Shame and honour

To have depression,

What a shame!

To kill in the name of caste,

What an honour!

To be poor,

What a shame!

To be in debt paying dowry,

What an honour!

To spend on her education,

What a shame!

A wedding worth lakhs,

What an honour!

To help your wife out,

What a shame!

To ‘discipline’ her,

What an honour!

Middle Eastern woman wearing face covering

To marry in a different religion,

What a shame!

To plunder another religion,

What an honour!

To be childless,

What a shame,

Child marriage,

What an honour!

To donate organs,

disected!

What a shame!

To go up whole,

useless,

What an honour!

Being angry, smart, ‘unwomanly’.

It’s not that I was unaware of the attitudes towards women. But events of the last few days have reminded me of them again, and i realized that in what little way I can, I have to dispel some notions of ‘protective measures’. In the last few days, I read Tehelka’s sting operation report on how police and other authorities think its the woman’s fault when she gets raped, I saw the Satyamev Jayate episodes on fighting rape and policing, I read the Huffpost report about Jenny Coller being asked not to perform because the orgnaizers of the event she was invited to did not want ‘too many female comedians’. Oh, and I also read about an Indian case where a woman who was gangraped, was abducted from police protection and raped again and the police said that ‘her injuries are not serious’. I googled world rape statistics, and although US tops the list, its only because of their reportage. Saudi is notorious for not looking at rape as a crime often, higher rungs of society getting a free reign, and sometimes, the victim herself getting punishment sometimes. But hey, they are at least vocal about it. In India we punish the rape survivor in the name of pity and justice.

Added to the above, some other classroom discussions have summed up the expectations from women that people at large seem to have-

Fall into one of the four categories – motherly, nice (wife/sister), hot/blonde (girlfriend), smart (boss/wife/sister), slut, timid (all women).

Oh, and often, all women have to be all categories, with different people.

Dress modestly.

But don’t be boring/ behenji

Sit at home.

Be outgoing, meet me in dark/shady places.

But don’t get raped.

If you do, don’t expect help.

Don’t make the police/court work for your problems while there are important issues like politician protection to work on.

Why do you sit at home and nag me? if you work you would know.

Why do you work? look you spoiled our children.

We will pressurize you at home and work but please don’t get anxious during pregnancy and give birth to a weird kid.

If you do, don’t expect everyone to be ok with the kid. Also, be ok with the blame.

Always be up for sex.

But, kids should not know we had sex.

Take care of your in-laws.

Don’t study because it gives you ideas.

Why did you not go to college? you are so slow and dumb.

Don’t have aspirations.

You are so aimless.

Don’t think so much in the relationship.

I gave you so many hints about the breakup, were you not thinking?

What do I have to say? 

Well, fuck you.

You put someone under so much pressure and give them so many conflicting messages, they are bound to be depressed and anxious. No wonder that depressive, anxiety and somatization disorders are much more common among women.

But here are some common myths about protective strategies –

1) Clothes cause rape/ covering prevents rape –

If we work with the assumption that young women who show skin are raped, why are neonatal kids and 90+ women raped?

Stats show that in India, majority women who were raped were wearing burqa/ saree/ shalwar kameez.

If covering helped, there would be no rapes in Saudi.

Also, if skin showing leads to attraction, and if we assume that causes rape, we are assuming that rape is about sexual urges. It is not. It is about power and dominance expressed through a sexual means.

Also, no matter what twisted sex fantasies you have, you don’t insert bottles and poles inside a woman if you feel sexual about her. That’s plain heavaniyat – this urdu word is the only one that fits the act. I can’t call in animalistic because animals don’t do this to each other.

2) Western = modern –

I sadly see many women falling pray to this along with men. They think that adopting foreign ways is the only way out of these dehati problems. But sex discrimination and sexism is everywhere. And hollywood and bollywood have rigid gender roles and other advertising gimmicks that promote the perception of some plastic women who looks good all the time, is smart but not smarter than the man.. the usual drill. In fact, Barbie, the doll most girls play with, is the distorted version of a woman, its not even a doll.This is what Barbie would look like if she represented the actual woman – http://time.com/12786/the-new-barbie-meet-the-doll-with-an-average-womans-proportions/

Many women I know, seek fitness not for themselves, but often for the admiration of others, often men. Fitness is still ok. Women go on crash diets, starve, and still complain. Body dysmorphic, self-image and eating disorders are far more common in women.

The alternative yo-yo effect is also seen, where women do all this to get married/get a relationship, but overeat once this age is gone.

Both aspects are extremely harmful to both body and mind.

What kind of modern is this?

3) If at all education is given, give it sparingly –

The first step strategy is to not educate women. But this leads to ‘less demand’ in the marriage market, therefore now a bachelor degree is required to get a good groom. Good groom = someone who will support you, with some harassing in-laws, in return for a bungalow, a vehicle, lots of gold and most of your self-respect.

So we do give education these days. But we want women to do conducive jobs. Instead of making family and married life conducive to a woman’s aspiration, she is expected to take the ‘mommy track’, or give up the job. Often, her female boss will ensure this. How dare she imagine she can have both kids and a job like her husband does?

And we say that we are less sexist than dehati people.

Not letting women learn, or putting a stop to the learning by creating a glass ceiling on the job, are ways in which the foot is still kept on women and thus the perception of women being weaker continues. You never let them be strong.

4) Shun all p words –

Pregnancy/ periods/ (meno)pausal –

There is so much silence and mystery surrounding these. Imagine if men bled 5 days a month, would they keep quite about it?

A humorous take on the subject by Gloria Steinem – http://www.haverford.edu/psych/ddavis/p109g/steinem.menstruate.html

But really, how far from the truth is she?

If a woman is angry or moody, its either pms or pregnancy related hormonal imbalance, but its ok for a man to be angry following slight insult and its all put under the table with the tag of ‘male ego’.

All of this makes me wonder where we are headed. There were hardly any female prophets, leaders of an older time, and how many female leaders of a new time do we have? How many of these leaders were either forced to ‘take the mommy track’ or be known as ‘iron ladies?’ It’s as if you have to fit into one box or another.

I do not hate men. But I am appalled by how many men, who seem to have more agency in a patriarchal society, have made peace with being silent spectators to this daily violation of ‘the fairer sex’.

Image

India : Forever the plundered.

The case of the moving bus gang-rape victim is all over the papers, I need not repeat it. But is this case only about a girl who got raped? Or its about a societal attitude that has cropped up in the most extreme forms?

Following the news, my parents (like many of my friends’ parents), have been stringent with where I go and what time I get back, among other restrictions. They are obviously trying to keep me safe, but in doing so, they are reinforcing the very notion that is wrong: Women are vulnerable, and need to be protected, that the outside world is not their place, and that if they go there, they will always carry a risk.

But its not only my parents that are wrong, many other agents in the society are. Death penalty, castration demands, fast-track courts, outrage – all are required. But they aren’t the solution to the problem. They are like the bucket you keep under a water leakage till you can get a plumber to fix it.

But this is what we do – we never get the plumber, and when the bucket overflows, we don’t replace or empty it either. Our outrage, like that of the past, will die within a couple of months, like it did with the Kenan and Reuben case, among many others. Besides, our outrage is shade racist. We don’t care much for women raped in Kashmir, for example. This woman, was raped twice. After the gangrape, she was raped in police custody because her brother joined militants. http://www.kashmirdispatch.com/sameer-bhat/211210446-shabnam-the-woman-who-was-raped-twice.htm . For the extended article, see – http://www.greaterkashmir.com/news/2012/Dec/23/kashmir-joins-delhi-gang-rape-protests-albeit-with-a-suffix-37.asp . Here, we are implying 2 things – that even the women of those regions who contribute to the economy of the nation are not safe, and backward in their views towards women, as backwards as remote areas, and second, that only people in such privileged areas are important, that only these’ peoples rights will be fought for, and that only the voice of the metros matters.

Besides the way we outrage, even the way we grow up is wrong. This two articles in The Hindu say what I want to say, rather well – http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/rape-and-the-crisis-of-indian-masculinity/article4214267.ece , http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/time-to-be-ashamed/article4214334.ece .

The basic idea of these two articles, is that most rapes are those where young males encroach upon the modesty and freedom of women who are just trying to work and carry on their daily life. But, somewhere, there is resentment. They have grown up having more importance than their wives and sisters at home, and they can’t digest it when these same weak women, take up jobs that should be theirs, and earn prestige they aren’t entitled to.

It is not only the young unemployed youth who have this mindset. In minor rape cases, constables often escort young boys and girls to hospital wards for medical examination, loudly claiming that ‘iska rape hua hai. Check karo’, apparently having no idea how it will traumatize the child.

It takes no genius to realize that he needs to be sensitive. But, he is just one of the faces among many. The many who feel that anyone who is weak can be exploited, and blamed. As if somewhere, he felt that it was the child’s fault that he was raped. (Or that he reported the crime? God knows)

We already know of cases where men working in the lower rungs of law enforcement themselves are wife-beaters, tribal officers themselves rape young tribal girls. In these, and many other cases, there is double or more than double victimization.

And this is not just the remote places that I’m talking of. Everyday, in each home in the city even, subtle sexism still exists. Maybe they do it because they feel they are protecting their daughters, but in truth they are not. They are getting them accustomed to the ways of society, but of such a rotten society, that it needs to be changed. Girls shouldn’t be asked to stop going out, but be equipped to be safe wherever they go out. And this is only  a temporary solution – in long term – such measures should not be required – the society should be THAT SAFE.

People will tell me that what I say here is very idealistic, and that fast-track courts are a much more practical idea. Yes, they are a brilliant idea, to handle the level of problems that we have reached. But eventually, you will need to go to the root of the issue and treat it. And that lies in changing how the men and the women of the nation think.

India has been forever a plundered land. Be it by outsiders, or by those within. That needs to change. Not because women work, or contribute to GDP, or give birth to children, or are your wives or sisters, but because they are human and there is no other justification required.

girl

(Photo contributed by @AdamFredie on Twitter)