I still remember the day I met her. My hair was in tangles all about my face, just like hers was. We were both soaked to the bone from the pouring rain, and looking for refuge from the downpour, anything to guard us from the ominous clouds overhead.
She drew me in – I had been following her from two streets away, captivated by her bright, beautiful smile, a smile full of love, that drew me in when I looked at her and she crinkled her nose at me.
If only it were just a crossword clue anymore.
‘Eve-teasing’. An all-too-popular pastime in this wonderful country we call home. It isn’t even English, really, but an Indianism, ifyou will, much like ‘prepone’, ‘reply back’, ‘do the needful’ and our Indian version of ‘propose’, which doesn’t mean what it means everywhere else.
It is commonly defined as men ogling at women on the street, whistling, singing songs, basically boorish men behaving like they own a woman they see. Or at least that is how it starts off, with men at street corners singing the cheapest Bollywood songs they can think of, with the most crass lyrics imaginable (and my goodness me, our lyric writers give them so much to choose from it’s like listening to an even less melodious version of the radio). There are catcalls, whistles, remarks like ‘item’ and ‘wah’, and then there’s outright groping.
I have been fortunate enough not to ever have been groped or had anyone attempt to do so, but for your average Indian woman, tapori ‘seeti’ and catcalls have become a way of life, something that’s in the background, like annoying white noise you cannot get rid of.
As we all are FULLY aware, rape has nothing to do with sex, or titillation, or whether my clothes are too tight or too short or too something-or-the-other. It’s to do with a moron (or an entirely stupid, backwards society) SO steeped in patriarchy that he is convinced he absolutely must show his masculinity, or as they like to say here, ‘mardaangi’. What better way to show you are a MAN than by subjugating a woman, no? Of course! What better way to subjugate a woman than to violate her?
Of course, with this comes the wonderful label of a woman’s ‘modesty’. My sexuality. My ‘modesty’. Her modesty was violated. The farmer committed suicide because his daughter’s modesty was outraged. Modesty in India is a wonderful umbrella term that covers virginity (only for a woman, though, let it be remembered), female sexuality, anything that could possibly even indicate that the woman has her own independent thought processes, makes, nay, even wants to make her own decisions – and god forbid they are sex-related – or just wants to be considered a human being like any other, and the way to show what I shall subsequently call ‘penis-power’, you grab this ‘modesty’.
Recently, an acquaintance of mine I met through mutual friends when I studied abroad, and a Facebook friend, did this, and it was amazing.
He was crossing the street in Bangalore with two female friends, when two uncouth hooligans on a bike began to ‘eve-tease’ them. Akshay Kingar, instead of bowing his head and walking on like most of us (myself included) do, he took a photograph of them and posted it to the internet. Our two lovely idiots may not have been aware of the power of social media when they so wonderfully flipped Akshay the bird. They’re likely more than aware now.
In addition to garnering immense Internet traffic, the post was brought to the attention of the Bengaluru Police. Members of Parliament, news channels, publicists and even average Joes working in the field of the media latched onto the story and brought it to the attention of the entire country.
Those two upstanding pillars of modern society have, I hear, since been arrested by the Bengaluru police.
Unfortunately, there are many like them that roam the streets unfettered, feckless pieces of filth that live with no fear of the law (which, of course, inspires no fear in anybody because it might as well not exist), and only two days ago, in spite of ALL the lip-service the public received post Nirbhaya, THIS was a headline: “Woman gang-raped on bus in Indore”.
Clearly a LOT has changed since Nirbhaya, then.
Lip service, lip service, and more lip service. Changing the law may be one thing, but changing people’s mindsets is another.
A wonderful guy left this nugget of wisdom on the photo Akshay shared on Facebook [and I've left his name in because he deserves to be shamed publicly in every way possible].
“Venu Krish Reddy first over girls must wre the proper dress’s den y the hell da guys ll teas them, so guys plz think of t also k..,”
That comment was ‘liked’ by 3 different people, one of them, sadly, a woman.
In our country, it doesn’t really take much for something to escalate into violence. It could start off as vile jeering and creepy leers, but with no legal regulation, anybody can pick up a bottleful of acid at a corner store for a nominal amount, and, should his lecherous advances be spurned, use this to prove his might. (I am penis, hear me roar?)
Everybody now, Delhi police included, seems to be telling women how to ‘take precautions’ so that they are not attacked. That in itself is ridiculous, in that the police is obligated to make people abide by the law, the same law that should punish them if they do NOT. Unfortunately, that is not the way it works here.
No, instead of that, let’s tell women what ‘modesty’ is. Modesty is not showing your shoulders/arms/legs/cleavage/neck/ANY skin whatsoever, because otherwise you’re just asking to be raped. How DARE you show skin? And if you do, how do you expect the man to control his sexual urges?? Poor diddums!
Then, we shall make ‘historical’ reference points to outline what exactly we define as modesty. Draupadi, Sita, Parvati, Sati, whatever mythological woman was the most subservient is automatically the most modest.
Indian men (and again, I do not mean educated Indian men – I mean the ones who lean on their bicycles/motorcycles by the side of the street, wearing their ‘Dabang’ glasses, thinking they have all the swagger in the world) seem to consider ogling a birthright, something that they just do. Then you have this man proving it’s not just your average cheapo who does it. And he’s wonderfully shameless about it, too.
Tie this in with our leftover white supremacist ideals and our obsession with whiteness in general, which have seeped so far into the cracks of our broken society that they have become part of its very foundation (and are proved, time and time again, by the staggering sales of fairness creams and bleach, or even the sheer volume of advertisements you see about them on the television), and you get an increasing spate of crimes against foreign tourists, who from what I gather are looked upon as ‘itummm’. While I was writing the article, this happened and it is terrifying. I think I might have done much the same.
Victim-blaming is a lovely, lovely pastime of (in increasing order of the gravity of how stupid this is) the people, the law and the upholders of the law. First you have idiots like Mr. Venu on Facebook, blaming the girls and asking them to ‘look at what dress ur wearin’, an idiot I saw on the Times of India comment board implying Nirbhaya deserved to be raped because ‘what did she expect travelling so late wid boyfrnd’, the Swiss tourists who were told by Madhya Pradesh police ‘not to be wandering around so late’, and the Suryanelli rape case, where her tormentors, among them Rajya Sabha MP P.J Kurien, said she was ‘of age’ and the sex was consensual. In addition, THIS:
The Court order described the alleged rapes as a “willing journey of a misguided girl”, and claimed that the male accused were “guilty only of the immorality of going to a woman, who they thought was a prostitute.
Of course, this is entirely logical, because if she’s a prostitute, it’s totally okay to rape her, right? It’s not like she is providing business that SHE should conduct at her OWN discretion, right? (However, considering the level to which trafficking goes on in this country, this is an article I would like to save for later.)
The JUDGE in that case, a man named Mr. R. Basant had said “The girl is not normal, she is deviant. All these are there in the judgment”.
First off – even if she was a prostitute (which I sincerely doubt), that gives nobody the right to rape.
Second, considering legalese is supposed to be extremely accurate, with no room for any ambiguity whatsoever, I wonder if there is any way for Judge Basant to explain the word ‘deviant’. Perhaps he means what the collective Indian male I mentioned earlier believes. ‘Immodest’.
There can be all sorts of banter about laws being changed, anti-rape law this, anti-rape law that, anti-rape anything. But at the end of the day, it all boils down to this. We have to, as a society, bring up men that do not think of themselves as a superior being or species, but just a homo sapien that happens to have a penis. It is a fleshy, vascular appendage. Not a Golden Excalibur between your legs that you draw out to proclaim your kingship.
We need to stop calling the cheap morons by the street Roadside Romeos, although I quite approve of the name if it involves them ingesting poison of some sort.
Dear 19-year-old guy at my gym, this means that when you ask my friend “Why do you cook your own dinner, aren’t you married? Doesn’t your wife cook for you?”, or “You change your daughter’s diapers??”, you are part of the problem. The very, very big problem. The law may precipitate the problem, but the problem is your mindset, and that of a billion others, not all of them men. The problem is that these people need to be taught something that most of the civilised world has been aware of for a long, long, long time.
My title's short and simple. Possibly because I attempted to think of pithy puns I could use for one, and failed, miserably, so I decided to use a Bowie song title instead.
I, as countless others before me, shall attempt to decode the abundant asinine accoutrements that come with every 14th February.
Here's a short history of Valentine's Day. In spite of widely-spread popular myth, or what the myriad wearers of rose-tinted glasses would like to believe, there was no random man who decided to help lovers all over the world and was martyred in the process.
It’s something I’ve said before, and it’s something I will say again. New Delhi needs to be rechristened Rape Delhi or something to that effect. In Uganda, rape is a war crime. In New Delhi, I wonder if it is even a crime anymore. If you’re Indian/living in India, sipping your morning coffee and reading the paper, and you see ‘Rape in New Delhi’, more than likely you will be angry but not particularly surprised. Saying somebody was raped in New Delhi is like saying it snowed in the Arctic. It’s something that never goes away. It isn’t just the rape capital of India, it might as well be the rape capital of the world.
India is still, sadly, largely patriarchal. We’re at the end of 2012 and still attempting to break stereotypes that belonged in the Middle Ages, that everywhere else in the world disappeared at the turn of, I don’t know, the 19th century. And we’re not even doing a very good job. Browse any online newspaper and the comment boards will be chock-full of misogynistic rubbish that somehow blame the victim, for reasons made up by the commenters, reasons that make rational sense to them and them alone. Reasons like, the rapist ‘lost control’, the girl was ‘skimpily dressed’, or a lot of other comments that somehow imply the victim had it coming. The kind of comments that make you want to throw these morons against a wall and beat the living daylights out of them. (And I’m not even a violent person.)
For those of you who are as yet unfamiliar with what happened – a 23- year old girl caught a Dwarka-Delhi bus with a friend after watching a film. The people on that bus beat her up, gangraped her in the bus driver’s cabin, nearly pulverised her, then her friend for attempting to protect her, and then threw the girl out of the moving bus. In spite of the fact that the bus passed FIVE police checkpoints, nobody stopped it or even bothered to look.
It’s something that sends chills down your spine wherever in the world you are, chills and utter shame when it happens in your own backyard.
I’ve written time and time and time again about my absolute lack of faith in the Indian judicial system in general, and that continues. But New Delhi/NCR policemen are a whole new level of foul, disgusting, bottom-feeding dirt that do not even deserve to live, let alone have any power.
If a girl is raped, their first thought is not, oddly, “How do we catch these men and what do we do to them?” It is “What was the time when the girl was raped?” If it was nighttime, that is their rationale for justifying said rape, because ‘what is a woman doing out so late at night?’. “What was she wearing?” Because if she was skimpily dressed, of course she’s to blame, she might as well be holding a sign that says ‘do me now, I want you inside me, violate me completely’. Or that it ‘was consensual, but these guys just get violent halfway through so the girls call it rape’. Because that’s completely logical, obviously.
It’s not just them though, lots of people somehow seem to think if a woman dresses as she wishes, drinks, parties, or basically has any will of her own, she is a ‘loose’ ‘slut’, and I don’t know what either of those two terms mean. Basically, according to them, said woman is trying to be a man, which is unacceptable, women to them are supposed to be beings that are there to stay around till you feel like marrying one, then mop your floors and make you food and tea, show off to your wife, and put your penis in as and when you feel like, following which, if and only if you deign to choose, she will carry your seed, which is hopefully a male. (This is exactly how the brain of your average misogynistic MCP Indian man functions.) Women are not meant to be just regular human beings with different genitalia from men, they are not supposed to have their own desires, wants and needs, unless aforementioned needs include ‘staying a virgin for marriage’, ‘looking for a boy’, and, oh, ‘marriage’. And whatever they think marriage entails, which they think, for the most part, is access to sex as and when you want it.
Why am I talking about these people? Because it is precisely this sort of mindset that gives rise to hordes of utter idiots who do not respect women, or even other human beings, which is another thing New Delhi is notorious for (like this guy, who shot a toll booth attendant because he didn’t want to pay).
The moment you believe men are the only acceptable species of human, the species that should hold power, and women are not homo sapiens, but just some sort of instrument that is there , you have morons like these. This sort of backward ideal of the woman being unequal, a sad little being that depends on a man for everything, including to give her life meaning, (which of course it has none of otherwise), is not something I see changing any time soon, simply because there are both women and men out there who believe in it and are watching it propagated through pathetic TV shows that are on Indian television all the livelong day. [An aside: One of said TV shows includes, to my knowledge, a woman whose husband cheated on her, left her for another woman whom he later married, and she still keeps a photograph of him on the mantelpiece and gazes at it lovingly. (Saw all that in a promo.)]
That, to me, is one of the root causes of stuff like this. The simple fact that we’re not moving forward from patriarchy, misogyny, from the idea that the man (and not man, but the homo sapien with a penis and testicles) is an ultimate being and all else is his kingdom to do with as he pleases. Instead of TV shows (which are a prime way of reaching out to the bulk of our population across every socio-economic level, because watching TV is something everybody does) that are about women being married off, looking for a husband, looking for marriage, and only that sort of thing, maybe there could be shows about women looking for careers, looking to make their own choices, doing something with their lives. Sadly, as I type this, I see a promo for a new show about a girl looking to have a “Karan Johar-style ‘sasural’” to marry into. It cuts to a shot of the girl serving a boyand his family tea, and the boy then saying “Oh, nothing beats mum’s tea”. Incidentally, the girl in said promo looks to be about 15, 16 years old at the time of her pining for a ‘fancy sasural’.
I have made no secret of my absolute hatred towards arranged marriage, which is a term that makes me go into Hulk Smash mode. Really. It brings up bile and vomit and possibly stomach acid, because the ideas behind it are disgusting and outdated. I have also written about my feelings regarding arranged marriage at length before. That ad highlights a few of these reasons. The whole idea of marrying not a person, but a family. The idea that you need marriage to be a ‘complete person’, whatever the hell that is. The idea that you have to serve someone tea (if you want tea, you better get it yourself), the idea that a girl must serve tea to a groom-to-be, and the idiot groom, whose mother’s apron strings might as well be his damn umbilical cord, has to comment.
Nearly EVERY socio-economic stratum and sector in Indian society has access to television. And not just television – satellite television. How do I know this? Drive past a chawl (for non-Indian readers, that’s an Indian ghetto), slum, makeshift set of homes, even a construction labourer’s tinfoil-and-asbestos home and you will find a satellite dish hoisted atop it.
Clearly, we have data that will prove how much of our population has access to TV. More people nationwide have access to (and by access, I also imply an understanding of) television, more so than newspapers because a large chunk of our population is also completely illiterate.
Can we not then use a tool we know is at our disposal to disseminate messages that we also know will be useful and will make an impact? Instead of using primetime cable network time to broadcast archaic TV shows that are little more than period Victorian dramas masquerading in 20 layers of makeup and Indian clothing, we could use it to get people OUT of a mental rut instead of digging them deeper into it.
But we can’t seem to.
The second big issue is the fact that there is absolutely no fear of retribution among these people. They know that with money and connections, or either one of those two, they will get off scot-free, untouched, and free to roam the streets like the pathetic sewer-rat vermin they are and commit as many crimes as they please. Nobody will touch them, if they know the right minister, cop, have a rich uncle, aunt, mum or dad, or are rolling in money themselves.
Actually, scratch that. No matter what socio-economic background you come from, rape is part of a completely messed up, life-sized game of Monopoly that seems to come with a ‘get out of Jail free’ card. Which is exactly what they do, if they even find themselves in prison to begin with.
Our legal system is absolutely pathetic. It takes at least four years to even BEGIN to deliver a verdict, and any verdict made in that time or less is looked upon as something wondrous, and ‘wow’. More than half the cases out there have probably been lying in files since they were registered, the only things that have seen them being silverfish, for whom it is their next meal.
Rape or divorce, who cares? It is all ALWAYS made out to be the woman’s fault. Here you can read about a Bangalore judge who asked a woman looking to divorce her husband on the grounds of domestic violence to ‘adjust’, because her husband puts food on the table. Why are abject morons like this given any power whatsoever?
People actually have lists and pointers for steps they think women should and should not take so they can ‘avoid being raped or eve-teased’. Don’t stay out at night, don’t dress in ‘skimpy clothes’, inhabit crowded areas.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Rape is not about sex. It is not about so called ‘horny feelings’ or these men’s ‘lack of access to sex’. It is not about cellphones, chowmein, interaction, or the age of marriage. It is about disgusting, feckless criminal assholes who think they can have their way, and in New Delhi, end up doing so.
I also abhor the nomenclature of rape by the news media. Why must rape be described as ‘VIOLATING MODESTY’? Is a girl’s virginity her so-called modesty? I am well aware we live in a disgusting, completely backward society that in Twenty-blooming-twelve (and now thirteen) that seems to prize a girl’s virginity, look to it as an indicator of her virtue, grace, her purity, her brilliance, and of course that all-important criterion, her success as a wife and human being, which of course are not mutually exclusive. India is one of the few countries where you still hear of rape victims being married off to their rapists. Why? Because the rapist ‘deflowered’ them, and since he has already taken her, er, ‘modesty’, he might as well KEEP it.
But must so called modern media, media looking to erase this sort of retrograde ideal, promote it, on whatever level? Rape is not a ‘theft’ of anything. It is not a violation of a woman’s modesty. It is, however, a violation of her as a human being, which is the same as it would be if it were a man. It is a violation of her right to exist peacefully. It is a violation of justice to allow scum like this to roam the earth unfettered, swaggering around without any fear of punishment.
Violence has never been something I have condoned, but every time I read about a rape case in New Delhi (which is to say, every day), I keep thinking taking some sort of harsh, yes, violent action against these lowlifes, these sorry excuses for human beings might be effective, at least at instilling some sort of fear within them, something that seems insofar to be nonexistent. Considering that these same men seem to think rape proves their ‘masculinity’, I suggest doing away with their genitals, which would have the added benefit of ensuring trash like that never reproduces, ever. We won’t also have commenters like this guy I saw on the Times of India online comment board, pity I can’t find a permalink anymore:
” zahoor ahmed (bambayi) 1 min ago
why so much hype on this gang rape?the girl was roaming around in late night with a boy…what else one can expect? “
We don’t need to be leaving women tips about how to take care of themselves, we need to be weeding out crappy human beings from functioning society (if you can even call it that, really).
And to all those morons, everywhere, talking about people’s ‘mothers’ and ‘sisters’ and ‘how would the rapists like it if it were their mother or sister’, or ‘rape the rapists’ mothers and sisters’, WHY all the “mother-sister” talk? Are you not supposed to respect a woman otherwise? I suppose it’s telling that the two most insulting words in hindi have to do with screwing somebody’s mother or sister. Because if they aren’t, you’re free to do what you’d like, right?
We need to change the way we think (and by we, I mean a nation). We can all sit and wonder from what rat-infested corner of hell people like those rapists are born. And you know where? Right here.They’re all born right here. Right under our noses.
Sadly, this is not about that wondrous Hindi version of Yes Minister, the one that starred Farooque Sheikh in the role originated by Paul Eddington. No, it is about our lovely MLAs and the lovely male chauvinist statements they make. They’ve made so many, and such brilliant ones this past month, that I thought there should be a commemmorative.
Reading in the news that there was a rape somewhere in India is one of those things that makes you angry, makes your blood boil, but not really something that particularly surprises you very much. Our, er, ‘mango people in a banana republic’ are certainly angered by it, but that does nothing to change the fact that
a) at least a few hundred rapes happen every day all over the country,
b) The law is doing absolutely nothing about it.
All you hear about most rape cases is that the ‘perpetrator was taken into custody, and an FIR filed.’ Nobody knows what ensues, but evidently, the law fails to run its course – if it did, at least some rapists would be discouraged. That is,of course, the whole idea of punishment – to be a deterrent. It has clearly failed, because corruption means that a certain, agreed-upon amount can get you off scot free.
Haryana might as well be the rape capital of the world. Log on to ANY Indian news website, and you will see at least 10 cases of rape, attempted rape, molestation, some sort of sexual crime or the other, every single day. Which is kind of ironic, seeing as we claim, as a’culture’, to think that sex is ‘gross’, ‘disgusting’, everything that is wrong with the world, and imbibed from that nebulous but iconic Godzilla-like monster Indians like to call ‘Western Culture‘, which is related to all things sex, which we shouldn’t talk about. Tauba tauba.
Haryana is extra special in that regard, as are its MLAs for whom misogyny seems to be a standing requirement, as does having as low an IQ as possible. This is evident every time they open those ugly, shit-spewing orifices of theirs. First, watch culprit number one, Haryana Pradesh Congress committee member Dharamvir Goyat:
Translation: ” I have no hesitation in saying about this matter that 90% of girls go willingly, but end up meeting ‘criminal-minded people’ who are just victims of lust. The girl does not know that further there are five, seven, ten… 90 per cent of girls go with complete consent and end up meeting criminals. This is what I would like to state clearly.”
Like all backward, woman-hating men and their statements, this guy and his eloquent banter made me absolutely blind with rage. How is it WILLING when these hulking lumps of shit drag screaming women to dark alleys and whatnot and violate them in unspeakable ways, sometimes multiple men at a time? When they’re mentally scarred for life and some of them even suicidal?
As for the rapists being ‘victims of lust’ – yes, poor victims. Poor victims, standing over the terrified form of a random person five or more of them have dragged in from the street, laughing and cackling away like a horrible 90s Bollywood film. Poor victims, like that piece of scum, Amar Jyoti Kalita, one of the main accused in the Guwahati Rape Case this past July, who tugged at her shirt, pulled her hair, and grinned and gurned for a camera he KNEW was recording every scene of a girl being raped in the heart of the town. Yes, poor fucking victim.
Proof that the law is utterly useless in these matters? From news coverage of the case: “The police reached the spot after half an hour and took the girl to her parents. The Assam Police has identified twelve men from the video footage, but they have only managed to arrest four so far in three days.”. It has since been three and a half months, and no news since. [Proof that the law is useless overall? The fact that it has been a little under FIVE years since the Arushi and Hemraj murder case, and NOBODY appears to have an inkling of what actually happened.]
Let’s cut to another Haryana scenario (if I were doing this in order of stupidity, this would certainly be first).
Khap panchayat leaders blaming women for rape is pathetic and disgusting, but not really a new thing. Awful as that is, it isn’t the stupidest thing one of them has ever said, but THIS may be:
“Poverty and intoxication are the main reasons for rape as well as young people sitting together the wrong way. But also eating chowmein causes a hormonal imbalance which is a big reason for rapes.”
That little nugget was brought to you courtesy Khap leader and clearly, scientist and rape expert extraordinaire, Jitender Chhataar. I, personally, have no idea how to react to that other than to want tear my own hair out in ire. I expect the thela-walas who sell ‘Chinese’ food want to punch him, too.
I would also very much like to know what ‘sitting the wrong way’ is. Cross-legged, one leg over the other, my ankles touching, or just like your average khap panchayat guy, legs open and crotch and balls aired to the world?
One would assume basic education should be a necessity for any leader, whatever level they may be on. Obviously education, intelligence and common sense all seem to have eluded Mr. Chataar ( and, evidently, every MLA in Haryana).
Here we have a rape-related statement from another Khap leader:
“”When asked why rapes are occuring at this scale in Haryana, Sube Singh said that movies and television are to be blamed for rapes. “I believe this is happening because our youth are being badly influenced by cinema and television. I think that girls should be married at the age of 16, so that they have their husbands for their sexual needs, and they don’t need to go elsewhere. This way rapes will not occur.”
According to Mr. Singh (and, I’m sorry to say, several, several other people also), rape is sexual, it’s all about the sex, the penetration, the act of intercourse, the lack of which, to them, is the root cause of rape. Also a cause of rape? Short skirts, no? It isn’t the perverted, sick criminal who is to blame, but the girl whose ‘dress is above her knees’ (seen on the TOI comment board), the ‘slut’. She is to blame for giving the rapist ‘come fuck me’ vibes, apparently.
Here’s some news – it’s not. It’s about the power, the sick, perverted ‘happiness’ the rapist feels at finally having had his/her way, the ability to have controlled something, the exhilaration like some awful, awful drug. It’s about having violated someone and subsequently having gotten away with it, in the full knowledge that here, you can do it again, and nobody will care a damn.
Speaking of MLAs, one would expect them to have marginally more intelligence or education than your average Khap leader, and a less backward way of thinking, having grown up in more civilised, socio-economically privileged society..but no, out they come to prove that statement ridiculously wrong, in the form of Om Prakash Chautala, the former Chief Minister of Haryana (?!?!), not for one but THREE terms. Really.
Now Mr. Chautala here compared the Khap ruling to the (clearly wonderful, not violent at all) Mughal era, and said “….During that period, people used to get their daughters married at a very early age fearing somebody will abduct them. A similar situation prevails in the state. Teenage girls are being gangraped and the government is doing nothing. I have seen young girls getting married due to this fear. In such a situation, if Khaps have suggested lowering the marriage age of girls, I think it is correct.”
Let’s process that for a moment. Again, I cannot reiterate often enough how much I truly hate the concept of arranged marriage, which really has no place in a civilised world, but might as well be the norm here. I have heard of several cultures within India that think of women as ‘paraya dhan’ , which translates roughly to ‘somebody else’s wealth’ – and this in 2012. The idea is that the woman, who was insofar the responsibility of one man, daddy dearest (or daddyji if you prefer) has now been, er, bequeathed, to her husband who now has to ‘take care of’ her. Because women aren’t educated, don’t work, and something with boobs taking care of itself? Holy hell! How could that happen? What is the solution to all of this? Marriage, DUH.
So, to the khap and Mr. Chautala, marriage = rape security because by their logic, one man ‘owns’ her and will protect her from those poor darling ‘victims of lust’.
Yet another Khap leader echoed Chautala’s sentiments, saying rape was a ‘result of boys and girls attaining puberty and their sexual needs not being fulfilled’. That speaks volumes, and not just about Khap Man here. A LOT of people in our country think ‘pre-marital sex’ is something awful, a penis-or-vagina shaped Tyrannosaurus Rex that threatens to engulf all of our ‘values’ and ‘culture’. And god forbid boys and girls got into relationships – that would mean the apocalypse is nigh.
Oddly enough, the one country that makes the biggest song and dance and issue about sex in general is the country with the second highest population in the world. It’s not like those children are giving birth to themselves. We have paintings and sculptures and (yes, this has been done to death) the Kama Sutra, the world’s foremost, most ancient sex manual.
But while it’s been 65 years since we gained independence, we seem to have been stuck with Victorian ideals while the rest of the world has moved far ahead.
Case in point: this guy, who thinks women should not have cellular phones because they will ‘get distracted’, and one of our most esteemed politicians, the CM of West Bengal, according to whom rapes are on the rise because “men and women are interacting more freely….. …. It’s like an open market with open options.”
I’m going to leave that one open to the world to take apart, because I have no idea what to say.
India is slowly becoming a Talibanesque society with regard to women, but with crazier leaders, leaders who seem to be in competition with one another and the Taliban themselves for the title of ‘most regressive ideals ever’, leaders who neither deserve nor have any idea how to use the power they have.
If these leaders have their way, we will be there sooner than we think; and we’re already there in some ways, because you can be arrested for having an opinion and wanting to show it, even if it IS in a cartoon or three. Or you can be thrown in the slammer because somebody up there doesn’t like you, or what you did.
In the meantime, these idiots need to be held accountable for what they say and do – being a politician should no longer equate to being above the law.
I love Freddie Mercury. Those who know me personally can attest to this fact, repeatedly. They may even be sick of it, but I don’t particularly care.
66 years ago, a son named Farrokh was born to Bomi and Jer Bulsara, who were living in Zanzibar, which, at the time, was a British colony, just like India. Farrokh was then sent to India to study, in a little satellite town called Panchgani, somewhere between Mumbai and Pune, and that was where he grew up and sang and studied and played the piano and began to evolve. A 12-year-old Farrokh formed his first band there, a little group known as the Hectics.
17 years old. A revolution in Zanzibar, which necessitates the departure of Arabs and Indians. Farrokh (who by now had rechristened himself Freddie) enrolled at Isleworth Polytechnic and earned a Diploma in Art and Graphic Design at Ealing, knowledge he would later use to design that iconic logo his little future band would have.
Freddie sold clothes in Kensington Market and remained shy and reclusive (yes, really). He then met these two guys, one named Brian May, the other Roger Taylor. They found a bassist named John Deacon, and Freddie named their little group ‘Queen’.
And the rest is history. Mercury was a singer, a pianist, a guitarist, and one of the most iconic songwriters of all time. He was a man of brilliant taste (two of Queen’s albums were named after Three Stooges films) – his favourite artists were The Who, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, Pink Floyd and David Bowie. [Another person I know (and occasionally love) lists those guys as her favourite musicians of all time, in addition to Mercury himself.]
He was known for his iconic parties (there are videos on the internet of many of these – they are brilliant!) that were, like him, unabashedly flamboyant, but like all flamboyant people he was extremely shy and retiring in real life. Mercury once said of himself: “When I’m performing I’m an extrovert, yet inside I’m a completely different man”.
1975 brought with it a song that is now a benchmark in musical history – opera, rock, ballad, classical music and god-knows-what-else all rolled into one, a song for which Freddie wrote and recorded every single operatic bit himself, played the piano, and was just brilliant at. That was a little ditty called Bohemian Rhapsody.
Freddie had already proved he could do slow classical-rock (not classic rock, but a brilliant-sounding amalgamation of classical piano with hard rock), [Queen], harder rock [Queen II], quasi-metal hard rock [Sheer Heart Attack, one of the BEST albums of all time and one of my personal favourites- Brian May's brilliant songwriting skills on display in all their glory here] and then came A Night at the Opera and A Day at the Races, each with a little bit of every member of Queen in it, some with songwriting contributions from all four. (Unlike my favourite band, though, they never fought, which is brilliant in itself.)
You had classic rock, classical, hard rock, metal, everything in this one brilliant album – in addition to a few wonderfully happy, beautiful tracks that belonged in a novel out of the 50s and 60s, that would not have been out of place in an Enid Blyton book (Seaside Rendezvous is one). News of The World had some of the most beautiful jazz-esque music and some of John Deacon’s most ouststanding songwriting (he remains, in my opinion, one of the world’s most underrated songwriters, which is very very sad).
Funnily enough, next came Jazz, the album, which brought with it what has been voted the ‘world’s best driving song’ by several people, including the car experts over at this little show called Top Gear. [Thanks, Richard Hammond. I completely agree.]
They would go on to do their first soundtrack, which was for the movie adaptation of the comic book superhero Flash Gordon – it would not be their first. With Hot Space (which was unfairly panned, I happen to think it is a lovely album) came a genre they had not explored before – Funk. Also with this album came a collaboration with another man I am completely in love with. David Bowie.
Their next album, A Kind of Magic, would also be a soundtrack, to Highlander, a lovely film about immortal warriors.
It was around this time that Freddie was diagnosed with HIV, but chose to keep this news private. His sister noticed telltale sores and asked him, which is when he admitted it to her. Roger, Brian and John, who were close friends in addition to being his bandmates, knew also – so they worked and worked and worked some more, coming out with The Miracle (beautiful, beautiful album cover) and what is one of the most iconic albums in rock – Innuendo, on which you can find The Show Must Go On, sung by a practically dying Freddie, in his full vocal range . I challenge you to not get goosebumps when you listen to it.
Written by Dr. Brian Harold May (astrophysicist and guitarist and rock god extraordinaire), The Show Must go On was one of a few songs that was a farewell to Freddie while he was still alive. The story goes that Brian wasn’t sure if Freddie would be able to handle the vocal range the song demanded, owing to his illness, but Freddie downed a fifth of vodka and said “I’ll fucking do it, darling!”.
The videos to The Show Must go On and These are the Days of Our Lives (an extremely emotional song written by Roger Taylor as a sort of ode to Freddie, written in the full knowledge that he hadn’t much longer to live) were shot in black and white to mask the fact that Freddie had grown thin and gaunt, to hide how much the illness had really ravaged him. Instead of spending his last days moping about, he went off his medication and spent all his time in the studio instead, choosing to reveal the truth only at what would quite literally be completely last minute:
24th November, 1991 – Freddie Mercury announces to the world that he has AIDS
25th November, 1991 – Freddie Mercury dies, leaving behind a legacy of music and talent that will remain unparallelled for a long time to come.
Every time I sit at the piano to play a Queen song, I think of Freddie. Every time I’m in the car, singing along at the top of my voice, I think of Freddie (thank you, Mike Myers). The man and his band have got me through some of the loneliest times in my life.
Farrokh Bulsara may be no more (who really does want to live forever?) but the memory and the music Freddie Mercury will live on in the hearts of millions.
The only difference is, I DO like Star Wars
I’ve written very recently about genitalia (my article on labiaplasties here), and here’s another little article for you, one about a product that claims to be about the ‘feel’ and not the ‘look’.
What now seems like many, many years ago, Madonna sang that she felt ‘like a virgin, touched for the very first time’. Couple years later, the genius Weird Al Yankovic parodied this and made ‘Like a Surgeon’. Both of these are relevant to this issue. First, watch this lovely, lovely ad, which is a masterpiece, even more romantic than the Raymond’s ads with random hot twirly dancing couples.
Once you’ve gotten over that (which may take a while), let’s talk virginity. By ’18′, these people are implying ‘young’, ‘fresh’, ‘tight’, ‘virginal’. First off – for some reason, in India, virginity is an ‘asset’, something to be prized, a ‘gift’ to be given to the future husband – I must remind you, of course, that for these people, the guy’s virginity doesn’t matter at all – virginity =tight hymen. So many people write into ‘ask the Sexpert’ columns (yes, I shall refer to them continually because they need to be referred to) asking Mr. Sexpert WHY their ‘wife didn’t bleed on their wedding night’. I remember reading one that said he ‘felt cheated becausemy wife is not a virgin’. Cheated of what, exactly?
To begin with, I think the concept of ‘arranged marriage’ is disgusting. It makes me want to throw up, hit someone, murder somebody else, and all of those simultaneously. Get married IF YOU HAVE FEELINGS FOR SOMEONE AND WANT TO GET MARRIED, not because you’re ‘of a certain age’ and need to prove something to the world (and in the process, to yourself). It is NOT important to find someone to saddle yourself with – if you crave companionship so much, find a friend. Date. If you don’t want to, find a friend with whom you are mutually agreeable to having sex. Have protected sex with a prostitute if you must. But for a lot (and I mean a LOT) of Indian men, getting married merely implies access to regular sex. That is NOT what a marriage is for, (except to these people).
Before I rant any more, let us discuss the actual advert. A woman, who looks to be only 30, is hanging out with her husband, in their fancy, open Indian style home. Like a ‘dutiful bahu’, she brings hubby dearest his dabba for the day. The in-laws are there too, doing in-law stuff. What I’m assuming are husband’s little brother and sister are on deck, too.
Suddenly, the woman begins to dance (inexplicably, the flamenco, which has naff all to do with India anyway). A soundtrack begins to play in the background – what is supposed to sound like flamenco guitar, while a woman makes oohs and aahs and other (what the makers of the ad think are) sex sounds while singing “I feel like a virgin”.
No, it is not in tune.
They begin to dance as she ‘tickles’ him and sings, and the creepy little brother begins to record this courtesy the camera on his cell phone. They then dance whatever their dance is around their compound and he lifts her romantically and dips her.
“Feels like the very first ti-i-ime”, the singer croons, lustily.
The dancing finally comes to an end, as does the ad, with mother- and –father in-law at a computer, MIL going clickety-clack at the keyboard – “18 again dot com?”. They grin at each other, and then an announcer comes on and in the same lusty, whispery voice tells you what the product is, which is (or at least claims to be) a ‘vaginal rejuvenating gel’.
I’m not sure what the scientific credibility of that statement is, but in all likelihood, it is marketed, useless spiel, like all the other ‘rejuvenating’ rubbish in the market that promises to ‘erase laugh lines’ and ‘make wrinkles disappear’. Our society (all over the world, not just in any one country) seems to think ageing is the worst possible thing that could happen. It’s not natural to age, is it? Must. Fight. Urge. To. Inject. All. Sorts. Of. Crap. Into. Face. Lest. I. Look.My.Age. What is wrong, exactly, with looking however old you are? I look at it as an extension of some constant, innate desire to feel attractive to everyone else, when what really matters is being attractive to YOURSELF. But of course, that is never enough.
The company claims the product is to help women experience better sex. Obviously, the only way for her to do that is to ‘tighten’ her lady parts, not by any extra effort on the part of the man. No, the way to remedy sexual issues is not by going to a sexologist/andrologist/gynaecologist, but by buying something they advertise (and rather badly so) on television. What this brought to mind was the fact that we so badly need sex education in India, but our lovely higher-ups in the government seem to think that this will make us imbibe ‘western culture’ (a term that angers me immensely, what is Indian culture anyway??An article on this soon) and ‘make young children sexually promiscuous’. That’s like saying if you were to send a teenager to a driving school, they’d crash the car. If anything, sex ed classes would help them understand sex better, and then have it only when they are mentally and physically ready, as opposed to becoming sexually active to be ‘cool’, or trying to fit in because being a virgin is not what ‘popular’ people do. I have seen children as young as 12 and 13 bragging on Facebook about their sexual prowess and conquests. Incredibly weird.
At an age where their bodies are only just beginning to mature, I wonder how physically ready they really are. The really sad thing is that they grow up this way, learning their ‘moves’ from porn, which we ALL know is of course completely realistic, right?
So instead of having 30-plus-year-old men write in with puerile, borderline insane queries about their wives’ virginity (or lack thereof), maybe we could educate young kids so they don’t grow up into the sort of idiot that would buy into the ideal of an ’18 Again’ cream.
The product makers claim they’re ‘breaking new ground’ by being willing to talk about ‘women’s intimate health’. No sir or madam, you are not. Just like the morons who marketed the ‘intimate wash’ by saying it was a ‘fairness treatment’ for your nether regions (more on my views on fairness here).
If we go by today’s average Indian 18-year-old, being ’18 Again’ simply means being completely unaware of sex, intercourse, foreplay, or even what real genitals *look* like, but doing it because you think you’re cool.
But hey, the shoe fits.
This evening, on my usual trawl of the internet, I came upon an article and some lovely animation, a trailer for a documentary called Centrefold, by two filmmakers named Ellie Land and Siobhan Fenton, and sponsored by the Wellcome Trust:
It certainly isn’t a new thing, and neither are a LOT of surgeries related to female genitalia. There are labiaplasties, vaginoplasties, hymenoplasties and probably a handful of others I’ve never even heard of.
In India and other South-East Asian countries, hymenoplasties are said to be the ‘bestsellers’ of the plastic surgery world – specifically because of their obsessively patriarchal, misogynistic societies that somehow put a value on a woman’s purity and virtue by her virginity, or lack thereof.
I have written and ranted excessively about how disgusting, archaic and retrograde I find the entire concept of ‘arranged marriage’, [because, yeah, instead of being in love and in a relationship and knowing somebody, let's just look through a bunch of photos and a CV of sorts to decide with whom who you must have sex and spend the rest of your life, BRILLIANT!] but the fact of the matter is that it continues to happen. Somehow, the people entering these marriages seem to think somebody else’s past is their business.I cannot locate an online version, but I read an article in last Saturday’s edition of a local paper about men ‘breaking off marriages’ with women after ‘finding out their past on Facebook’. The writer also very kindly mentioned in his closing paragraph how ‘women who are looking to get married, beware of what you post online’.
There seems, somehow, to be a price on a woman’s virginity here, something that people think needs to be preserved, as some sort of gift to a man. People have varying views on the whole virginity issue, but in my humble opinion, if you are mentally and physically ready (read – not an underage, pre-pubescent young child looking to have some sort of cool ‘experience’), it is nobody else’s business who you sleep with and why. It does not matter whether you are in a relationship with this person or not. By all means, if you are not in a monogamous relationship with somebody else, and neither is your sexual partner, do what you may.
Nobody has any right to call you anything – a slut, a hussy, or if you’re a guy, a ‘man-slut’ or a ‘man-whore’ or any of the many eloquent terms people come up with. It does not matter if it’s a ‘one-night stand’, a ‘two-night stand’, or a ‘one-hour stand’ even.
If you want to wait until you’re married to somebody you love and then have sex with them, that is, again, your own business and nobody else’s – this only holds true, however, as long as the views are your own, and not some ideal society has somehow indocrinated into your head or conditioned you to believe.
Sadly, in these cultures, it is not just the men who believe the women they are going to marry need to be, um, pure. The women do, too:
Why should it ‘soil her married life’???
Not sure what is sadder here, the girl’s attitude or that the man answering these queries calls himself a ‘sexpert’ – he has also advised homosexual people to ‘get married if you think you can satisfy a woman’. ‘Expert’ advice indeed, good sir.
That was just one small example of genital surgery, which in itself is not really ‘small’ at all. The latest craze on the block is labiaplasty – as the name suggests, it is surgery to improve the appearance of your labia. What they essentially do is chop off the skin you think is ‘extra’.
There are women who have genuine congenital defects, like problems with their uteri, fallopian tubes,vaginas – issues that affect their reproductive systems and/or general health. Most women who opt for labiaplasties, however, do not fall into this category – instead, they do it to “enhance the beauty of their vulvo-vaginal complexes.”
These women are unhappy with the way their bodies look, which is not exactly a new thing. Entire industries run on insecurities – cosmetic industries, clothing industries, food industries, slimming products (I could go on and on and on).
The focus is always on female appearances, and less about the internal workings of anything at all – more than half the adverts out there for weight loss involve liposuction and/or some sort of invasive or non invasive surgery, body sculpting, fancy lasers or whatever the hell they use, or crash dieting. If you really ARE overweight, it is less about dropping ‘x’ dress sizes or inches and more about being healthy, which is less about having a tiny waist and more about having the stamina to exercise, and not having the cholestrol clogging your arteries as thick as the Berlin Wall (and they demolished that). It’s about feeling strong and energetic and generally being able to function better. If you feel like your looks matter to you and they’ve improved, good for you, added bonus.
Except the priority is ALWAYS how it looks and not how it works. Suddenly, the focus seems to have shifted from beaten-to-death body parts like faces and tummies and ‘stumpy legs’ and ‘saggy breasts’ (those products will be around as long as humankind is), and is now on genitals.
A recent ad in India advertised a feminine hygiene wash, which for Indian markets is a rarity. Vagisil and Summer’s Eve are two products I have never seen on Indian shelves. Lubricant, too. Come to think of it, there’s only the one brand of tampon sold, too. I’d love to know if this is an economics/import issue (which I sincerely doubt, as I see all sorts of products imported from all over the world in stores two minutes down my street), or just the fact that India seems to have an issue with anything sexual. (Because our 1.2 billion strong population got there without the assistance of any sexual organs whatsoever.)
The latest craze is having your labia snipped and stitched to your specifications. After all the images of the Klums and Bundchens and Kerrs and Crawfords with their flat stomachs and gravity-defying breasts, our attention must now be focused on the women in porn, the women who are supposed to be our ‘ideal’ for what our genitalia look like. Whatever you do not possess naturally, a surgeon can give you, no?
It’s not about how the sex is, or whether they’re affecting your health, but only that they do not ‘look right’.
Just in case there was an insecurity that wasn’t already being preyed upon, we’ve got a new one. There is a problem with your bits, ladies. Unlike the men, who are told their bits are not ‘big enough’, we’re told ours are too big!
Don’t you shudder to think what might happen if you don’t have ‘perfect looking genitals’, whatever those are? You might not look like a woman on the centrefold of a men’s magazine.
You might actually be with somebody who cares about you for YOU, and not what your nether regions look like.
Who wants that, though?
Of course, this also has to be hairless. We must subject ourselves to hot wax and lasers or any other way is there to get rid of it because being natural is absolutely terrible. (And a million other reasons I will delve into – they deserve an entry all their own.)
So on one hand, there are young girls and women all over the Middle East and Africa, and some immigrant tribes around the world, who are forced to undergo various degrees of genital mutilation, the most common of which is also by far one of the most gruesome, depressing, inhumane things I have ever read :
Type III mutilation involves removal of all or part of the inner and outer labia, and usually the clitoris, and the fusion of the wound, leaving a small hole for the passage of urine and menstrual blood—the fused wound is opened for intercourse and childbirth.
On the other hand, there are women who will pay through their noses to voluntarily have this done, in their quest for a ‘designer vagina’.
Meanwhile, I (and several others) are still waiting for a world where people are identified for who they are, and not the genitals they possess, irrespective of their shape or size.