.

29 09 2009
aappathachchiya

gosh thanks everyone. just saying what we’re all thinking, i think.
its so nice that you are reading and enjoying us.
await more fury. 🙂

1 10 2009
rice pudding

I think we need to start small and close to home. For some it may be as simple as getting an education, or getting a job – especially if you are one of the first in your family to do so. but we do need to start – that is important. and once you start, every next step of questioning becomes much easier. the impact can be huge but YOU HAVE TO START QUESTIONING. but how do you get people to start questioning…?? any ideas out there?

30 10 2009
Bugz

I have too much to say regarding this blog post! But for the time being I would just say… Thank you for putting this up! 😀
Love it!

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