Recently, Free Thinkers, a group of Facebook users, organised the ‘Kiss of Love’ movement. The kiss of love was floated in social media by a group of youngsters known as free thinkers, in protest against Bharathiya Yuva Morcha attack on a hotel in Kozhikode last week, alleging immoral activities.
The movement, in which people who signed up decided to have a kiss-a-thon in Kochi, a major city in the southern Indian state of Kerala, was intended as a symbolic message to the police…the moral kind. The kind who persist in bandying about that oft-repeated turkey, “Indian Culture”. The self-appointed upholders of what is truly Indian. Morally. Sex sadly is not one of these ‘moral’ things to them. However, it is deemed perfectly acceptable to urinate, defecate and masturbate in the street. I have personally seen a street masturbator and multiple street urinators and defecators in the past week.
These Indian religious nuts are probably all living in Biblical times, then. The times of immaculate conception, over and over and over again. The sort of immaculate conception that is repeated in every corner of the country. The kind that has got us to a 1.252 billion strong population as of last year’s census. [Probably higher this year.]
But no, let’s get back to how sex is bad and immoral and corrupting people, shall we? Nobody’s having it, how dare they? It is against the culture of the country with the world’s second-highest population.
Kissing is a beautiful thing. So is sex, but it is possibly too ‘scandalous’ for our upholders of tradition and culture to discuss (the stork dropped them all from the sky, of course), so let’s start small. Kissing. Affection. Love. It doesn’t necessarily have to be in a sexual context, but is a thing of beauty even then. Sexual =/= bad, dear desi culture upholders.
This movement was meant to show two fingers to the moral police, comprised of individuals, groups, families, and scariest of all, political parties. [I say the scariest because of the sheer monetary and physical power they hold and wield as dangerously as an unsheathed sword.]
Trolls to the Facebook page for supporters of the Kiss of Love movement have variously posted things such as these
“will you marry the ‘thing’ you brought to kiss”
“I don’t have a problem. But everyone should take those ‘things’ you kissed back home with you”.
But dear man, you do in fact have a problem. The same problem far too many people in India face. That rape, sex and ownership are all somehow interconnected. And the topic that interconnects them in your mind is that timeless Indian favourite, virginity. Specifically, female virginity.
Countless films, instances in real life and suggestions by ‘well-meaning’ MORONS suggest to survivors of rape that they marry their rapists. Marry the people who chose to violate them and their space to exert power.
Their ‘logic’? That the rapist has already ‘taken’ this girl’s virginity, which of course is the entire deciding factor in her value as a woman and human being, so he might as well keep it. This patriarchal, backwards mindset is sadly echoed by women nationwide, women who write into advice columns asking about ‘how to hide from my partner that I have had sex with my previous boyfriend’.
Nobody should need to ‘hide’ anything. And by nobody, I mean no woman, because this ‘sexual shame’, this stigma women are made to feel if they are even the least bit free with their sexuality, is suffered by them and them alone. Men wear their sexual prowess like badges of honour. Women are slut-shamed instead.
Religion divides our nation, and has done so for years and years. However, causes like these seem to unite every regressive, extremist religious wingnut against one massive cause, in their quest to both decide and enforce what is ‘moral’. Freedom. Self-expression. Feminism. Nationwide equanimity.
India does not talk about sex nearly as much as it should, and this is very likely one of the causes for our uncontrollably high population. Nobody TALKS about sex or the issues that come with it. STDs and Venereal Disease. Pregnancy. Family Planning. Safe sex. EQUAL PARTNERS in sex and the fact that it is not just for ‘male pleasure’. The whole she-bang.
The prudish and religious both like to pretend sex doesn’t happen, exist, is ‘western’, the result of a foreign invasion. Ironically, it is possibly due to repeated foreign invasions that a liberated, mentally, physically and sexually free country became the nation of prudes that it now is. Victorian ideals have been left behind while conquerors left for their own lands, their own countries now societally liberal and their people liberated.
Unfortunately, this specific colony has decided to keep these classically ‘Western’, colonial ideas of propriety and prudishness, adopting them as their own, and becoming resistant to freedom of thought or expression, or the expression of sexuality, which to them is inherently baaaad. Here, however, is an excerpt from a book by a very non-Western man. A certain Vatsyayana. The writer of our lovely sex manual written nearly two millennia ago.
In the style of one of my favourite comic-book villains:
Riddle me this, prudes who’ve appeared, who’s afraid of the big S-word?
I had the opportunity to speak to organisers as well as representatives of the movement. Several organisers and participants in Kochi were taken into custody by local police in what they described as ‘preemptive action’. To ‘prevent disruption’. Disruption of what, exactly, they did not mention. Several religious extremists attempted to attack them as well. The movement, however, has gone from strength to strength. The Facebook page for Kiss of Love was reported by the cultural torchbearers I have expounded upon, and was subsequently shut down. Support has multiplied since, however, with a burgeoning number of subscribers to a new page that has since appeared.
Reflective movements are now happening across the country – one of the country’s leading educational institutions, IIT Bombay, held its own kiss of love movement, which was a roaring success, and supported by the faculty at the institution too. Under conditions of anonymity, one of the organisers of a specific city-based movement shared with me the sort of language that has been used against him: he and his fellow protesters have been described by “the majority of people [who] called this movement as “drunkards and drug-addict” movement”.
Not one of these people has been able to articulate why exactly this movement is so offensive to them, what they think will happen as a result. Meanwhile they have no public outcry against rapists who roam free and assault women and children with absolute abandon, and question women on what they are wearing, if they ‘dare’ to report sexual assault.
Support, however, is growing among the rational, by leaps and bounds. We are now in exciting times. Free Love movements may have happened half a century ago in the rest of the world, and we are behind by all means, but it is incredibly exciting that it is now actually, actively happening here.
This support has, contrary to cultural torchbearer belief, not been restricted to ‘educated’ ‘westernised’ English-speaking intelligentsia. Translated below, a post off the site, originally in Malayalam:
In public, in police station and even in front of police station
We have unity
Unity that can never be broken
You are the ones who have lost and not us.
We have created history.
An homage, a tribute to the Indian Elections of 2014. A set that I was physically apart from, and from this geographically distant vantage point I was able to finally be an observer, or as Derek Zoolander would put it, a eugooglizer.
This set of elections was rather different from any I’ve seen so far as long as I’ve understood what elections were. In a move that I’m certain was meant to capitalise on the youth vote bank, campaigns this year were massively focussed on social media. This increased online participation meant that everyone and their mother was now on Twitter, Facebook and whatever other social network is there, looking to participate. This, as a standalone fact, is an excellent thing in the world’s biggest democracy. The wave of politicians (and therefore, more and more users) on social media meant a massive online democracy had been mobilised to opine, to rehash, to ruminate and philosophise.
Or so it would seem.
While there have been voices from and about every part of the Indian political spectrum, this past election has seemed overshadowed by a very specific section, whether in the press or on the internet. A little digging and some investigative articles suggested that a lot of this publicity was paid for. The entire idea of the press not being neutral is absolutely infuriating, but in a largely capitalist world where money talks, and talks louder and more forcefully than anything ever has, it’s going to happen. Should there ideally be rules against this, irrespective of the type of economy? I believe so. Are there? I’m not so sure. But it is absolutely a worldwide phenomenon, spurred on not by the beliefs of news disseminators, but investors.
Various media outlets nationwide, barring fewer than a handful, have taken rather specific political stances – interviews, analyses and ‘debates’ have all been biased, slanted rather obviously in favour of one candidate or the other. That has happened since public media has existed, and will continue to do so for a while, or at least until some extremely advanced technology, some form of Artificial Intelligence kicks it into obsolescence.
Unfortunately, while the ‘world’s largest democracy’ has now begun to be online, it is unclear whether this media is deliberating on issues to the extent that a democracy does, a la the idea of agonistic pluralism theorised by Chantal Mouffe. It hasn’t just been the victory that has been a landslide, the campaign has seemed that way too. There has been pluralism, there have been campaigners, there have been voices of dissent against what can only be described as predicated on the subject’s apparent success in his home state, the facts and numbers of which seem to indicate thus.
However, it is neither sensible nor fair to pick a candidate entirely on the basis of success in his home state, the data behind which may or may not be true, but was, and is bandied about repeatedly on social media by said supporters.
It is to be noted, however, that the same people refuse to mention, or even entertain any discussion regarding the 2002 Godhra riots, largely seen to have been a form of communalist violence, which happened in the exact same state. If one were to go by the oft-repeated statement that the Supreme Court of India granted the candidate a ‘clean chit’ in the matter, the fact still remains that not nearly enough was done to stem the violence, which seemed to become, to the perpetrators, some form of pogrom, an ethnic cleanse in their minds. The attacks were seemingly allowed to continue well beyond what they should have, the violence unimaginably gruesome and gory. Even if they were, according to the Supreme Court, not premeditated, and no political influence was involved, the fact remains that the same political power permitted the violence to continue. It must also be noted that said party (honestly, much like any other political party/politician in India) is communalist and plays on religious sentiment (sadly all too strong and polarising in India) in order to garner votes.
This is not exclusive to India, however, these communal, divisive politics, this ‘othering’, with a small section of political parties in the UK using this sort of tactic to pull in votes.
Temporarily, however, there was a glimmer of hope in the form of the Aam Aadmi Party. The name literally translates to the ‘Common Man’s Party’, and although they started small, they seemed to want to move in the right direction, their goals for once truly in line with what the country needed. They did not play at looking for votes from a specific sect, religion, section of the economy, but society as a whole. Unfortunately, their campaign petered out early, with their candidate withdrawing 49 days in. In the end, a real pity, as they were the only party that seemed to treat the people of India as people, as an actual society, instead of bits and bobs of an economy, or a market to be sold a product entirely. They cared about the aspects of social change that other parties either claimed to care about or in the case of the currently ruling party, are vehemently against. Regretfully, while their ideals were wonderful, it seems their ultimate execution was not.
Back to the politics of the specific state in question. Numbers were marketed, nay, hard-sold to the public, epic tales were told of wondrous development, of progress and the sort of magic one might seemingly only find at Hogwarts. But ask questions and you may as well be entering the Forbidden Forest.
Statistics show that despite the grand claims of development, education, nutrition and clean drinking water are all but accessible to significant sections of the population, and in some cases a majority of the state.
Child nutrition is at an all-time low – 47 per cent of children below the age of three in the State were underweight. That figure was 45 per cent in NFHS-2. That’s about twice the average for sub-Saharan Africa.
When a state claims as significant development, or at least a party does, surely nutrition is part of this ‘development’? Or is their idea of ‘development’ only the sort that is measured in money the rich can bring in? The metrics for the analysis that caused state, masses and media alike to arrive at the wonderful rosy scenario known as ‘development never seem to be revealed. When your nutrition rates are abysmally lower than those in sub-Saharan Africa, can you really claim development?
That leaves a staggering 57% of households that do not have access to water, having instead to travel several kilometres, very likely on foot, through arid, harsh conditions, often to bring back enough water for entire families. This water, too, is often not fit for any form of consumption, as “67 per cent of rural households in the State have no access to toilets and members of more than 65 per cent of the households defecate in the open, very often polluting common water sources.”
It seems from this that the purported economic gain did not reflect within the state itself.
While the religious fundamentalism that has historically characterised the party has seemed to be absent from this round of elections, with a significant non-Hindu vote going towards the party, a fair number of significant members of the party hold rabidly religious and social views that seem to be stuck somewhere, perhaps a century ago. With several social movements in India in the last few decades geared towards eradicating exactly this sort of thought process, one worries that this might be a step backwards for India as a functioning society.
The Indian LGBT movement has gathered steam in the past few years, and a general awareness of what many, sadly, across generations, believed to be a ‘curable disease’, rather than an innate biological characteristic, spread. More and more of the Indian public began appearing in public, at movements and rallies protesting the criminalisation (and re-criminalisation!) of homosexuality. It was no longer the taboo it had been in the past, and pride movements became a thing. It was absolutely wonderful.
And now, a party that has stayed apart from the religious fundamentalism it has marked itself by in the past has come to power. But while the party may have stayed away from communalist marketing tactics, its leaders, and the men at its helm still believe in archaic ideals, such as these –
BJP President, Rajnath Singh: “We will state (at an all-party meeting if it is called) that we support Section 377 because we believe that homosexuality is an unnatural act and cannot be supported.”
Senior member of the party, Subramanian Swamy, an erstwhile intellectual and former Harvard lecturer, described homosexuality as a ‘mental disorder’ in a series of tweets.
Sadly, the Congress party was not much better, with the Health Minister in 2011, Ghulam Nabi Azad, describing homosexual sex, or ‘MSM’ as a ‘disease’. While these archaic ideals may not be party-specific or community specific (in fact, some of the major religions practised in India sadly all view homosexuality as some sort of ‘disease’ or ‘disorder’), it is a massive blow to the movement that the newly forming cabinet is against progress and change in the social fabric of the country.
As I publish this, a woman has just been appointed the Chief Minister of the state of Gujarat, which is a wonderful thing. Anandiben Patel is, by all means, an accomplished person and politician, and her history seems to bode well for reform.
However, it now remains to be seen whether this is merely lip service or the sign of better things.
It is unfair to treat the country entirely as a market and focus merely on economic development, which, while important, needs to occur concurrently with social change. However, the focus on this seems to have been lost, buried somewhere beneath the cries of ‘development’. Statistics can be bandied about that prove said development – but this is something everybody needs to keep in mind.
Change is never instant, and it is wrong to expect it to be. However, I sincerely hope checks and balances, from within both public and establishment, can keep India as democratic as it has been. Perhaps this election was about development. Perhaps it was also predicated on a strong anti-incumbent sentiment that is fairly justified, all things considered.
Ab ki baar, the change that occurs remains to be seen. The latest developments, however, do not seem to be very promising, with AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal arrested today for expressing an unsavoury opinion of a prominent BJP leader. Genuine worries for the freedom of expression have now grown – will all public opinion be hereafter, er, modified?
One can only hope that in this race, this mad quest for ‘development’, this live-action form of Temple Run, India is still, in the eyes of the powers that be, not a corporate entity that needs to maximise profit, but a country. Made of living, breathing people who retain wholly the right to express themselves, personally and publicly, people who need more than just progress for progress’ sake, and not just the economic kind, .
The crème de la crème of Indian authors, the cat’s meow, the cream of the crop, the bee’s knees, that literary genius, that proselytising Twitter guru, that magician with his words, Chetan Bhagat, has recently made a wonderful video for Shaadi.com (possibly the world’s most well known matrimonial website [ugh]), where he lists tips for the site’s founder, who recently got married himself.
For a little bit of a background, watch this
The guru of gurus, the unrecognised (but clearly deserving) head of MENSA, is now dishing out tips for a successful marriage.
Chetan Bhagat’s #ShittyTipNumber 1
“Just Say What She Wants to Hear”
In this tip, he talks about how choices, with women, are not really choices. you just have to guess which ones they like. WOW, Chetan Bhagat. I speak for all women when I say you are really, truly the most amazingly perceptive man in the entire universe. How did you know all women were not really human, just completely irrational, two-faced vagina-toting humanoids incapable of normal thought processes like men are? Poor ol’ us. ‘North Indian, South Indian’, we’re all the same. He talks about choices between A and B as being like computer programs, which solve problems ‘based on applying criteria’. What are those, Mr. Bhagat? Programming? Criteria??? You’ve lost us poor stupid women already!
It’s not about finding A or B, Chetan. It’s about finding, to quote a certain Red Forman, my foot in your ass.
P.S – You know what *I* really want to hear? That Chetan Bhagat has given up writing and/or a public existence for good. I will wait for that day and I will celebrate it.
Chetan Bhagat’s #ShittyTipNumber2
“Remember Anniversaries, She Will Forget Your Sins”
Here he talks about remembering anniversaries, something I am not a fan of. You celebrate if you feel the need to celebrate, and don’t if you don’t. If the day means something to you then let it. I fail completely to understand why ‘forgetting’ a day makes you a bad spouse/partner, and if that is one of your criteria in deciding whether you should be nice to your partner or not, you are a horrible partner yourself.
He instructs all men to ‘remember their in-laws’ birthdays. But he doesn’t stop there, taking it a step further instead. He asks that most wondrous of all beings, men, to ‘be the first one to call your mother-in-law’ on her birthday, and then ask your spouse/partner why they haven’t wished their parent yet. Of course, these birthday wishes are not birthday wishes, but leverage that you can use when you’re ‘in the doghouse’, so to speak.
If you happen to be friendly with your spouse’s parent/s, then you wish them because you know them and you want to fucking wish them happy birthday. Not as ‘OMG I WISHED HIM HAPPY BIRTHDAY NOW I’M OFF THE HOOK’. Dear Chetan Bhagat, as much as your writing and behaviour make it seem like it, you are not five years old.
P.S – As far as being ‘woken up at midnight by Chetan Bhagat’ goes, I’d probably just tell myself I’m having an incredibly horrible nightmare and go back to sleep.
Chetan Bhagat’s #ShittyTipNumber3
“Do not give an opinion, merely endorse”
According to Mr. Bhagat, if one of us ‘lil ol’ ladies asks a man for an opinion on an item of clothing, we’re not asking for an opinion at all. We are obviously too weak to handle honesty and truthful viewpoints, so all we want and need is positive reinforcement from men (of course we do, how in heaven’s name would we live without it?).
It is absolutely telling that the whole ‘Do I look Fat’ scenario is limited to women. That, dear Chetan (or do you prefer Chetanji?) is a product of our stupid, patriarchal society where men can look whatever they look like and be successful in a field that focuses exclusively on appearance (the movies, for example) but women, in day-to-day-life, need to be suspended in a bubble of self-doubt, in a constant state of worry as to whether they look fat or not. Health matters whether you are male or female – how you look should not matter at all, but unfortunately for the world, and consequently to women themselves, a bulge here, a fold there, is absolutely unsightly and should be banished immediately, by whatever means possible. Women are meant to be pretty little fairies with no opinion, no cranial ability, and no life beyond men and serving them, aren’t they, Mr. Bhagat? And their lives invalidated without said ‘endorsement’ from men? Poor us. Also, we look at other women who are prettier than us and begin to hate them immediately. How did YOU know, Chetan Bhagat, that women cannot look at other human beings the way men do, rationally, and consider their abilities and strengths as independent aspects of their personalities? I’m so glad you’re around to teach me the ways of my kind.
P.S – Chetan Bhagat likes to make jokes about women’s insecurities with their appearances. I’d make a joke about Chetan Bhagat’s appearance but that video speaks for itself.
Chetan Bhagat’s #ShittyTipNumber4
“Warning – she follows you on Twitter”
This takes off from Shitty Tip Number 3, which is all about female insecurities. While body image issues are, unfortunately, a reality, Chetan Bhagat brings us his own version of female insecurities, which have to do with men calling other women attractive. According to him, the moment a man compliments a woman, it is grounds for the wife to ‘put her husband in the doghouse’. In Chetan-land (or Bhagat-world, if you prefer), not only are women completely devoid of self-confidence or self-belief, but men are not supposed to have opinions either, unless they want to regret them all their lives.
For SHAME. How dare any being have an opinion on another human being right? And of course, said opinion necessarily means you like that human better, no? Like a little child’s mother complimenting another child, which necessarily means she loves that child more than her own.
P.S – Gentle reminder, Mr. Bhagat. YOU ARE NOT FIVE YEARS OLD.
P.P.S – Sexism works both ways, and you’ve just illustrated that extremely succinctly. Thank you.
Chetan Bhagat’s #ShittyTipNumber5
“Show your support. Like all her Facebook updates”
He says this is a ‘tip for a modern marriage’. ‘You must like all the pictures, silly rants, stupid things’ your spouse posts on Facebook.
I’m all for social media. I’m doing a degree in media. I do NOT, like most other people, believe it has a damn thing to with somebody’s feelings towards me. If your love, or the security of that love, is predicated on a ‘like’ or a retweet, you’re in an incredibly shitty, insecure relationship. I do think every one of the last few points is predicated on Chetan Bhagat’s assumption that women are insecure, and that is the most important aspect of their existence. Women are insecure beings that cannot survive without male validation – it is THIS male validation, of course, that validates not only their looks and figures but their very existence. Yes. That’s all the vagina-ovary bearers of the world need, Mr. Bhagat, to ‘keep us happy’, because we need to be ‘kept’ happy. Facebook likes. This man has all the answers, people!!
P.S – When you say the rants are ‘never stupid, always profound’, you’re obviously not talking about yourself, you fucking moron.
P.P.S – your ideas are anything but ‘modern’.
Chetan Bhagat’s #ShittyTipNumber6
“You might be the boss in the office.. She is the boss at home!!”
So according to Satan…oops, Chetan, the days of performance reviews are over. You are now not the reviewer, but the reviewed. This review will not be an annual one like the rugged menfolk are used to, but a daily one, nay, an hourly one, nay, a minute-to-minute review, based on the clothes you wear, how you sit and stand, your appearance, things that the rest of us would find trivial but Saint Bhagat tells us are the criteria for judgement.
Who ever thought a marriage/relationship was a partnership between two equals, right? It’s supposed to be about one dominating the other, browbeating them into submission and having them follow their every word. It’s not like it’s supposed to be a symbiotic thing, with both people contributing to conversations, discussions, finances, the relationship itself. It isn’t supposed to be an environment where two people feel comfortable enough to air their opinions and are able to discuss their problems and lay them bare as they are. It is about submission, complete submission. Men and women are not MADE to be equal, right, Mr. Bhagat? Relationships and marriages only ever work when one partner dominates.
I think we should all just listen to Chetan Bhagat when he says ‘Seriously, you’re not supposed to be listening to this. Bye bye, take care.’ If you truly DO care about yourself and your sanity, do not watch that video.
My condolences to Chetan Bhagat’s readers and fans (male, female or otherwise) for being utterly brainless, and commiserations to his wife for being married to a sexist, male chauvinist pig, paperback-writing hack with no visible redeeming qualities whatsoever.
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.
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’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.
There are a few things Indians (or at least Indian advertisers/TV show producers/filmmakers/corporates) seem to be obsessed with. Cricket, Bollywood and sex are the three that come to mind immediately, and lately, I’ve been thinking marriage is the fourth. [Be warned, however. I’m not particularly fond of marriage or weddings in general, so if you’re likely to be offended, I don’t really care.]
I’m one of those people who watches the IPL for entertainment. Sort of like a Hindi film where you already have a beginning and an end and you just go to watch how it gets from one end to the other. (Also like digestion.)
Anyone who watched edition 5 of the Indian Premier League (and really, even anyone who didn’t) has been besieged with ridiculous, ridiculous ads. There are at least a billion of them that are related/refer to marriage in general, most of them for products, but this one caught my eye, and not in a good way.
In the ad, a relative (I’m assuming the granddaughter) is giving her grandmother a pedicure as the woman sits comfortably in her plush armchair and munches on a bar of chocolate. The daughter-in-law is in the same room. Suddenly, the granddaughter/pedicurist suddenly pipes up, saying “Bahu gaai hai na” – which directly translates to ‘the daughter-in-law is like a cow’. I’m not really Prem Chand, so I had no idea what that meant. Neither, however, did anybody I knew for whom Hindi was a primary language.
Finally, somebody told me it meant the DIL was ‘decent, calm and quiet, like a cow’, which made ME the polar opposite of calm.
Anyway, before I go on my long-winded, extremely angry tirade, I should explain what the ad is about. So, granddaughter/pedicurist asks her grandmother WHY exactly it was that they were looking to ‘have the DIL married’ if she was, ahem, cow-like and ‘Krish’s choice’. The grandmother gives her a stern glare, the granddaughter wilts, and Miss Cow comes in with steaming tea for the poor old lady on the couch whose feet are being expertly pedicured, and who just happens to be munching on a massive, massive bar of chocolate. Poor, poor thing.
Then there’s another ad for this TV show:
This made me even angrier than the first one. Of course, the ever-dutiful Miss Cow is sari-clad and conducting prayers (the epitome of the perfect daughter-in-law in traditional, patriarchal families). The mother-in-law is standing around there somewhere with yet another woman, who I’m going to assume is a visitor. THIS vomit-worthy, absolutely abhorrent conversation ensues:
Visitor: “Doesn’t she take care of the home?”
MIL: “More than she ought to”
Visitor: “Oh, really? Then does she have any faults or shortcomings?”
MIL: “No, she’s perfectly OK”
If you want to know what they’re getting at, I have no idea, so I would be absolutely the wrong person to ask. What sickens me is that there are people who still hold these sorts of beliefs, the ‘dutiful daughter-in-law’, the woman whose only goal in life is to be married, take care of a home, and pop out a kid or two. Sure, a lot of urban India (my family and thankfully most of the people I know) find this sort of crap vile, but I know people who believe in this tripe, buy into the ideal, and then get sucked into the world created by these soaps, deluded into thinking they’re real.
This isn’t the only marriage-related thing on TV, though. Skoda came out with a ‘Big Fat Indian Wedding’ Campaign a while ago, where the car was responsible for really, really important things, like taking the bride and her giggling friends to the salon, the wedding planners, the makeup artists (wtf?) and other wedding-related people around. It was along the lines of the old MasterCard ads, where they mentioned the price of a couple of things and then ended with ‘Priceless.’
The final shot, before they told everybody how amazing the Skoda really is? The girl, looking at her jewellery as her husband picks up and fastens her missing earring. WOW, how romantic. *Rolls eyes*
Speaking of jewellery, there are at least 4 advertisements on television specifically marketing bridal jewellery, with the Bollywood brigade dripping in gold and diamonds, and of course, as the typical North Indian bride is expected to look, demure, shy and to quote the pedicurist, ‘domesticated’.
On an average, for every 5 minutes of TV Viewing in India, you WILL necessarily see an advertisement for a matrimonial website. There’s the stupid one that’s been on for a while now, where a father follows men around with a wedding turban (which, funnily enough, is not an all-India thing. In fact, it’s only in very, very specific bits of central and northern India). In the end, they find a picture on the matrimonial website.
At least the ending is funny. I don’t think the guys who edited the ad realised in time that the photo they used was, in fact, this certain hilarious, awesome guy named Matt LeBlanc. I still crack up EVERY time I see the ad. [ I also whisper a little “How YOU doin’?”]
Then there are the others, about ‘finding your daughter a groom within the community’ (someone please, please get me some medication before my rage gets out of control) and another I’ve seen not only on the telly, but in Reader’s Digest, too. [For shame.]
It’s about a privileged little girl, and how her parents want to ‘do right by her’ and find her a groom. You’d think doing right by her would be spending their apparent scads of money on a quality education, but no. According to these guys, ‘the best thing you can do for your child is give them a happy marriage.’
Watch the ad here(and try not to be absolutely scandalised):
Additionally, marriage is somehow associated very closely with sex in parts of India, because a) premarital sex is ‘immoral’, but female foeticide is not, and rape is ‘justified because the victim was “provocatively clad” ‘ according to these men
b) Marriage is the only way they think they have ‘access to unlimited sex’. That’s not just me talking, though – it’s every sexual advice column in every single newspaper.
Marriage, however, is not just two people who love one another deciding to spend the rest of their lives together- here it is a woman who marries not the man, but his entire family, whom she is expected to be a quasi-servant to, the rest of her life, all while looking gorgeous, of course.
There are at least a dozen television shows themed around the Big Fat Indian Wedding (a kind I especially hate), which I also think happens to be the title of one of these shows. It involves fancy, shiny designer dresses, professional makeup artists (like in that Skoda advert), and makeovers that include medical things like dental procedures. Who cares about the actual marriage? The wedding is where it’s at, man. It’s all about an album full of pretty pictures, not the other human being you’ve been ‘fixed up’ with.
More importantly, according to Indian advertisers, marriage is a girl/woman’s ultimate goal, and that, her looks and her baby are her crowning achievements. [Not her education, her intellect, or anything of the sort, mind you. Because what does all that stuff mean if you’re not MARRIED? You’re 30 and not married yet? Oh, the humanity!]
In the meanwhile, I still cannot reconcile myself to the fact that I live in a country with two ‘types’ of marriages. ‘Love Marriage’ and ‘Arranged Marriage’, where a groom/bride will be ‘found’ for you, either in the pages of the newspaper, in disgustingly shallow specs, or, for the slightly more tech-savvy, all over the internet. I absolutely fail to comprehend why one should even have to marry someone they do not love, or MUST marry if they do not fall in love. If anybody reading this has any idea where the modern version of this system came from, I’d love to know. Please enlighten me.
It’s bad enough there are idiots out there who actually believe in these ideals of permanent servility, ones who believe nothing matters unless they have a marriage to show for it, ones for whom NOTHING in life matters unless it is pushing them in the direction of marriage, where marriage is being covered from head to toe and fetching people’s tea and biscuits. (Take a training course and waitress if that’s all you want to do, at least it’ll earn you some money.)
What makes it about a billion times worse?
There are already enough older people with these ridiculous, patriarchal, outdated, sexist ideals. The morons that conceptualised this ad have now successfully managed to introduce ridiculously retrograde ideals of marriage to a new, impressionable generation, a generation I am genuinely afraid for, as I sit back and watch the idea of marriage (and mind you, marriage only for the beautiful, fair, or if you’re a guy, an MBA at the very least) aggressively marketed to anyone who will have it, and anyone who is watching.
So basically, everyone.