I come across a lot of instances about North-Eastern people from India being harassed over their looks and especially the girls. And I am not saying it just because I read it somewhere or heard it. I have tonnes of friends from North-East from my college days and I know the problem is damn real. Several cases of sexual harassment, racial abuses are reported, some even go unreported.
This 22-year-old student Vinatoli Yeptho, is trying to voice her anger through a powerful poem. The poem is titled “Five rules for whomever it may concern”, which aims to raise a voice against sexism and racism.
“Do not judge me if I wear hot pants and a sleeveless top, my clothes don’t define who I am. If I wear red cherry blossom lipstick and smile at you, do not take it otherwise. Trust me, it’s just courtesy, not curiosity.”
Vinatoli is from Nagaland. She studied in the state till Class XII, and it was only after her schooling that she started traveling frequently to other parts of India.
On an interview with the The News Minute, Vinatoli speaked about the agony which almost every north eastern girl and woman from India is suffering through. She said- They ask if I work in a spa. They comment that North-eastern women are ‘easy-going’, ‘friendly’ and so on. Not in a good way. People tell me that this is ‘normal’ and that ‘it happens’. It’s not normal and we should not accept it. I’m a feminist. I write about my real life experiences. I like to write about things that nobody wants to talk about. Because that’s how you can start a conversation about them.
Not only she complains but she fiercely mocks the people who foul play racist and sexist comments on them with a bold threat.
“And if you still do not obey these rules, remember, my forefathers were headhunters. I was born out of a clan of warriors. Remember the world’s hottest chilli is growing in my grandmother’s garden.”
Listen her bold lines :
Migrant North-Eastern women, in particular, are subjected to a lot of sexual harassment by men across much of India, who find it difficult to accept their way of dressing and appearance.
Though women experience sexual harassment across the country, Vinatoli says that it happens at a different level when it comes to North-Eastern women. The prejudice is dual – of gender and race. Vinatoli, who identifies as feminist, does not see why one should keep quiet about this violence. “People tell me that this is ‘normal’ and that ‘it happens’. It’s not normal and we should not accept it,” she says.
It was her own unpleasant experiences and those of her friends that inspired Vinatoli to write her poem. In her performance, she addresses the common stereotypes about women’s looks and their character that are prevalent in the country.
Wearing hot pants and a sleeveless top, for instance, doesn’t give anyone the right to judge a woman. Neither does wearing bright red lipstick or having coloured hair.
Vinatoli points out that dressing to stand out is an act of bravery – it requires courage to be unique and the effort should be appreciated, not mocked.
And we cannot agree any less to the girl.