The #MeToo movement has brought to the forefront more than a million stories from all over the world. Here’s me jumping on the bandwagon a bit late with my story – Me and my mom were waiting for a cab after a late night movie in my home city when a random dude on a cycle grabbed me and drove away. My immediate reaction was to pick up a stone and throw it at him and then run behind him like a crazy person to catch him at which point my mom decided to unfreeze and ran behind me to stop me. The last bit was comical to be honest but on a serious note, I’m kind of proud of how we handled it. I wasn’t embarrassed. My mom didn’t think it was because I was dressed in a skirt and people didn’t think it was because we were out late. At least based on my news feed, that’s not how this usually works.
If I rob a bank today and say that it’s because they were open late and advertised their money, would you blame the bank? Victim blaming is so illogical that I won’t even get into it. What I’ve been thinking about more recently is what the random dude even achieved by grabbing me. Empirical evidence demonstrates that “sexist, patriarchal and sexually hostile attitudes” are main causes of rape culture.
If you’re an Indian, chances are that you received no formal sex education and ‘consent’ wasn’t even in your vocabulary till you graduated high school. We grew up watching Salman Khan stalking his heroines on screen and assaulting his girl friends off screen. I can safely say that 80% of Telugu movies I’ve seen as a child were problematic to say the least : you can’t beat the hero? Let’s rape the sister. You’ve just been raped? Let’s beg the rapist to marry you or kill yourself. Clearly, rape is barely about sex at all. It’s also not irrational or uncontrollable. It’s about power and degradation. This terrible promotion of violent masculinity and female purity unfortunately runs deep in our society even today.
I’ve long considered myself a feminist. I joke that Sheryl Sandberg’s ghost is a constant voice in my head telling me to lean in all the time. But it’s hard to not acknowledge my own privilege and realize that feminism tends to represent the more liberal educated women and it’s probably meaningless unless we also actively advocate for women whose realities do not look or feel like our own.
Do you remember Mukesh Singh’s supreme court lawyer Manohar Lal Sharma saying he will burn his daughter if she brought dishonor? The fact that he could say such atrocious things even as the whole nation protested for the “India’s Daughter” baffled us all so we put our thumbs to good use on the mighty Twitter that resulted in a petition against him. But how do you even respond to little kids saying similar things in this video? This leads me to believe that a death penalty will not change much. Changing this mind set that sex some how glorifies a man and brings shame to a woman is more vital. So may be start with disrupting the stereotype of power imbalance?
- Don’t victimize the girl – It shouldn’t be cute and acceptable when a girl hits a guy and atrocious the other way round. The guy isn’t taking advantage of the girl if it’s consensual. No to different curfew times and no to painting the girl as in need of protection!
- Re-examine masculinity – Why won’t the macho man who refuses to talk about feelings, takes without asking and thinks violence is cool go extinct already? Its not masculinity, it’s just bad manners and/or toxic.