No place for a woman!

Here is a brilliant post by my friend and colleague, Hannah, on our company’s intranet blog.

Ok, another gang rape, should we say, a reported one? If I remember right, per a survey that outlook published sometime ago, for every 1 rape reported in a big city, almost 64 rapes go unreported in any of the smaller cities. In any case, I don’t want to dwell on rape, for there’s enough and much more to spare written on rape. After all, who doesn’t want to look the defender of a woman’s modesty (sic!)?

Some of the words that people use to describe the act of rape are painful, horrendous, injustice, heinous, outrageous, irreversibly damaged, etc. Simply put, all these descriptors are laughable or even expressions of our misplaced angst, because all of our responses are colored, or rather dictated by our feudal mindsets that want our women to be untouched sexually, except by the man who is socially sanctioned to touch her on the day (err…night) of their wedding! And, that’s not all. The marital bed might even be examined for traces of virginal blood the following morning by the mother-in-law, who is again a victim and a stooge of patriarchy. And, hence, virginity/chastity is something that the woman guards with her life, heart, soul, mind, body, etc. A woman’s mind is dwarfed or rather mangled (like perhaps a bonsai with constant pruning, trimming, and wiring) to think that she’s around just to row up into a beautiful young woman, who will be married off in her prime (read biologically just right to get pregnant) to a man her parents shall find, and she shall cook and clean for him and his family (and, of course, have a career if the man deems it fit or something to simply kill time or contribute to the family economy, if need be), beget him children, and raise them as chivalrous gentlemen or ladies like herself to continue this brilliant saga! Isn’t this outrageously horrendous? And, we are outraged by a gang rape!

A woman’s attitude towards anything and everything, be it her choice in clothes, career, stance, food, color, marriage, friends, etc., is influenced primarily by the societal expectations from her due to her biology. For example, even as a girl child is born, people start talking about putting money away for her dowry, make jewels for her, buy pink frocks, high heels, etc. Where is all this coming from? It comes from the basic idea that the woman is a womb, and hence everything about the girl child is only beauty (she will have to beautiful for her man), fair skin, dolls (because she will be a mother someday, so start planning even as she is in the cradle!), kitchen sets (she’ll have to cook and clean for the household!), and anything and everything that would firmly peg her to the house, kitchen, and pregnancy! Now, I ask, aren’t all these heinous? And, we are outraged by a gang rape!

I am not sure if there’s data to support how girl babies and boy babies DIFFER in their gyration towards violence or motherhood, irrespectively! Maybe they do too, but why should we as adults stand back and watch or rather applaud when your boy starts using expletives and thrash when the girl does the same thing? Why are girl children taught to cook while boy children are not? Is cooking done through ovaries, which is why men don’t cook? Why should girl children be taught to clean? Why should boys/men be handed out coffees by women every day? Do men suddenly become lame or crippled the moment they enter their homes? Or, is it the upbringing that makes Indian men take any woman to be a custom-made domestic worker, mother, and even a careerist (outside the home of course!). It just can’t get any better for Indian men, or can it? I ask, isn’t this a travesty of justice or a caricature of a just world? And, we are outraged by a gang rape!

As a teenager growing in a metropolis like Chennai, I could never venture to the beach all by myself or even partake in the all-night parties that used to happen on the mount road on new year’s eve, because I, or any girl/woman, ran the risk of being gang raped! Even if the all-night party animals on that road came from ‘good’ families or on better days would be chivalrous too, wouldn’t think twice before actually getting down and having one helluva fuck, because such wayward women could, rather should be raped! Not only that, as a young girl traveling by public transport to school/college/work, I have been exposed to stares of all kinds (the approving, the disapproving, the disrobing, so much fucking more!!) and even harassment of all hues. And, believe me, the men guilty were anything like these ‘animals’(rapists) that all ‘good’ men of today seem to distance themselves from! These were boys/men who went to colleges like the ones I went to or even came from families who were our neighbors! Even today, as a grown adult, I can assure you that I don’t feel any less vulnerable while taking the public transport or am the only woman in a lift filled with men! All this and much more completely strangulate a woman’s very identity and crush/stonewall her into the bloody roles that patriarchy so confidently defines for her! Now, isn’t that horrifying? And, we are outraged by a gang rape!

The outrage in my view is in itself outrageous or even hypocritical, especially because of the sheer number of men who seem have unleashed their unbridled sense of shame at this! I ask, where are these men and women, defenders of a woman’s modesty or proponents of women liberation, when the women’s reservation bill gets shot down or women bodies are objectified in mindless fashion shows or movies or when virginity tests are conducted on women? And, how many of these men haven’t whistled at a girl, brushed against a woman’s body when the opportunity presented itself, or didn’t enjoy a rape scene? And, will this outrage be of this
scale if some men had gang raped a sex worker?

Where were all these people when the armed forces brutally raped and killed Thangjam Manorama? Where was the outrage when an entire village watched and cheered as the men of the village gang raped even the dead bodies of two women? I am sure it would be so much easier to distance ourselves from such things as ‘aberrations’ that happen in the hinterland! And, who’s going to utter or let out even a whimper when men rape men/young boys?

Our outrage therefore is very selective: our very core is shaken and we are spurred into action (as in people who don’t give two hoots about protests/demonstrations or who even denigrate such protestors as some misguided, lazy nincompoops) ONLY when the chastity of a ‘good’ woman is outraged. It’s of course a different matter altogether if she’s murdered for dowry, honored killed for marrying outside caste, is killed because of invasive fertilization techniques, is killed because of unsafe termination of pregnancy (for carrying a female child), is killed because she defended her home and land, is killed because she refused to do menial labor and wanted to study, or becomes a mental wreck being nothing more than a glorified domestic help at her own home all her life, and the like!

A day, a blog post, or even a bill may not be enough to change this situation, and any list of dos/ don’ts may not even make the cut! What perhaps is needed is for us to internalize the fact that all of us born are equal, and because of the psychotic mistakes of our ancestors (hope you all burn in hell, if there’s one!) we live in a world that’s defined by various levels and each level is equipped with its own brand of weapons to keep the rest down under. Perhaps, we need to educate ourselves about the working of our society and the brutality it hides under the grab of morality, virtue, chivalry, and the like. Maybe then, we would organize and interrogate ourselves about why we need to be outraged and what we need to be outraged about. I know, not many people will have the time for all this, because it means taking collective responsibility of violence, especially the systemic kind, and working towards a solution. And, that would mean giving up of the many, many privileges that the powerful in the society (the men) have enjoyed for several centuries now. However, it’s time for the women and oppressed men, the victims of the systemic violence, to organize and agitate along side in the long term. And, we can rest assured that our battle has just begun, and we have miles and miles to march before we can see a semblance of victory. Perhaps, our great, great grand daughters and sons might thank us for embarking on this journey.

On a side note, for all the privileged men, more than responding to something that’s so far removed from your immediate reality or doling out some pearls of wisdom on how women should conduct and protect themselves, please introspect! Walk that extra mile, be a human, be defined not by your biology, but by your humanity! Don’t define a woman or her role or her identity or her ability by her biology, but by her right to exist on this planet as freely and happily just as you do. Maybe then, all of us can be united against the enemy; patriarchy!

Sexual abuse awareness

In an earlier post, I’d mentioned about a flyer distributed in Vyas’s school on ways to keep themselves safe, cautioning them on signs of sexual abuse. A similar flyer was circulated this year too by and here is the online version:

Click to access children-eng.pdf

And while on the subject, I thought I’d share an experience I had about 4 weeks back, something am still having trouble getting over with!

On my way back from work, I prefer to walk home from the bus stop where I alight, covering a distance of appx. 2 kms. The other alternatives would be to hop into a share auto or another bus. It felt good to walk that stretch in the evening. The last 3-4 mins stretch is through a pucca residential street where kids are usually seen riding a bicyle and people are seen chatting in groups, and quite a few cars and bikes are parked on the road as most houses on this lane do not have a built-in car-park.

It was around 7.00 PM when I was on this road when my FIL called on my mobile to check where I was (a norm because of the unpredictable traffic jams in Chennai these days). I answered the phone and on my other hand were a book and a bag. And then it came- a hard, intense, violent slap on my back by a speeding motorbike with 3 guys on it! I lost my balance and the mobile, book and bag were strewn on the road and I almost banged my shoulder against a parked car. The bike was not in sight the next second and I only heard a distant vrooom! I had a throbbing pain where the slap landed for hours after that. But even after days of this episode, the pain I still feel within is worse. How much ever I wish that the goons should have met with a deadly accident in the next turn, I know that it would not have happened and instead there would have been other women and younger girls who have been subjected to this pain or worse!

What makes people capable of such malice? How does a person capable of this filth have a night of peaceful sleep? How does inflicting physical pain on a unsuspecting fellow human being produce any pleasure?

After a tyrst with a stalker, I have been careful on the road. Sexual abuse in crowded places like buses, theaters, bus stops, railway stations etc is quite common. You’ll find scopophilic morons in such places. Few things to watch out for:

1. Ogling is a very common form of sexual harassment. Its sad to see some small school girls subject to this torment very often, specially in the buses. They’d find it difficult to express discomfort and are often doubtful of the intent of the abuser. Constant awareness lessons in schools will be of great help.

2. Watch for morons walking up to you and hurl themselves on you or feel-up where possible.

3. Stalkers who will pretend to accidentally step on your feet from behind and attempt bottom pinch/slap, or brush shoulders.

4. Its a really really bad idea to attempt getting into a bus when there is a crowd trying to get in at the same time.

5. Advancements made by an acquaintance- a relative or such- is not unheard of. I, for instance have had the bad fortune of listening to a 40+ year old moron, trying to tell me that hugging is the American way of saying good-bye or hello, in my early teens. I had sense enough to tell that neither he nor I was an American. Later, some whistle-blowing among our relatives kept the fellow at bay!

6. Watch out when you are walking on public roads after sunset, specially if there are many 4-wheelers parked. While you run the risk of being whisked away if there aren’t people, the parked vehicles also shield the abuser from view of common junta on the road like it happened in my case. By the time you pull out the chilli/pepper, the guys would have vaporized!

7. Being nudged from behind in theaters/auditoriums is common too.

Am trying to think of ways I could have avoided the mishap. Not answering a phone call on road does not seem convincing- goes against the ‘walk as you talk’ marketing:) Never to walk down that road feels like a surrender (but that is the truth. i have not taken that road since then)! The hubby said that I should have shouted like crazy to seek some attention at least. Maybe. But I was taken totally unawares (yeah, I know all such instances don’t always come with a warning. still….) and was too shocked to react.

There must be many more preposterous ways of harassment. Do share some tips to avert such encounters, or do a detailed post on your experiences please. Feels cathartic to have shared it here, like having offset some load. While I would like to believe all is well with the world, a closed introspection has a different story to tell.

Sunitha Krishnan & her TED Talk

As I sit to write, words fail me. The imperfections of the world as Sunitha Krishnan sees it is in stark contrast to the ideal, picture-perfect world we think we live in. In a world where we have KCRs demanding a map be changed, we find little innocent children and unsuspecting women losing their entities with no ground beneath their feet. I shudder to think that trafficking, sex slavery, and child abuse is such a huge racket and her account is chilling! Her TED talk has left me numb, in tears, in shock and total disbelief! It seems so unfair to revel in luxuries while there is a world out there that is fighting for a basic right to live well!

Do listen to her TED talk if you have’nt done yet!

Her blog:

To Sunitha, I would just like to say this: Sorry and Thank you….

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