That game would be victim-blaming, female shaming, target naming, scapegoat framing. All of them sides of the same multi-dimensional terrestrial entity known as misogyny.
There have been several high-profile cases in the public eye and national media, each of them an instance of one or more of the above. Most recently, a certain extremely famous national starlet, recently in the news for her latest film release, was featured on the front page of a national daily in what can only be described as the most crass, appalling way possible, in a tweet that has since been removed. [It described ‘OMG, Deepika’s cleavage!’]
Some attempted to pass it off as a ‘marketing ploy’, ‘strategically placed’ to market Ms. Padukone’s new film. While I appreciate that film marketing can often stoop rather low, the use of the female body in the basest of attention-seeking ways was beyond repulsive.
Fortunately, in an extremely positive move for not only herself but for women across the nation, the star in question did not stay silent, instead choosing to respond to the article in kind.
Historically, in India, women have been taught and conditioned, generation by generation, to be ‘ashamed’ of their bodies, that their bodies are something to be ‘hidden’. It is a regression to the ideals of a woman’s body being a ‘gift’ to be given to one man and one man only: the woman’s husband.
Regressive, misogynist and attempting to not only impinge on but entirely destroy a woman’s self-will or own right, this sort of ideal continues to persist in 2014, and unfortunately not only in rural pockets of the nation.
Worse still is that it is because of these years of being repressed and pushed down that women have begun to believe these ideals too. That their bodies are to be ‘kept pristine’ and ‘gifted’ to one man, that their virginity is a prize that goes to the ‘highest bidder’, in a way like the mizuage of the geisha of old Japan.
Most Indian women, unless from specific socio-economic strata and levels of education, are neither free nor comfortable with their own sexuality, because they are brought up and taught not to be; that it is something they should not possess, or ‘preserve’ for the man. Openness, self-belief, one’s own mind, opinions, thoughts; all repressed in the repression of the expression of their sex, of their womanhood, and of their personalities.
Breasts existed, but they were meant to be covered. Hidden in their entirety. In existence for mankind to look. This ideal persists in the behaviour of men in public to this day, even in the most cosmopolitan of areas. Even in the least low-cut of tops, cleavage and breasts will be stared at, ogled in the most vulgar way just because, in a way that many men here seem to consider their birthright.
In personal experience: I was walking down a street to find an auto-rickshaw to take me home from a friend’s at 9 a.m., not by any means an ‘ungodly hour’ in our great ‘Indian culture’. A man on a bicycle drove past, shouting ‘arre khulla hai, aam dikhte hain!’ – roughly translating to something too disgusting for me to want to explain, but I will try “It’s open, I can see them mangoes”.
I was wearing a regular t-shirt.
While it is entirely irrelevant what I was wearing, a lot of the Indian public (men, women, ‘upstanding, educated’ members of society) use the way a woman is dressed as a reason to lech, ogle, or take it further to molestation and rape – everything from end to end on the spectrum of sexual harassment.
The star in question, however, questioned the publication, letting them know she was a woman with breasts that she was not ashamed of, a first for women in public in the country.
And in an extremely heartening move, the country stood behind the star, who has since gone on to publicly admit how violated she felt after the tweet. The publication responded with a rejoinder that only worsened the situation, but the actor stood her ground.
However, women, whether in the public or private eye, are rarely spared the ignominy of being taken apart like this, judged for their situations, their sexuality, blamed for being the victims in this Circus de Chauvinism, with the trapeze acts of the tabloid media.
A former actor, an incredibly talented young woman who has been in a few films before, was recently found to have been involved in what was described as a ‘high profile’ prostitution racket involving ‘rich, high-profile industrialists and businessmen.’
I appreciate that there are countries where prostitution is legal, but I also believe a very small number of women currently choose willingly to engage in the profession, at least in South-east Asia. Trafficking is a very, very real, very pressing issue that needs to be dealt with, and unfortunately most women, sadly of all ages, are forced into prostitution. Until that issue is even slightly alleviated, which does not seem like a reality in the current situation, and in consideration with several other factors, this will not happen in my opinion.
In the press, however, really all over it, was the name of this starlet, which, although it is open information, I choose not to repeat out of respect. Not the ‘high-profile rich businessmen’, the ‘industrialists’, the men who paid the prostitutes, because their ‘identities needed protection’, because they were ‘not to be exposed’, because ‘their family lives would be ruined’.
The young girl whose acting skills and life fell by the wayside, the young girl who was forced into the flesh trade. Her name was emblazoned across publications, headline news, lurid details all over the media. The men’s identities were hidden, protected, secret as they continue to be.
The excuse? The men deserved privacy, according to members of the public and press. The men paid a ‘premium’, and deserved to be protected. The men had families, they said, that would be broken by this revelation. Their lives would be completely altered, they said.
Do none of these apply to the young woman who was the obvious victim? Does she not have a ‘life that would be completely altered’? Privacy that she deserved, a family that would be affected? The judgement that invariably seems to follow? Yet it was HER name, not theirs, emblazoned across headlines, it was she who was blamed for being forced into the sex trade.
Finally, there is the recent case of Suzette Jordan, who was the victim in the horrendous Park Street rape case. She was on her way home from an event, and brutally raped in a car by her attackers. Instead of protecting her, taking down her complaints and pursuing her attackers, police and ministers dismissed her, lambasted her character.
Due to the fact that she had been drinking (shock, horror, only a man is supposed to do that in India!), she was dismissed as ‘characterless’, a drinking single mother? “Devoid of morals”, they called her. The chief minister of West Bengal, the capital of which is Kolkata, where the rape occurred, dismissed the case as a ‘sajano ghatana’, or a made up story.
Suzette was accused of being a prostitute, and that the ‘deal had gone wrong’. She was merely a single mother going out to a discotheque.
What ministers, police, lawmakers, locals, the chief minister even, failed to understand was that it was a violation of her personal rights. Even if she had been a prostitute, no person had any right to do anything with her against her own wishes. The so-called ministerial diaspora thought that was the ‘excuse’. Suzette’s family were judged, her daughters stared at.
Recently, Suzette and her fiance visited a Kolkata restaurant for what seemed like a routine meal. They were however refused entry by the head waiter, who labelled her the ‘Park Street Victim’, and refused her entry on that basis. She was sent away from the restaurant after being derided and shamed by the management.
Yet again, the second time for Suzette, the victim, it was she who was blamed. The first time, for being raped. For being ‘loose’ and ‘going to a disco’ and ‘drinking’, things the “aadarsh bhartiya naari” is not supposed to do, haye haye!
This culture of shaming the woman, this idea that it is the woman’s fault, needs to stop. The ideal of the man needing to exert and assert his ‘power’ over the woman, which is what rape really is (it’s not sex!) needs to end. This sexism, this easy selling of women’s sexuality needs to stop. Women need their own right over their own sexuality, not permission from anybody else or the right for them to do with it as they please, for games to be played with those who are helpless.
Women are not men’s to be sold or bought in any way, shape or form. They own themselves and everything that comes with it. And that is something they should be proud of, not need to hide behind closed doors out of fear.
Fingers need to pointed, publicly and legally, at the true perpetrators of the crime, not the scapegoats who can be easily framed, not those whom it is most convenient to blame.
Sadly, when the wheel of fortune is spun, the arrow of the blame always lands squarely on the woman. We need to stand up, as many have recently done in each case, protesting against this blame-the-woman culture, and change the way the wheel spins entirely.
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.