Opinion Op Ed 15 Oct 2018 Of royal weddings, I ...
Kishwar Desai, is the chair of the Arts and Cultural Heritage Trust, which is setting up the Partition Museum at Town Hall, Amritsar.

Of royal weddings, India’s #MeToo and a memorial for Wodehouse

Published Oct 15, 2018, 1:39 am IST
Updated Oct 15, 2018, 1:39 am IST
Rape crisis centres will be opened, all through this private initiative.
Meanwhile, there has been a lot of discussion on the #MeToo movement in India — and it is about time women got together and fought for their own rights. No one can wait for all good men to step forward and help with benevolent patriarchy.
 Meanwhile, there has been a lot of discussion on the #MeToo movement in India — and it is about time women got together and fought for their own rights. No one can wait for all good men to step forward and help with benevolent patriarchy.

Phew! Are we “weddinged out”? Can there really be too many royal weddings for the Brits? Or is it okay to carry on in the same grand way as always, with detailed (public) discussions on the guest list, the jewellery, the wedding gown, etc, right down to the post-wedding kiss. The royal British wedding may have a stiff format — and far too much emphasis on the gown and the guest list, minus the band, baaja, baraat aspect of a good desi wedding. But it does generate its own media hype — and maybe helps in muting down the Brexit discussion for a few days, for which we are very grateful.

This time it was Princess Eugenie, who (lest we forget) is the daughter of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson, (The one incident we all remember about Sarah is when someone she was having an affair with sucked her toes). Sarah was reinstated in the royal family this wedding: she is divorced from Prince Andrew and continues to court controversy, every now and then. But isn’t it about time the British changed traditions, and at this time of women’s empowerment, we saw a bit more of the mother and not so much of the dad? Since Eugenie is only ninth to the throne, tradition could have broken a bit — and instead of Prince Andrew walking her up the aisle — the mom could have been a more visible? Similarly, when Meghan Markle’s father did not show up for her wedding to Prince Harry — couldn’t her mother have accompanied her along the aisle? In any case, I still don’t know why the father has to “give away” the bride — these are customs which need to be publicly changed. If the royals cannot stop having high-profile weddings — at least they can reform some of these outdated traditions…

 

Or are these so well entrenched in the monarchy that if one little item changed, the edifice would come crumbling down? The only thing I really liked about this latest wedding was the low back on the gown Eugenie wore. She had wanted to display the scar she had from the scoliosis surgery she had as a 12-year-old. And so it helped us all understand what scoliosis is: it affects young teenagers through a condition which hunches the back. She said in interview: “I think you can change the way beauty is, and you can show people your scars, and I think it’s really special to stand up for that.”

 

Her words brought comfort, undoubtedly to many who are troubled by the “body perfection” of the fashion police, and the photographers who live off the skinny celebrities: on a perpetual diet, photoshopped into unrealism. Hurrah — at least this one royal made a statement through her wedding dress for us warts-and-all commoners. We welcome that.

Meanwhile, there has been a lot of discussion on the #MeToo movement in India — and it is about time women got together and fought for their own rights. No one can wait for all good men to step forward and help with benevolent patriarchy. This is exactly what has happened in the UK, where celebrities such as Emma Watson, Emma Thompson and Keira Knightley have stepped forward to support a campaign, which now has raised more than £1 million in donations — to work for justice for victims of sexual harassment and abuse. Apart from giving funds to various women’s groups, a free and confidential helpline is being started which will give legal advise to those who require it. Rape crisis centres will be opened, all through this private initiative. Finally, no matter what the government does or does not do — it is also up to women to provide safe spaces for other women — within and outside the home. Perhaps we need to (as I have been saying for a while) set up organisations (instead of the rather toothless National Commission For Women) — and put together some alternative systems to which abuse victims can turn to for help and even monetary support as legal cases can be long drawn and expensive.

 

Harry Potter star Watson, who alone has donated £1 million to the fund this year, appealed for more funding to support the outreach and the movement. This is an international movement now — and it will be difficult to suppress as some people are trying to do in India.

Of course, even in the UK, there have been some disappointing voices. For instance, Felicity Kendal, who has asked for some calm from the #MeToo campaigners. Kendal, 72, has said: “There is no solution yet.” In an interview she has stated: “Men and women are totally different. We’ve never been in a position in history where there has been total equality. We’re human beings and we don’t get it right. Part of living is partly getting it wrong.”

 

Can inappropriate behaviour be excused, any more?

By the way — P.G. Wodehouse is, at last, to get his memorial stone in Westminster Abbey. He had been criticised for making some comic radio broadcasts for Germany during the War. He lived in New York at the time and did not appreciate what a strong reaction his broadcasts would cause. His knighthood was delayed till 1975, just a few years before he died. Now he will be given his memorial stone along with Shakespeare, Jane Austen and T.S. Elliot.

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