One Down: First Woman.
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.