According to this, in India there is a tradition of men going to liquor stores to drink in gardens called "ahaataa." Occasionally, however, the men's wives object, leading to incidents like this:
OK, so far, so good. Men drink, women get pissed and beat them with shoes, and the beatings are all in good fun. That's pretty much a typical Saturday night around my house. No biggie.
Until, that is, the women -- previously occupied with kitchen and child-rearing tasks -- start going to college and getting engineering degrees. Then, as active members of the rising Indian middle class, they start stopping off at the liquor stores on the way home from the office to knock back a few with the girls.
Seeing women propped up on bar stools, wondering what they're talking about as they whisper, point, and giggle, at least some Indian men started to think that maybe women drinking in public was a serious threat to Indian society. In reaction, upward rose the socially conservative Sri Ram Sene group, which is sort of the Moral Majority of India. Sri Ram Sene, which also objects to Valentine's Day and condemns shopping malls as "havens of hand-holding," started breaking up women's happy hours by, among other things, physically manhandling the women the way Indian women had traditionally manhandled the men.
Whatever the logical merits of Sri Ram Sene's what's-good-for-the-goose-is-good-for-the-gander argument, beating up women on the streets of an increasingly modern India didn't go over. The media coverage was unfriendly and the women, rather than giving up drinking and going home to cook dinner, seemed to get even more belligerent. In fact, they formed an organization to fight for their right (to party), which they called the Consortium of Pubgoing, Loose & Forward Women (CPLFW). Besides being an organization that I, personally, would pay a lot join, the CPLFW has something of a gift for political theatrics. (Here's their FaceBook page.) It called upon it's members and their sympathizers across India to mail pink panties (called chaddis) to Pramod Muthalik, who's kind of the Jerry Falwell of Sri Ram Sene.
With a population of over 1 billion, only a tiny percentage of Indians needed to participate in the protest to make a huge impression. Confronted with thousands upon thousands of actual women's underthings, Muthalik and his followers reacted with horror. As the wispy, terrifying chaddis piled-up, Sri Ran Sere sympathizers started to complain that they, rather than the women, were the victims:
Instead of being outraged, academic, intellectual and political people around the world (for example, me) laughed. And as we laugh, a good many of us (not me) are also sending pretty pink chaddis to Muthalik. It's fun, after all, to poke fun at ridiculous old prigs.
There is, however, a more serious side to all of this. Along with mailing underthings, the CPLFW is calling attention to the increasingly violent and anti-woman culture war in India. And Indian columnist Devangshu Datta reminds us what's really important about that the CPLFW does:
This campaign is really about the right of any citizen to do what he or she wants with his or her spare time and money. There is an old Indian saying that translates: “If it’s not your father’s money, who are you to tell me how to spend it?” That is the tradition that the CPLFW embodies. That is really the only tradition that matters in this discourse — don’t miss it for the chaddis.
A lesson, perhaps, for us all.