You [already] Stink and Burn

Perhaps it should have been heartening to see so many people finally coming out on the streets, crying for ‘justice’, whatever it is that they mean by the word; demanding that our roads be made safer, that rape cannot be tolerated.

Perhaps it is the ever-growing cynic in me who just cannot find a hint of satisfaction or relief in the drama that is unfolding every moment in pristine Lutyen’s Delhi, in these beautiful winter days.

Perhaps they will pass a new law, there will be a new CM, there will be more police on the roads, the papers and TV channels will follow rape cases more doggedly.

BUT!

This is not the first time a woman has been raped to the brink of her death. This is not the first time the CM has shrugged off responsibility. This is not the first time the common man and his kin have come out in the streets. This is not the first time they’ve increased security. This is not the first time there’s so much excitement. This is not the first time – and it won’t be the last. Not the way we seem to be going about it!

Because rape isn’t an under-the-table act, where both parties can leave with some sense of satisfaction, gratification. It isn’t an assembly line product that has come to dominate psyches, turned into a status symbol, something that one MUST have, a sign of one’s affluence at the cost of another’s impoverishment. It isn’t a man, a regime that has his/its own way all the time. It isn’t an ideology, a religion, a policy, a piece of property. STOP calling your picnic a fucking REVOLUTION, for heaven’s sake!

Because if you think what you’re doing out on the roads – shouting slogans, burning effigies, calling authorities names, getting a shower-down by policemen, demanding death by hanging and/or castration – is a revolution, you don’t know shit about what it is like walking on the road, alone, everyday, with a mix of fear and stubbornness swirling inside you, making you nauseous and pumping adrenaline into your bloodstream all at the same time. Knowing that any moment now, you will face an ugliness that you never dreamed possible, even in your worst nightmares.

You don’t know shit about how everyday, you see it in their eyes, everywhere. That you’re being undressed slowly or hastily, depending on just how his highness likes it, your breasts are being weighed, your buttocks are getting spanked, and this may not just be foreplay. You know it because you can see the bulge in their pants that they will continue to thrust into your behind, your shoulder and everywhere else as you jostle for even the littlest space to stand in an overcrowded bus.

You don’t know shit about that lecherous uncle / cousin / male relative (even fathers!) who will leave no stone unturned to be with you in a closed, isolated space, touch you whenever possible, wherever possible, however possible. And just how the sight or sound of them fills you with an inexplicable dread, a sense of terror that can paralyse you down to your very puny soul.

You don’t know shit about how your dreams, your identity, your entire being is subservient to your safety, which is just politespeak for your family’s honour, that nondescript sense of selfhood that rests almost completely on the girl’s sorry shoulders. You have a job that keeps you out late? Imagine the possibilities! How can you not be panicking yet? After all, worrying is our prerogative, beta.

(By the way, if you do know all this and are still screaming your head off in the streets, for your and fellow sufferers’ rights, then aww, you poor little naive thing. Even my rant here on this webspace that nobody reads isn’t half as bad as yours.)

Why do you talk about it, and those who do the deed, as if it were exclusive to you and your environment? Rape isn’t an isolated act, much as it may require isolation as a condition to facilitate its happening.

Rape doesn’t happen because the girl (or boy) was looking soo unbearably sexy that no power in that dot on the time-space axis could’ve stopped her (his) molestation.

Rape doesn’t happen because the rapist harbours exceptional degrees of lustiness. Nor does it happen because the night brings out their romantic side.

Rape happens because society, and you, let it happen. Because you don’t stand up against offences of any nature in public places such as, say, the Metro. Heck, you don’t even get up to give your seat to the old/ pregnant lady standing in front of you, that’s how blind you are! Rape happens because we live in a repressed society where girls and boys are segregated, having boyfriends is seen as criminal, sitting and talking with a boy in a public place warrants a lock-up, being beaten-up, where prostitution remains illegal and sex is seen as a depraved, corrupt activity. Rape also happens because Hindi cinema glorifies masculinity, which in turn has its source in violence and sex. Rape happens because power equations across class, caste, gender lines are changing – lines that were drawn by the very people who are climbing lampposts and posing for pictures at India Gate today, not-waiting to put them up on FB to show they’re so with it. Rape is not one man’s crime, it is even yours when you tell your daughter/sister/mother to stay indoors at night, even though all you want to do is protect them.

At this rate, rape will continue to happen. Even as you lot are ‘protesting’ – which, come on face it, is just asking for revenge – there were at least three more cases reported in today’s newspapers. Do you think your shouting is loud enough to drown out their urges inside their heads? Doesn’t look like it.

Rape will also keep happening as long as you think that women need to be protected. The presumption here is the male is and always will be an animal, naturally. That’s like, WTF? And all you women, you buy into this crap because it makes you feel better in your cramped existence too.

Rape happens because in the friction caused by shifting plates in the continent of patriarchy, there’s a little squeak that the woman manages to edge in sideways now. Because when boys with bloated heads from small towns arrive in the National Chutiyaap Region, otherwise known as the land of promise, they see all these…the girls!…calling the shots! How could this be? Meri ma toh mere baap ki jooti ki dhool chaat-ti hai, ye kya anarth ho raha hai yahan?!

Rape will keep happening because you mothers don’t slap your sons enough and continue to let them turn into such egoistic, horny bastards.

Rape will keep happening as long as educationists and the moral police (who should be sent back to the 17th century) believe there’s much glory in segregation and separation, not realising that in the process, they turn this ‘other’ into this fantastic, exotic creature that must be had at all costs.

There are other reasons for rape to happen too, but the overarching reason it actually goes DOWN (ALL puns intended) is because the girl’s body is thought of as a site of control. Even as you yell from the ramparts of the Parliament for equality, what you should be fighting for is to gain control of your body. Free it from this omnipresent gaze, free yourself from being conscious of this gaze.

The only way you can really stand up for the poor girl struggling to get off ventilators now is by swearing to change how you think and how you let others around you think.

By some twist of fate, she’s a hero today instead of being a victim for life or even dead, and that is the only good thing to come out of this charade. She will live respectably where countless others have perished.

But her life will be in vain if you don’t realise that this is not one incident, this is not the 9/11 of India, but something that, sadly, happens everyday, several times a day.

The answer, my friend, doesn’t lie in retribution, in castration, in revenge, because that is only enabling a vicious cycle. It lies in education. Unless we learn lessons from history, as modern as last year’s fascinating summer, things will never change.

That is, of course, unless all you’re looking for is cheap thrills over the weekend, in which case, ignore all that you’ve read so far. Obviously, you are the MAN of the moment.

Last Call: What the FUCK do you mean by a rape CULTURE?! Can you please think before you let these words come out of your mouth?!

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5 thoughts on “You [already] Stink and Burn

  1. I could not agree more. Last night after at least three people I know made sarcastic remarks about me sitting on Facebook and not joining the brave crowd at ‘Raisina Hills’ I got really really annoyed. I had decided to vent out my frustration by writing a blog to tell those three people and others why I don’t believe in this weekend activism. But then I was too frustrated to formulated proper sentences, you have done my job. What you write are exactly my sentiments on the ‘new revolution’. How I wish these people yelling their throats out would realise that rape is not a momentary thing. No amount of shouting is going to prevent the crime. Like Gandhi said Be the change you wish to see. Unless that happens, things are not going to change. They are not.

  2. You’ve asked the right questions on so many levels – what is the sense or nonsense behind the brutality of legal punishments? what is the net outcome of the ways in which we as men are brought up by women witnessing the contrast of our sisters’ and female friends’ upbringing? “Innocence” goes hand in hand with violent puritanism and always reserves the right to “punish”. To teach that women are to be worshipped is no ideal. It gives us idols who then have to undergo all their lives, the rituals necessary to keep them pure in our heads. Accept, respect, guarantee and protect her right to “fallibility”. Rape-culture is the immediate shorthand for Pure Women-Clean Society-High Culture.

    I feel this is the only way we can resolve the Freudian paradox which confounds a male everyday as he lives and breathes, which he largely succeeds in avoiding thinking about but occasionally fails and steps off the edge – The sleeplessness of Oedipus. The purity of the Mother and the hidden, unacceptable, consciously denied and suppressed knowledge that she has sex (perhaps unthinkably passionate) with the father. The innocence of the sister and the infuriating thought of her and her boyfriend’s intimacy. The stranger on the road who most assuredly has a husband or a boyfriend but will deny him the simple pleasure of staring and act modest. The male learning to want the female right from infancy but never psychologically tended to.

    We teach our daughters what the boys are out looking for. We don’t teach our sons why they feel that way about girls and how to go about it like civilized animals. You cannot solve the problem with the same mentality which creates it. You cannot cure mass psyche by physically hurting and killing individuals. Give Oedipus his place. Talk to him. Let him know You know he is going to stay.

    P.S. – Read Jed Rubenfeld’s The Interpretation of Murder and the Death Instinct too maybe. For we don’t all have the time to peruse Freud himself. I had finished the first one before This happened. Hence, this line of thought.

    P. P.S. – Didn’t wanna write my own blog here but had been wanting to discuss it with you ever since 🙂 i went through your piece thinking you shared someone else’s. At the end I realized only you can express this way and checked the credits. Anger flowing out of the mind always helps unlike anger flowing into it. Creativity over hysteria. Always welcome. Thank you for sharing it. Love!

  3. The word ‘rape culture’ has been in use for a long time, esp by western feminists. It’s simply means a terrorising condition in a society in which rape is acceptable and everything in its culture supports it. Look it up (one source: http://www.shakesville.com/2009/10/rape-culture-101.html) Also, most protestors are women, and to think to think that all of them are either show-offs or naive idiots is condescending. Or was this post exclusively directed at men? Even if many male protestors may not be totally egalitarian, they have become allies in this specific issue.

    I’ve not been associated with any protests so far; but this is the first time something like this has been happening here. Despite differences, let’s look at how we can support the movement, or least add our own voices to it if we are not content with what’s out there already. For instance, there are protests led by feminist groups alone who have been working with rape survivors and fighting for them for long. Would you say those protests are ok? Everyone knows that society has to change, but it does not come only from venting out.

    • Poppy,

      Thank you for taking the trouble to read this and putting down your thoughts. also, thank you for the information on what ‘rape culture is. just goes to prove that partial knowledge can be dangerous!

      but i’d like to stand by what i said through the rest of the post. no, it isn’t just directed at men, but yes, i do feel that the naivete should’ve waned after last year’s fiasco. as far as movements go, we’ve been particularly lazy as a nation to pay heed to any, be it Irom Sharmila’s 11 year old fast (which incidentally started with a similar incident in the north-east, where the perpetrator was the army) or just India Against Corruption, which has transformed into one man’s political endeavour (no, i am not saying that his motivation is corrupt, he may still be trying another way to get to his initial goals, but look how disempowered they are today!)

      Already, look at how, within a week, the entire excitement has burned out. what, is it too cold for people to come out and protest? is it just easy when it is somebody ‘not well connected’ like the 6 monsters in this case? aren’t we just trying to make a scapegoat out of them, believing that castrating them or subjecting them whatever other form of torture people can conjure up, will serve as a detriment to the rest? Did killing Osama or hanging Ajmal Kasab end terrorism in the world?

      it is actually this rather unhealthy situation that i was venting against. not anybody’s right to make some noise, not this opportunity that people are rightly using to bring the issue to out in public forums. it was a sarcastic comment against a government that has no power or will to do something about anything. and it was a tirade, born out of hopelessness, against this immediacy with which this mass mob seemed to want to ‘correct’ things. again, a new law, a stronger law doesn’t seem to be the need of the hour, a better implementation of existing ones does. i am aware that these things have been said at the protests and that there are sane voices keeping the madness in check even across public debates in newsrooms, but the question is, how many are listening?

      a friend, having patiently read through this anger, told me not to discount the power of protests. that social movements are generally unorganised in the beginning and take time to gather direction and support. this, i really hope, is true, and that something good will come out of it. short attention spans are a plague these days.

  4. Hey Nidhi,
    Thanks for responding. I’d agree with you if the protestors were those who did not give a hoot about sexual abuse daily and suddenly are calling for death penalty. But the women who are protesting, know what this is about – they have been victimised all their lives and finally they are talking about it. I dont know any woman who does not understand the severity of these things happening everyday to them. Now if you’re asking why they’ve not been protesting so far – well, we all are guilty of that, and it has to start somewhere. Some men are also part of this struggle and it’s difficult to say what their take really is. But at least from the protestors overall we are not hearing about ways women can protect themselves, all that crap. The message is the same that women deserve safety as a basic right.

    Since rape is such a non-issue here, I’m happy to see any kind of protest on the issue. Sometimes just the numbers are good enough. If we are waiting for exactly the right kind of movement to be part of, each of us may end up in our own fringe groups which cant bring this kind of traction. Besides, rape laws DO need to be broadened (most kinds of rape not being covered etc now), implementing the current laws isnt good enough. You might have seen the public comments invited by JS Verma Committee to broaden rape laws. Which kinda is a big deal seeing as nothing of that sort ever happens here. Also, reg the comparison with IAC, they did get the Lokpal Bill passed after all, which had been stuck for decades. And a core group has emerged out of it doing good work without political affiliations, at least in Bangalore where I stay.

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