Trigger warning: This story contains mention of sexual violence which could be triggering to survivors.
Let me tell you a story, the story of a ‘perfect’ town.
This town was like a big family; a family which played a significant part in each other’s life. Here, everyone was perfect. There were the Perfect Men, who played the ideal role of being the dominant members of society. Who made the rules; rules which helped them keep their perfect women in line. In the town, the ideal women played submissive roles. They quietly followed the laws made by their ‘masters’.
One day, seeking a fresh start, a new family arrived. They were accepted with open arms by the people, but there was a warning in their words: “Just follow the rules, play the part and you will be fine.”
The family understood what was being said. Once again, everything started to go back to being perfect. But no one noticed a rule-breaker in the family – a little girl. She was not perfect and didn’t quite understand the meaning of being perfect in that town. Breaking rules that she couldn’t understand was in her nature. She did what her instinct told her to do, which was to be free.
When perfect little girls used to play ‘kitchen’ and practice their future role of being ideal women, she played football with the boys, roamed the street and laughed aloud with her mouth open. She was a happy, brave and headstrong girl.
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People started to notice her. They started to feel threatened. It was very new for them – a girl who was not quiet. So, like a big lovely supporting family, they started their mission to put her on the right path. Each day, they would tease her to make her feel different. They would warn her parents and assured them that they would help and make her perfect like she ought to be.
Her family knew their daughter well enough, and they loved her the way she was. But to maintain their place in the town, they played along. Her mother used to drag her from the playground, yelling that she shouldn’t play with the boys and to behave herself. And when they were alone at home, she would console her crying spirit and say, “I just want you to be safe.”
The girl still couldn’t understand the problem, but she could see how scared her mother was for her safety. But again, why?
Plagued by these questions, the little girl started to grow up but remained filled with curiosity about the answers. Everything about her began to change – her body and loud laughter – but her confusion stayed the same. She would still think about the rules that won’t allow her to be herself.
But she was not a little girl anymore. She was now a beautiful young woman full of spirit. She made other young women fantasise about the freedom she inherently gave herself, which was a most dangerous thing for the perfect town’s harmony.
Now, people started watching her differently. So did the boys she used to play with, the boys who were now Perfect Men who had been groomed to control women. Her carefree nature made an impression that she was ‘easy meat’, begging to be eaten.
Then something happened, the very thing that filled her mother’s nightmares. She was torn apart and betrayed by a Perfect Man, a Perfect Man whom she had called a friend. How could this be happening, she thought, while they tore her skirt apart – a school skirt similar to the one she used to wear when she played football with them. She screamed her heart out, “Why? You were my friends!”
“Stupid girl, how can you be so naive? Men can only be masters, They can never be a friend to a woman. And especially not to a woman who is filled with so many imperfections. Your position is right here, right under our feet. What did you think that you could tease us with that little skirt and loud laughter and get away with it? You deserve to be punished for thinking that you can be like us, the ‘masters of society’,” the Perfect Men growled in her ear.
That was it, that was the moment she found all the answers she had been looking for. At that moment, she knew what they meant when they asked her to be perfect and why her mother had been so scared. She knew it as she dragged herself home from the abandoned factory, barefoot.
Her sweet laughter was now gone, replaced by the emptiness of truth. They had won. She was finally quiet.
The Perfect Men were happy, satisfied, about having caught the culprit trying to destroy the harmony of their town. They didn’t notice the girl was just quiet from the outside, but she had a fire full of rage growing inside her; a fire she didn’t want to control.
“I don’t want your perfections,” she shouted in front of the whole town. “At least I am free – not like you, all tangled in the rope of your rules which will suffocate you to your death and still make you pretend that you are alive. I don’t want to be an ideal woman just to be safe. Why in the world would I want to be in such a place where I am used as just a showcase item. I love my imperfections so much to sacrifice them just to be safe. So you can keep your ‘polluted’ town to yourself. I am too free to be perfect.”
She roared with pride and left the town with her mother.
So, let me tell you a story, the story of a perfect little town, a town where everyone is perfect. Perfect Men, who were dominant, and their ideal submissive women.
But not every thing is as perfect as it seems. Something flickered when the young woman left town. The fruit has yet to be borne but the seeds of recognising injustice had been sown. A fire grows in many hearts; a fire that may just one day become strong and powerful enough to burn the whole town.
Harshita Sharma, 23, just finished her post graduation in Economics, and is from a small town in Haryana.