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.
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’.