Sunday, December 23, 2012


The last time i remember such mass hysteria over a rape in Delhi  was almost a decade back, while I still lived there. And I remember, even back then I had wondered, this and a lot more, happens every frigging day, why this mass hysteria ?

Ah yes, the victim was a good Indian middle class girl from a medical college no less. And yes, it wasn't like it was some family member who'd done it.. it was some uncouth ruffian. And it wasn't just your daily cat-call, boob - grab, using mother-fucker as punctuation, no no, it was that most horrific of crimes - a rape! Of course in this case, as the details have emerged, we've had leisure to let out a lot more shocked ewws at the extent of the brutality.

I remember feeling angry, years ago, back then, less on the crime, and more on how the media picks certain cases, ah only those certain cases.

Firstly, how the class of the victim will dictate the importance of a crime.

And secondly, how the millions of daily assaults on women, on Delhi's roads and buses are largely ignored, and only the rape is picked up for hue and cry.

So, for the first part, my anger on the social class dictating our news has long since dissipated. I've grown inured to the fact that this is how media works, it is of, from and for the middle class. It will take 20 Nithari children killed, perhaps cannibalized over years, to equal 1 fluke forgettable Arushi murder. This Delhi rape will always always be orders of magnitude greater than more horrific stuff that has routinely happened in our villages, in our police stations right in Delhi, dammit even in our good middle class homes, where domestic helps, often kids, have been brutalization systematically over years in manners much worse than this. YES, I will repeat this, in manners much worse than this, and do not tell me that you cannot compare. But those things are not for sustained ( meaning fortnight or month long) outrages.. Those are for occasional reporting and forgetting. No candle light vigils for them of course. So be it, this is the economic and social system we live in, and that is never going to change. So like I said, it has ceased to anger me, but I can't help but find the selective outrage amusing. Yes, we're like little idiots with no IQ, the media tells us, this rape was the pits, the last straw, the absolute rock bottom of humanity, and we say aye aye. Go figure.

Its the second bit, that still gets my goat of course. How the whole system of patriarchy and misogyny is sustained by each one of us, daily, and then how we act surprised, when in the hands of the fringes, that culture finds expression in rape. Sure better policing and better justice would act as deterrents, but guess what, those police and judges, they haven't come down from utopia. They are parts of the same patriarchy. We want to sustain our so called culture, keep the women locked inside, secondary, servile, in a world where its just not going to be possible to do so, and then we're surprised at the things that are the natural outcome of a changing order? Of course there will be a pitched battle, which will be ugly and no holds barred. And yes I realize , that it will be we women who will face the harsher punishment, but also realize , that society as you know it,will crumble as we fall. It takes two to tango.

If we want to rethink, here's the deal. The next time we see a girl smoking or drinking, suspend  judgement. Replace her with a guy and realize how much more muted the reaction would be. The next time we hear of a girl out with her boyfriend, or sleeping around with multiple men, suspend the anger and think that if we replaced her with a guy , would we respond the same way? The next time a girl chose to keep her maiden name after marriage, think, would we like the guy to change his name after his marriage to the girls name? The next time we see the want-son-at-all-cost whining by the family ( including women in the family), think of the long term impacts of this. Think of why they want the son in the first place. The next time we see this ridiculous movies and ads which talk about women making sacrifices to keep society functioning, think, would we want the guys to make the same sacrifices? ( and if you do think so, then let them make the sacrifices instead. Move into the girls house after marriage, follow the girl to her place of work, keep the house running for no money.)

And  to all those dads, husbands, brothers, best friends out there ( including my own) . Women in Delhi ( specially Delhi, although of course gradations of this occur worldwide) face daily humiliations on buses, metros and roads. SEE IT. If you can't do anything else, at least see it and acknowledge it. Do not act surprised when they say that they are groped, stared at, commented on, on a daily basis. Do not say that maybe its because you dressed unusually  or walked faster than usual, or were out at an 'indecent' time, or were laughing too loudly. Because I've been there, had my share of book-grabs, dick brushes, cat-calls. And they happened even though most of the time I was clad in ill fitting salwal kameezes, shuffling slowly, eyes downcast, in the morning and afternoons, mostly just trying to get an education. It happens no matter what we do.

And finally to all those women out there, fight back dammit. DO NOT listen to those telling you conform, I've tried it, and I tell you it doesn't work. It took me a decade to figure it out, but fighting back is the only thing which gives some returns. When you raise a shout, most probably no one will support you, but 8 times out of 10, the perpetrator will back off. And hopefully most of them will rethink before raping anyone. Its our silence, even before the sad state of police and judiciary , which gives these people the strength to go from stares to cat calls. From cat calls to shoves and brushes. From shoves and brushes to public propositioning and dick showings. And finally of course to rape, mutilation and murder. Yes the fight back will mean that some of us will die bloody unpleasant deaths, buts its better than the deaths we've suffered so long anyway.

Maybe we'd have found a little life at least in the duration, before we land up raped, with our intestines removed, while women in parliament dismiss us as 'walking corpses'. Fight back and live while you can. On your terms.


veena said...

my sentiments too...imagine all these men out there creating this danga-fasaad (fasade)..then they will go back to their mothers, wives and sister and order around, beat them, shout at them, humilate them.....all because they were born male! such hypocriates. Its society as a whole that needs to change..rape is the most apparent manifestation of a bigger malaise..domestic violence, dowry, female foeticide....and it goes on and on

Sonia said...

Good one. I think the act of rape, like you pointed out is common around the world. I find that the low conviction rate is to be blamed for the extremeness in north india. The low rate itself stems from the attitude towards women. The age old biases, the sheer lack of respect...

To that list of yours add - if you see a woman doing better at school/work then accept that she is good and not pass judgements on her character for achieving it wrongfully. I know I have been at the other end of this :(

Also I am hoping that our generation as they are becoming parents guide their children well - daughters to live life fully cause we I have seen parents stereotyping their daughters and moulding them to a life of servility; sons to respect women as their equals and an important part of their own being.

I am more positive about the future though. I can already see a difference in attitude in some parts of the society. I am hopeful things are improving, we just need to increase the pace.

raindrops said...

Ditto to all. Too much discussion has happened over this incident, as awful as it was, but no fundamental changes are likely. Another bit that occurred to me was how this was a convenient case to create the fuss about because the perpetrators were from a certain social class. Everyone, every minister is asking for "sakht se sakht sazaa". What would be the reaction if it had been one of their own ill-behaved sons, as it often is? I wonder if we would even be discussing it, let alone bringing the city to halt.

My not-so-little-brother mentioned that he hadn't ever come across any eve-teasing in Delhi. I can only conclude that he and I grew up in the same house but in different cities.

Tess said...

@veena - sigh yep, although I'd include us women too in the list of hypocrisy. Patriarchy includes us all in its wide grasp..

@Sonia - While I was thinking of this post, I actually thought of that. In fact so many instances from college came to mind, the accusations of the girls manipulating to get better marks, the accusations of being 'viragoes vitiating the class atmosphere', those god awful posters during exams, that instance of groping during the fest... and the part that was most illuminating ( if i can call it that) , was the way almost all guys closed ranks when any of this came up. The attitudes are really entrenched..

I'm not that optimistic about the future, although we might see some improvement, in the day to day attitudes, in perhaps the next 2 generations.. Still, real respect and the end to patriarchy seems a long long way off, although I do hope I'm wrong and you're right..

@raindrops - agree about the social class. The other cases just bubble and sink..

The not-so-little brother reminds me of my dad's incredulity, when I assured him that gropings and cat-calls were routine daily events, not one-offs. Like you I had to conclude that we lived in different worlds- he and I.

Gunjan said...

The violations start at an early age in north delhi...I hear of cases of pre school gilrls being abused/molested and believe me living in north delhi with a pre-schooler daughter gives me chills and sleep less nights...

I want to continue my job but at the same time I always fear for safety of my daughter every day/every moment...

Things are only getting worse at this point. I do not know if I will have courage to give my daughter the freedom my parents gave me when I was in school/college/unmarried working woman.

I hope I give her all the oppurtunities in this very city while keeping her safe!

Tess said...

@Gunjan - Its heartbreaking to hear you say that, and I also realise that there are no easy answers, safety is never easy to come by...

Sonia said...

Tej, to be fair I felt some of the biases at CMU as well. Twice it was suggested to me that my admission to CMU was partly due to affirmative action towards women. I know its not as bad an attitude but some degrees of it persist here as well. There is a reason why in the US there is so much hoopla of trying to get girls into science and technology. After marriage when I got our rental leased to include my spouse. There were several back and forth between my landlord and me of him trying to include my husbands last name in my name before he understood that I hadnt changed my name at all. I am sure he didn't judge me like the registrar at the Indian office who gave me a very strange look but the assumption that I would have changed my name was there.

Gunjan, perverts exist everywhere. One hears of child molestation in the US as well. In US, there is a website were you can look at convicted sexual harassment folks. When I came to know about the site, I found out that there were around 10 who had resided within 1 mile radius of where I lived.

I just feel that in India its worse cause of inadequate law enforcement and the much more deeply entrenched attitudes.

I was listening to a radio talk today morning and apparently someone has ranked India as the worst country to be born in as a woman, second being Saudi Arabia. I dont agree with that. Women in SA cant even drive or vote. You hear of women being beaten up or their noses chopped off if they want a divorce.

The attitude against women is a world wide phenomenon. Its just a matter of degrees. And THAT I dont know how long it will take to change. But when I look at guys around me at work or friend circle I can see that things have changed from my parents generation to ours and hence I am hopeful.