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3

Rape apologist is a term I have become very familiar with it. Every time there is an outrage on social media with accusations of rape or harassment made against a man, my refusal to join in or my questioning of the e-lynchings is interpreted as supporting crimes against women. Thankfully, I'm not particularly dependent on public approval for my well being, so no harm done. Yet. But this bothers me on another level. There seems something fundamentally wrong in how we see gender conflicts.

What is more important? A gender functional society or proving men wrong?

This is important to identify because the goal will determine the means we use. To prove men wrong (which appears to be the popular preference), not much is needed. You simply condemn them. Over and over. Attack them if they defend themselves, attack anyone who interferes in the process. Rinse, repeat. We have been doing this for a while. So where is the change? Where is the progress toward the goal? It is already established that men are the greater perpetrators of crimes against women than vice versa. What new thing do we prove?

My preference is a gender functional society. I am content to leave the process of fixing blame on the courts and focus my attention on how the problems can be prevented. I see no reason to judge an accused with the information available to me unless there is evidence that the legal process is being subverted. Then social effort is the inferior fallback. That too should eventually lead to the courts. I prefer to see women as individuals of varying capacity - as the feminists insist we should - see them as people. So I have no idea why we infantalize them and lower the bar of their autonomy so low that they basically trip into justice?

Not all women are powerless, truthful or fair

This particularly goes for upper middle class women in situations that are short of physical violence. Women of this class are increasingly actualized and assertive. They are most certainly capable of being the powerful person in the relationship (and thus having the power to abuse). They are certainly capable of lying, just as men are. They are capable of emotional manipulation (actually women who do this tend to be better than men at it, because men have considerably less emotional maturity and thus the skills to manipulate successfully). They can gaslight a partner just as surely as a partner can gaslight them. They are people. In all the dimensions that involves. It is very patronizing to consider them capable of being nothing more than victims, always (though the smarter the woman is, the more she will use this to her advantage).

No, I am not saying women are evil, or inherently manipulative and men are innocent. I am simply pointing out that BOTH are people. With all their flaws and vulnerabilities. If you want one of them to win and you take sides, fair enough, but let us not pretend it is a process of justice then, it is a gangwar between two sides. My preference is to hear both of them and ensure both of them are allowed to speak. To support the woman in following processes to get justice as well as support the man if he is being denied a voice in the name of protecting the woman. Hopefully at some point it resolves or goes to court where better people than me will judge.

Not all abusive men are malicious

Society raises men with some godawful defaults. Men, being on top of this foodchain have little reason to evaluate their privilege unless there is a compelling reason. This is not right. It is not wrong. It is what it is till something changes it. If we mean to change it, how are we planning to? By discarding the inferior specimen or upgrading them? Are they totally useless or do they have insights for us? What happens when a specimen did all the right things and then fucked up? Have you never fucked up witht he opposite gender? I have. I have completely missed all signs of reluctance in an inexperienced man when I was horny. He didn't refuse. I assumed consent. He didn't initiate, I assumed playing safe with a woman. He seemed horny. In reality he was attracted, but not expecting sex at all and he was not even close to feeling ready for it, let alone being ambushed by a much more experienced woman. He'd never had sex. When I realized, I felt like a lecherous pot-bellied uncle pawing at a kid. Thankfully I'm a woman. Also thankfully, I realized it before it went too far and before he was forced to speak up. I apologized. I hear it is a proof of guilt these days. It was still wrong. I did it. I learned what not to do from it. I didn't do it again. But it was completely unintended and I apologized and stopped when I learned. That is the magic word.

If we are to prevent gender violence, we need to engage with men. That needs to be a higher priority than cornering them for a lynching. Does this mean you become a "rape apologist"? No. Does it mean I forgive men if they say sorry? No. It means being aware that while you may enjoy being Jhansi ki Raani, the forgivenesss is neither mine nor yours to give. We are not the people wronged (except when we are, then of course it is our call). We best serve by keeping a dialogue open instead of shutting people up by speaking for them or not letting them speak. By supporting both, but also recognizing that women can be disproportionately more vulnerable to intimidation or violence and being protective observers. In other words, offering the conflict a safe space to play out. This can be as simple as calling an action unacceptable, but not taking sides and imposing our own preferred judgments.

But I don't believe that mass condemnations fulfill any useful purpose. An actual creep just adds to his bogus victim narrative and a genuinely regretful person cannot afford to hold the right stand because it will make him a target. At the same time, if the victim needs assistance and asks for it, we must extend it. If we believe she needs assistance and she hasn't asked for it, we may offer it. Beyond that, this business of targeting people is little more than a Khap Panchayat conducted on social media. Where random tinpot dictators carry out punishments on whim.

Not all wrongs are crimes

Divorce rates are rising rapidly. Relationships are breaking all the time. Almost each one of them will come to a bitter end before splitting. That is a lot of bitterness. And each one will have their own version of the story. People lie to their partners, they cheat on them, they say ugly, hurtful things, they fight, they are unfair to each other, they rewrite memories of time together through various interpretations in hindsight.... it is all human behavior. Men make passes at women, women can be so paranoid of misbehavior that they may see it in an ignorant action.

To me, a big part of what is right and wrong is intent. Whether the person intends hate or harm or whether it is an entitled idiot. Idiots can be educated. Malice is deliberate. It is in the interest of both men and women that there be education for the idiots and the punishments be reserved for malice. And I am saying this as a person who has been on the receiving end of serious wrongs at the hands of men. Some I will never forgive, others hurt more, but I knew it was an idiot, not a villain.

There is a legitimate space for counselling, for social dialogue, mediation, that is rapidly being lost in the lust to come down hard on "what we cannot accept" - it has become an exhibition of our own ethics more than a quest for functional solutions. When you see an idiot, there is no point saying his mother should have raised him better, it is better if you engage with him and help him evolve his thinking. I do that. Which is how I know a lot of people learn.

A lot of men learn the opposite too from the lynch mob culture

In recent years, I have seen men who would normally identify as "feminists" and lecture me about my sneering at feminists come to very very serious trouble over their actions with intimate partners. Actions they most certainly regret and don't defend at all. Actions they did not realize till too late were wrong. They have lost jobs, they have lost friends, they have been completely uprooted from life as they knew it. All three have sworn off intimate relationships for life. They are decent people. I have also heard a real creep say that if he's been branded as a rapist, he might as well rape. In none of the cases was the impact what one would hope for, for a functional society.

One could argue that the world is better off with them being single. Forever. It is a matter of perspective. I think people who tend to do wrong need intimacy even more than most, and they would be better off learning how to be functional with it. Who is to decide what is better? My view is that it should be the person wronged. But a truly authentic judgment by them too cannot be possible if we have a mob baying for blood and making any forgiveness look like a crime against women immemorial. Letting the side down and all, letting a man walk free, etc.

There is absolutely nothing preventing legal justice for the woman and indeed our presence should ensure that. But is it our place to push her toward one or the other? I believe not. I don't see a "virtue" in punishing men. I see a virtue in adequate amends being made, to the satisfaction of the injured party (no, I'm not talking about negotiating marriages by bullying her).

When confronted, it is invariably the decent ones who would admit and apologize if they even believe they were in the least at fault, because their ethics don't stand for harming women - and they do not like that they did it. But if any admission or apology is proof of guilt, then it is very fast education for men that even if you fuck up, don't admit. It is what the powerful do and get away with. This is counterproductive to gender relations.

Patronizing women does not empower them

Women are assumed to be the weaker gender for historical and actual reasons. Men, traditionally being the custodians of power, are assumed to be deliberately malicious in their actions against the woman. If they apologize, it is proof, if they deny, they are victim blaming. There is no right answer once the accusation is public. But there is no option that says they did not realize the gravity of their actions till too late. This would not bother me in the least if the guilt of the man were indisputable - for example crowds thrashing molesters brings me unholy glee. I definitely believe that social rejection of crimes against women is a superior answer to solving them than judicial punishments that happen out of sight. Because social rejection is deterrence as well. Gang rapes happen because some find it entertaining and others mind their business. Growing gang rapes is the opposite of this social rejection/

Even better if the man publicly admits his mistake. Still better if the woman forces him to do it and wins and gets him acknowledged publicly as the one in the wrong with his actions. Unless there is injury or other complications in the case, I actually believe this to be the superior solution to cases dragging on for years punishing the victim further - best case, years of inconvenience, worse case, reliving trauma over and over, lack of closure. At the end of it, the perpetrator gets punished - maybe. I definitely think an immediate and public demand for accountability, getting it and punishment or apology as the case may be is better.

But this too must be a woman led process. You cannot simply corner a man and bombard him with condemnation. There is a need for victims too to learn to find their voice and us LISTENING to them, instead of barging in with our recommendations is a good start. What does she want? Does she simply want to shame him? Does she WANT him to be cornered and forced to flee or apologize? Does she want to confront him and demand answers? Does she want a public acknowledgment of the harm he did to her? You will never know, if you already know what must be done with "men like him". Nor is the woman empowered in being thought of as too stupid to lie or too dumb to strategize how to confront someone who wronged her.

The more robustly and fairly you can hold the space for the process to play out, the more dignity you afford her. Or... if she was trying to frame someone, that comes out too. Help enough women - actually help through a situation, not just comment and forget and you'll run into it. And you don't get used and end up having to bear guilt. Have you ever thought what happened in the conscience of those "well meaning" souls who went on national TV condemning Khurshid Anwar for his rape that he was denying shortly before he committed suicide? I have thought of it often. He may well have been guilty or innocent. But what happened still wasn't justice. I don't believe having an ideological obligation to support women quite covers my willingness to risk irreparable harm to men for my conscience. I don't have a side in this war. I want evolution to coexistence. There is much to learn. For men, for (gasp) women, and for us, in relatively better off situations, trying to help others.

Nor does it do women any respect to blindly go with everything they say as though it is too much to expect a woman to have her words scrutinized like an actual person. Protect them from harm, definitely. Act on everything they say? Let's skip the Pavlov for a bit. Try this. Your mom is a woman too. It is very unlikely you wish her ill. Would you believe everything she said and act on her behalf immediately if she accused someonein your family or your father ? But then you know her. You see her as a real person. Worthy of you applying your mind to her situation and offering her your highest analysis instead of blind nods. You know what she can be counted on to narrate factually and where she is likely to be overwhelmed by her perspective. Unlike your trophies of messiah showcasing. You'd give her the respect of not being blind and responding on autopilot but being the eyes examining her blind spots. You would question, ask for details, want a fuller picture before jumping in with a high stakes decision. And you would back her interest all the way, and would be her fiercest champion if she were wronged but not necessarily based on the first emotional, incoherent and one sided narration! This isn't shaming her. It is support. It is support that cares to invest deeper thinking and want genuinely beneficial solutions. Women and men on the internet are real people too. Not just props for your exhibition of rapid ethics.

Unlike the people who call me names for raining on their exhibition, I actually make an effort to engage with the victim, offer support beyond social media and even my home in cases that need an exit. I have got in the face of raging men and stood in their way with flat out refusals for access to women. I don't need to talk pretty, because I solidly act in their interest and have done it enough to know that the tongue waggers are irrelevant to what needs to be done and short of physical violence, it almost never is immediate action. Takes longer than the life cycle of a trend.

Anyway, this is another partial ramble on the subject of gender relations (I'm planning to write a book, because too many things and nuances to consider).

Moral of the story is, you believe women are historically wronged and therefore every single man to harm a woman must pay for the sins of his fathers, so to say instead of having the luxury of being someone who didn't know better in the here and now. And this is assuming the accusation is truthful, I believe that if a man or woman can be educated to be more effective with the opposite gender, it is a value addition to a society. If they cannot, there still is a need for a space for calm dialogue, developing a larger picture and a person led process toward resolving - whether with understanding or legal process. Therefore, your responses and mine, to cases brought into social media courts differ because we differ in what role we believe society should play. It is ok. You have your view, I have mine. I have no idea which is better. I am choosing based on what I know at the moment. But I have the right to hold my view, as you do yours. Disagreement with you does not amount to malintent.

Some days I fear I'm going to end up as an ideological sanctuary for dysfunctional men in transit into gender sensitivity. Not because I won't put them six feet under and dance on their metaphorical graves (I have one hell of a ruthless streak) if called for. I totally would and I don't think anyone has any illusions about that. I think it will be because I won't, till called for, no matter what a mob thinks.

Because I'd rather society works, than finding someone to blame for it not working and having zero tolerance for any learning curve. I would rather have a presence that brings awareness and insist that the right thing be done, than simply discard people one after the other as they are found imperfect. Will be a pretty empty world then.

5

The Aam Aadmi Party made a huge deal out of women's safety. Women were among those campaigning for AAP on the streets. Taking out rallys. Yet the 46% of women voters are represented by less than 10% of MLAs and NO ONE in the cabinet - where most of the power of the government resides.

This is not an accident. It is impossible that Arvind Kejriwal did not realize that there was no woman on his cabinet. It was also brought to his attention. This is deliberate.

I have been bringing this up on social media over the last two days and here are some reasons/responses/excuses I got defending this all male cabinet and why I don't think they wash.

No one should be chosen for gender

Well, there is a Muslim and Dalit on the cabinet. And that is a good thing. But I doubt that they were chosen by accident. So the larger question is why AAP sees a need to show some vote banks a visible represenation but not women who comprise almost half of all voters and voted overwhelmingly for AAP? Their votes got taken for granted and no power needs to be given to their representatives? If no one can be chosen for gender, no one can be excluded for gender either. When there is not a single woman on board, the question is less about choosing for gender and time to ask if the exclusion was for gender.

Even having Muslim and dalit is wrong only capability should be seen not tokenism

If you assume that the natural owners of power are Hindu upper caste men, then them including others is "tokenism" and a handout. If you are choosing to form a team to govern a diverse city, minorities of religion, caste and gender bring with them practical experiences of realities and problems faced by various identities that are not as obvious to the "majority". This is good team formation, not favors done to anyone. If you are ruling a diverse city, perspectives on its diversity are COMPETENCE - not handouts and tokenism and symbolism. To call them thus basically implies that they have no right to power and the default inheritors of power are upper caste Hindu men and anyone else getting it must have to earn it.

Men handling women and children ministry is refreshing

Sure it is. I never said you need a woman cabinet minister to serve as some custodian of the harem. Even if there are women on the cabinet, a man can handle the Women and Children portfolio, though it may take some juggling to manage when dealing with sensitive situations. The presence of a woman brings a perspective on realities of women that is an extremely relevant competence when you made a big fuss of your "womanifesto".

An all male cabinet tasked with delivering women's safety is like a bachelor advising women on how many children they should have. Or an all women's team designing the city's toilets including urinals for men. The logic and intent may be there, but what do they even know about the realities? How many of the cabinet ministers get stalked or groped or catcalled just because they happen to be men?

This is something every woman faces - not just specially designated victims. It is relevant to women's safety. Women are the most affected by issues of water shortage - another huge point on AAP's manifesto. Women form the majority of people ferrying water to households, the majority of people using water for household work. Women are the people most involved with caring for children and the sick. They are the ones who birth babies. They form a huge chunk of those interacting with the healthcare system. Women are disproportionately higher among those taking charge of their children's education. They are those who juggle household budgets and most impacted by prices of food or fuel on the aam aadmi level.

They thus have significantly different challenges from men and thus priorities and a completely different way of looking at problems and solutions because of that. They will have a different approach and perspective on policies . To not have a single woman among the core decision makers of the government is like saying the womanifesto was a JUMLA and 46% women should be happy with what we men decide to give you.

Can't men deliver what women need?

Of course they can. They've been doing it for thousands of years. They can. The Khap Panchayat can too, if it wants, and so can this cabinet if it thinks making a big show of giving stuff to women will get it glory as a good government that delivers. It is called patriarchy. Where women's needs are articulated by men, they aren't capable enough to be among men as equals in important positions of authority and they can have their needs met as men deem appropriate and they aren't capable enough to have a say on their own realities. It essentially says women are too stupid to fix their own problems. I don't respect this rubbish. Particularly given that I find most men incapable of understanding women or respecting their needs.

The points are endless. When there is abject inequality, you cannot approach it from any side without glaring wrongs being visible.

If anyone makes further arguments worth mentioning, I will add them here.

 

7

What really gets my goat these days is the bull in china shop approach to women's rights, which has a male dominated state and society trying to fix everything (sexual assault) - for women. I am a woman and I agree that there is vast gender inequality in India. I believe that women need to be empowered. I don't see our methods as useful. I have started calling the gender ghetto.

There are two lobbies in conflict determining women's rights that result in actions somewhere in between - usually what is acceptable to both. The "feminist" lobby - which seeks to create sensitivity and ease of justice for women - particularly for rapes. The "patriarchy" which would prefer to control women. Most of the women of India fall into neither of these two influential groups.

The feminist lobby (as per my observation in INDIA) looks to show humanity the right path - regardless of whether change results or is immediately useful for women. In less polite words, it is an upper middle class hijack of the female gender that appreciates itself and interprets "victories" against patriarchy as empowerment of women (which isn't necessarily true).

Patriarchy is on more comfortable ground. They have control and it is about managing so that no women actually get into bastions of power. The best way is to create luxurious ghettos for women, sold to feminists as special attention to women's rights.

As a result, there is an abundance of measures taken specially for women that do very little to change the ground situation. There isn't a single place where women can claim to feel safer after all the agitation, in spite of a steady stream of laws, schemes, special facilities, forces... Unfortunately, this doesn't cause the women's rights activists to pause and wonder if more of the same would be useful either. On the other hand, the special provisions cannot be made for all women - too resource intensive. So you create nice ghettos of women's rights where the loudest voices are - and keep peddling the idea that "something is being done". Unfortunately, Indian feminists ARE gullible enough to fall for it as long as their egos are stroked well.

Human rights as a special grant for women

Safety is a fundamental right. It isn't something that is a favor granted to women. Women only banks, women's credit cards, women police forces (more on that later)... You create a new breed of men who "know how to treat women". You have morally upright people criticizing social media abuse of women "Is this how you speak with women?", as though abusing men is fine... in the ghetto. I'd call it bubble, except it is really a psychological ghetto. Not merely isolation, but marginalization peddled as women's rights, confining women to "safe" spaces with "better" rights that "appreciate" them.

So, your pub going woman getting molested is an outrage, because that space is supposed to be safe for women - indeed, less "inhibited" women are part of the appeal - besides, don't the passes say "couples entry"? On the other hand, the woman getting molested in a seedy country liquor bar should have known better than to be there. Because, the pub is an official gender ghetto. Women are supposed to be in that space. On the other hand, the seedy bar is the "real world", where no concessions will be made to women, and they must know "men will be men" while walking in.

Put your hand on your heart and tell me this is not so. That this is not how your perception works too, even though you'd like to respect "all" women?

The problem is the same. Drunk louts harassing women or worse.

Any woman who has asked a husband, male partner or male friend to escort her to a dance bar (if you're around Mumbai) or red light area will attest to reason for refusal - or at least serious caution - being "it isn't safe for women". In spite of the dancers and prostitutes being girls themselves. Think about why one kind of woman wouldn't be safe in a place where women are the star attraction otherwise.

In essence, this is a class phenomenon, mostly limited to the upper middle class. Very rich people can do what they like to women and get away with it through money power or connections. Lower middle classes hover on fringes, knowing that this protection is very unreliable if the perpetrator is from an upper class. Lower classes get routinely harmed and no one gives a damn beyond stray newspaper reports or the occasional case that has enough TRP value to elevate the victim to a more deserving category of human.

The ghetto can also be layered and existing in the same place as the "real world". In other words, your pub goer getting raped will be news. A pub employee getting raped may be news depending on job (no sweepers, please), but if the woman security guard in the mall the pub is in gets raped by patrons of the pub? Forget it. Brief mention somewhere if at all. News item, not women's rights issue. You don't want unnecessary restrictions on the patrons of the pub over a nobody. It is the same reason that in spite of alcohol being a factor in many crimes and routinely in rapes, you will never find the elites bringing this up. You do not want to create an aura of shame around alcohol if you drink yourself - as a vast majority of public figures do.

Identifying a risk factor in rape is not as important as retaining elite freedoms. Not even as a minor caution point like - "Avoid being alone with one or more men you can smell alcohol on, as alcohol is known to reduce inhibitions. Particularly if there has been the slightest unwelcome flirting or sexually crude behavior or short temper." This gender ghetto is selective about risks it protects from. Only some are to be prevented. Others can be condemned in hindsight, as preventing will be inconvenient.

It is also an age phenomenon, where this insistence on safety is largely relevant to young women, but kids get harmed routinely with little protest, as do older women. So it is basically a phenomenon of nationwide statistics of enormous inequality against women used to give select women a carte blanche - which is also an illusion. It is given only as long as it doesn't inconvenience any of those with power. Rape convictions are overwhelmingly more from lower classes. No one has a problem with the nameless louts being taken out of the equation.

Feminism in India is not into hard wars. It prefers moral elegance and the high road. Patriarchy is not going to give up controlling women and treating them as primarily existing to serve the male will. Their interests do not converge on issues like domestic violence and marital rape. So we have some talk about it, but no serious challenge. The gender ghetto is that golden area where feminism and patriarchy agree and create a special safe zone where those who belong can expect safety to be their right.

Patriarchy prefers handouts to sharing power.

Patriarchy sees power as a male domain. It may be allowed to others - within limits. Misogyny actively seeks to exclude women from power. For the misogynist mind, it is better to give women a gilded harem than let them sit among the men as equals. Creating these gender ghettos works very well for them. Political parties having women wings with duties to support but very little control on party policies. Women only banks - even if they are not economically viable. Women's credit cards - why give them male ones when we can tailor features and cashbacks to define their identity with shopping, groceries and so on?

And of course, women to provide security for women, women only police stations... pitting women police against men who are highly likely to be threats to women, rather than create an overall gender sensitive police force. Risks to women were never the problem. The problem was complaints about it. This looks like a grand gesture. See! We gave women power to bring men to justice! Now vote for us please. Yet, do women only forces find it easier to deal with criminals? Why would bringing criminals to book be a gender issue? What are male cops supposed to do if they get a complaint of crimes against women? The same thing as the women cops. Yet, rather than increase the representation of women among the police force at large, it is more misogyny compatible to give them their corner to occupy.

Laws that "protect" women.

While women are overwhelmingly more harmed by men than vice versa, creating laws that institutionalize a bias against men does not help anyone. It is the legal ghetto. That sanctuary for women where they only have to name the justice they need. Of course, there is the "real world" where cops refuse to file cases - or worse to make them go away rather than exercise their rights. This successfully fudges the idea of justice for women, turning it into something that is specially granted for them in a very dramatic and unreserved manner, whereas the reality is different. Nor is creating a special issue out of the right of women to seek justice as generous as it sounds. It is the fundamental right of anyone harmed by another to seek justice.

In our grandstanding that wants to make sure we leave no space for any crime against women to slip through (regardless of applicability in real world), we make laws so unreal, that it is easy to show how a man accused of rape cannot be innocent short of an act of God - effectively turning a rape accusation into something women do that men have no defense against - when it is not true.

Consider a woman filing a complaint that she was raped a week ago by someone when they were alone in the office. Give me any possible way the man could prove his innocence short of proving he wasn't in the place at all. The man is presumed guilty - unless he can prove his innocence - yet, how does one prove an absence? It is a logical fallacy we have enshrined through reckless law making that only aims to deal out grand punishments without a view on the larger picture.

There is a strong motive to do this. To enshrine dramatic punishments as an exhibition of "doing something" to "fight rape". What is essentially a social problem - the inability of men to court women or take no for an answer - gets dumped on the legal system where it can reside happily, out of sight of a misogynist society, which is not required to face how it treats women. Naturally, for this, the law has to sound like it really knows what it is doing. Even if what it is doing is creating the provision to amputate a decade out of a man's life and reputation on the basis of an accusation he has no real way to disprove. A provision - which like India's thousand grey areas will usually be ignored and conviction rates will remain low at the discretion of judges - who must face their varying levels of conscience on sentencing a man for ten years on the basis of the crime described. Some misogynists will let all kinds of rapists go, others will let only a select few go, but the law if implemented to the letter will let no one go unless there is evidence of innocence. This is the legal system basically reduced to the level of a service for women to do anyone in. Non gender ghetto women won't be able to pull it off, because cops will simply laugh them out of the police station.

But surely it helps women? Even if it is an unfair service that caters to a few women, at least those women get empowered, right?

In my view, it doesn't. Judges who are often notoriously misogynistic will protect rapists for "small mistakes" when 10 year sentences seem to be disproportionate for an act that leaves no trace. Number of rapes on record will go high, but conviction rates will drop so dramatically that filing an FIR for rape will be rendered a joke. This will additionally provide fodder for misogynists to trivialize the act of filing a rape complaint itself, and it will be very difficult to debunk, because they will use the impossibility of proving innocence as their argument, even though lack of convictions will prove that "impossibility" false in practical application. All in all, a whole avalanche of controversial rapes will crop up, giving great boost to the feminist industry, but will lead to increased perceptions of danger limiting women, as well as increasing hostility from men once they start looking at cases. It will do a grave wrong to women whose PROVABLE rapes will now be further competing with scarce legal resources for justice.

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It seems we identify an ideal that should be, and start acting like it is fact and simply ignore what doesn't fit. We want uncompromising punishments and we also want every single wrong to be punished and we would rather a few innocents get punished than a few victims fail to nail their abusers.

Yet, is all this hand holding resulting in more assured women? More confident, more safe, more purposeful? Or merely more reckless? What is it that we are achieving, and how long is this supposed to continue and at whose cost? Why is it that we are choosing a hyperbole laden decision making process rather than something more scientific, measured and balanced?

Who will it hurt if women stop getting special favors and instead get their rights?

 

This post is based on a long series of tweets and conversation on Twitter based on yesterday's article about how there is disproportionate paranoia about safety of women at the hands of Govindas participating in the dahi handi.

India has lost touch with what celebrating Indians sound like till it is all a rowdy threat. Sad that men being loud is seen as a threat.

There are no news reports with dahi handi and molestation/harassment. Over years too. While not reporting routine harassment is common in India, there appear to be no incidents serious enough to be reported at least. Which is more than what can be said about routine days. So if women give dahi handi some special exemption that they don't give world cups and ganesh visarjans (which have abundant reports of molestation) they have to stop and complain. Your safety cannot be considered under threat if no threat to it is reported. Or you have to face that there is relative safety for women that we refuse to recognize in favor of a paralyzing paranoia of claiming public space (while also lampooning anyone who tells them to be careful).

Ganesh visarjan, yes. Drunk and disorderlys in processions are commmon. Holi too. In contrast, dahi handi is a fairly safe crowd by virtue of highly disciplined activity, standing audience (as opposed to anonymous passings). Highly recommend that all the women who get harassed please file complaints with name of group (conveniently printed on clothes and truck). Staying home because Govindas harass is no answer, even if there were countless reports (which is NOT the case).

One person on Twitter reported an attempt by some drunk Govindas to harass a woman in an auto with him, and he and the crowd at large intervened. Hardly the picture of rowdy crowds groping at women unchecked. Does not appear to have succeeded or a police case filed.

BTW, what about women in audience cheering and whistling at Govindas? I know several who do it. Done it myself. Also danced to band baja. For that matter, I also enjoy Ganesh visarjans, though girls do get targeted by drunks then. Still, the dancing is good fun. Wait. worse. I have unashamedly looked at virile male bodies demonstrating their physical ability. Shouted comments. Dang. Imma hooligan 😀 Wondering how I can curb these immoral tendencies. Wait. I'm a woman. Flaunting my boldness is hep. Thank God. I would hate to be a man and guilty by default if my acting freely offended someone.

I just want to state that men being hooligans is their freedom of speech as long as they don't assault / vandalize. Loud is free speech too. There is absolutely zero evidence that the Govindas behave any differently among themselves or with male only crowds. Are we saying that they cannot be themselves among women? Then why do we fight for the right of women to be themselves?

At this rate, "public opinion" will have all lower class men evicted from public space unless they can keep their head down and not offend, because what we consider civilized are traits of another identity, not moral character. Going by my mentions on Twitter, the world should be a sterile place with no high passion seen in public for fear of offending. Bah. Noise is life.

It is based on the assumption that the non-lower-class men are angels. 😛 ~ @wabbster

No evil happens in AC places. It seems to be a modern belief. Our subtle class prejudices and paranoias.

When 1 is loud it encourages the performer and it also helps the cheerer to De-stress. 1 should not keep their emotions bottled up ~ Satish Nair

Women get harassed? Sure. Fight it (Thrash the harasser, ideally, but that's just my opinion). How does it help women to keep pointing out shadows to jump at? How does it help to create such an overwhelming perception of persecution that women avoid exerting their rights for fear of being harmed?

Is it even possible to regiment an entire population into standard behavior so that women can live without fear? You can't coddle someone into power. Support. Women have to exert rights and expect support with problems not stand back because threatened. Go, exert your rights. If there is a problem, fight it, fix it using your rights. Your right. Not your right that people design a world to your needs. That is just a sense of entitlement. Complain of hooligans on street. Complain if anyone tells says stay home. Moral of story? Regiment all men so you can walk comfortably? What was our response to criticism of women wearing certain clothes that some found offensive?

Nor is it empowering for women to see something that is normal for men as a threat if they hope to function well among them.

@my2bit: @Vidyut so you are saying ‘men will be men’ what can v do?

No. I'm saying women must be people first. Not waiting for a perfect world to then enter safely that ignores the freedoms of others in it. Attack and fight and fix anything that gets in the way. But you can't de-legitimize normal behavior of people because you fear a threat.

@sirensongs: @vidyut the sheer testosterone level is anti-woman.

I don't understand why this has to be so. I find the male shows of physical skill very attractive. Heck even frogs croak to attract potential mates. It is an instinct! No one is forcing the woman to like it! I think people accept this better when discovery channel explains it. We are not used to experiencing and knowing for ourselves anymore.

Women seek permanence, men get itchy. Men act rowdy, women get offended. We must accommodate and accept the other as long as no harm. We can't really expect both genders to be identical. Much of our thinking may use modern styles, but is rooted in really primitive instincts and has worked for a long time, if you look at the world population. It makes sense to seek greater freedoms for all, but it does not make sense to restrict freedoms of some just because others don't have many freedoms. And who knows if women wouldn't "naturally" be "rowdy" on the streets? When have we given them the freedom to act without care in public? How do we know whether it is really women hating loud men or women so deeply conditioned against loudness as wrong that they fear it in another?

"I really want to watch dahi handi but the crowd..."

Well it is your right to watch if you want and challenge anyone who prevents it. If you don't avoid a situation where you have to exert it, you can hardly blame the world for "not allowing" you a freedom you didn't even need.

No one can ever promise perfect safety. At best, you will find protectors and supporters and the law of the land punishing those who harm you. If you risk, they could help, or you may have to pull through on your own resources. If you don't risk, you can hardly blame them for your lack of initiative.

Be it caste, class, gender whatever. It is really sad that we patronize and isolate to protect instead of endorsing claim on common space.

Girls Dahi Handi

Why do I need a man to give me my rights? I do what I want as my right. I ask for help if I run into problems, sometimes I get defeated, but I am resilient and I am determined to chase my potential. I exert my rights as far as I can push them. That makes me powerful. Many men don't manage that for themselves. What will they grant me?

Your right to be safe does not exist if you abdicate and hide it rather than demand it when your safety is at risk. Though you may be safe. Right to not be harassed comes into question only if you get harassed, not if you curb your freedoms before the question arises. A right does not exist if you don't use it. If you telling me to shut up makes me shut up, my right to free speech is dead from disuse.

Face it, public space is dominated by men and they have no "responsibility" to play hosts to women. The world ain't a massive hospitality industry. Men have their own struggles and problems to fix too. And even if they did, if they "played fair" and shared nicely and all, women would still end up guests/outsiders, being granted rights by someone else who controls them. Claim. Expecting someone else to do it will never give you ownership of them. Like this, women are already a vote bank waiting for sops. Fastest way to compassionate enslavement. Astonishing no party has picked this up. You can't really expect women's rights to be controlled by someone else hand handed over safely.

Nor can women claim space by looking at things to be offended at and blaming men for them. Won't work beyond speeches and Twitter. At some point, women have to grab and run. At some point, women must be able to wade right in risks and all and claim the world as theirs. Living their rights instead wishing for them.

Fighting for rights is one thing, but for practical living, you need empowered women who will exert those rights. You can't coddle them. Women have to be providers (and inventors :p) of own rights, not consumers of rights provided by someone else & bad service means no rights.

That's right. We won't survive if we play the damsel-in-distress. Best to go out there and take care of yourselves. Gender equality. ~ Esha Shah

And for all the bad rep India has, I can personally attest that it is possible for a young woman to live bold, solo, safe (even if worried).

The World Cup win had reports of molestation, harassment, rape within hours. Dahi Handi has none in years. So dahi handi is more dangerous. You go to the World Cup safely, I'll be really brave and risk the sweaty masses on the street.

Men on the whole seem to be more physical than women, and today is a good time to realize it, looking at wiry, sweaty bodies coming together into highly skilled pyramids in a timeless enactment of a mythological trait. Yet this is a day well condemned for a variety of reasons, most of them a reflection of how our middle classes are rapidly losing respect for our traditions. The other part relates with women's safety. There is a perception of a lot of physically fit men, high on adrenaline engaging in inappropriate behavior with women. I see this as a good day to look at how we see men and the things they do.

Increasingly, the physicality of men is seen as a bad thing. Loud behavior, aggression, ogling women or even simply sweating for the wrong reason seems to be seen as threatening. This morning I was witness to an ugly rant about how rowdy drunk men go around in trucks molesting women and taking risks with lives in the name of culture, creating road blocks and generally being a nuisance.

And yet I wonder where these perceptions come from. The team on the truck usually belongs to a gymnasium, which is run like a school, with very respected teachers. They practice for months for the entire team to be able to create those pyramids flawlessly in order to reach a pot that can be hung as high as four stories high. They cannot afford to be drunk and they are risking their very lives for the thrill of challenge and the reward money. They go from one location to another, traveling all over the city, breaking as many pots as they can.

Am I saying there are no people drunk? Of course not. It would be stupid to make guarantees of this sort. However, I can guarantee there are far fewer drunks than you can find at your average disco any night. So what is it that makes these people seem so threatening to women? I think a lot of this is class snobbery. Most people learning sport in akhadas come from poor to lower middle class families. Almost all of them are tanned and wiry in stature. The definition of "handsome" in a man is rapidly becoming about bulky bodies, dry skin and wealth. We see these men as alien, and thus a greater threat than your average groper in a disco, who may be obnoxious and swaying as he stands, but speaks English, uses deo and allows us the illusion of "civility" or being in control. It is an illusion. There is a reason discos are seen as trouble spots by cops. It is a place where a lot of people are drunk and loaded with adrenaline from dancing. But they are air conditioned. And we have these strange beliefs that air conditioning makes a civilized space. Think about it.

This fits in also with a larger cultural snobbery of thin, wiry men being often from lower castes and menial professions. All this is unconscious. Calculated in the blink of an eye, before we know anything about a person.

And then of course, is the de-sexing of genders that seems to be a prevalent "hep" way of thinking. What makes a man a man or a woman a woman? Our minds are so resistant to the idea of acknowledging differences other than those that can be proved biologically (and thus we don't have to be responsible for thinking them). We are so resigned to not controlling men that we see reject masculine traits. Of course that doesn't prevent us from being attracted to them or repelled by them. That doesn't prevent us from juxtaposing our identity against them.

Outrage about men ogling women is common. But we take little time to understand why we feel outraged. Would women really like it if no heads turned at their entry? Is this really the vision women have for themselves? That they wander the world unnoticed? If a woman is magnetic enough to turn heads entering a boardroom, wouldn't she do the same on a street? Why is it that instead of making women feel more confident about their right to attention because they matter, we perpetuate paranoia about attention being a threat?

Increasingly, it is seen that men who look working class are seen as "wrong" by default. As if a white collar look automatically also bestows character. Worse, women are actually conditioned to seek approval of such men. To cater to their attention, which compounds the good man, bad man prejudice. The fact remains that a dark skinned, wiry man dressed in a sweaty nylon T-shirt is not necessarily a greater or lesser threat to a woman than one who wears "casuals" and speaks English. This "herding" of women's preferences leads to great injustice to men who do not fit the "good guy" stereotype as well as women, who are taught to hesitate in a world full of non-ideal men.

If women have been exploited over the ages, men are being demonized for not fitting stereotypes. For making public displays of appreciation, for scratching their crotch or looking low class or farting or whatever. This is not about protecting women, it is empowerment coming at the cost of gender relations. But then it isn't even empowerment to declare the world at large unsafe for women (while recommending that they still navigate it).

In the process, what is lost is the actual feat characteristic of this day. Let us not look at all those dangerous men. Here is a dahi handi pyramid by girls.

Worth a thought. Does it seem that someone with the discipline to do this is more indisciplined and greater threat than normal society?