A COMMON FEATURE of most fights in India, whether they be in the public or the private domain, is the use of the phrase, “wear bangles.” Having heard it in at least five languages at last count, I have come to the conclusion that the purpose of hurling it at a man appears to be an attempt to emasculate him by labeling him weak and ineffective. It’s interesting, this line, spoken with contempt, as if the world at large is expected to know that those who wear bangles are helpless, shackled as they are by their gender.
Another commonly hurled abuse is “hijra”, meaning eunuch. Again, always said to a man. No woman is called one, and it wouldn’t be an offense anyway, because everyone knows that womankind is hanging off the lowest rung of the power ladder, where even the otherwise unfortunate third gender is “stronger”. What’s almost amusing is how men take serious offense at the seeming threat to their manhood, which is invariably defined by physical strength. It would all work wonderfully in the hunter-gatherer context, but since we pretend to live in civilized society, could we please stop for a minute and question why it is so terrible to be called a woman or a non-male? No, don’t tell me “You’re not a man, so you won’t understand.” Give me a rational explanation for being so affronted. When you’re done packing the ego away, of course. Take your time. I’ll play clink-the-bangles while I wait.