I have a genuine doubt..

I swear – no sarcasm or smart-ass-ism here..

What are we protesting for?

Now, I get what we are protesting against. But what are we protesting for?

Immediate action on this particular case?
Well.. to me, it looks as though all 6 accused have been arrested and the fast-track courts are very much on the right track. Plus, since none of them have political or financial clout, they aren’t going to be let off – certainly not after this outrage.

Action against policing lapses?
OK.. seems to be happening to some extent.

Security measures to be strengthened?
Promises are pouring in day by day.. Though, I don’t see how banning tinted windows is going to change some bestial insecure men’s mind to brutalize women to ‘teach them a lesson’.

For police to suddenly open their eyes to gender-equality and be gender-sensitive?
Not happening in the short-term.

Amendment of the law? Passage of the sexual assault bill?
a) Ain’t gonna happen in 1-2 days
b) I wonder how many of those protesting know what the present law is, what the proposed law is, or what they want the law to be. Frankly, I don’t.

Death penalty, chemical castration, torture for rapists?
Every time I see that hot-headed demand, my heart breaks a bit.. and some more when I see it coming from young and old, informed and ignorant alike!

Assurance from the government?
Really? Do we even believe what our politicians say anymore?

Token action? Token resignations at higher levels of the government or police force?
I don’t see how that can help.

For our society to turn a new leaf and treat its women how they should be treated?
a) Not happening in our life-time, forget short-term.
b) Change has to start at home one’s own head.

For the government to instill confidence in our women that they are safe – on and off the road, day and night, from the known and the unknown?
Impossible. Such confidence comes only from what one experiences – over a long period of time.

Then what?
I just don’t get it.


24 thoughts on “I have a genuine doubt..

    • I agree. Though I still have doubts what the ‘agenda’ was even to go on to a second day.
      However, now it does seem to be on the lines of “I’ve started.. I don’t know how to stop.. help meeeee!”

  1. So you pinched the thoughts from my mind and put them in this post. Earlier in the evening I wrote exactly these very points in a ‘long enough to be a post in itself’ comment on Alka Gurha’s blog.

    By the way, something is pending. 🙂

  2. I feel a lot of protests in our country are like that.. the real cause is forgotten in the mayhem in a couple of days.

    In this case, I *think* what we are protesting for is for women to feel safe and secure in our country, at any time of the night or day. But, as you say, it is not something that can happen overnight.

  3. I think what people really need are timelines.
    How many fast-track courts and by when? A date please.
    When will the law be amended? Date again.
    And I think there are a lot of questions. If you check out the petition you will find them.
    The problem is that assurances don’t mean anything in our country.

  4. Something happens that people find horrible: They protest – demonstrating that they are unwilling to accept that kind of thing happening. They don’t nessecarily even know what they want instead – they just know, as you’re saying what they’re demonstrating *against*.

    Same thing happened in the Arab Spring: Lots of people demonstrating *against* the government, then as the governments fell, they discovered that they didn’t actually agree about what kind of government they want instead.

    In this case, though it’s fairly easy to guesstimate what people want: a society where it’s safe to be female, where you can participate in life to the fullest extent possible – with negligible risk that you’ll be the victim of sexual harassment or assault.

    I’m of the opinion that what’s needed to achieve that is mostly the *small* things. Nip it in the bud early. What do average young Indian men today -do- if their buddy shouts an obscene remark at some woman on the street ? say: “Cut it out, you’re behaving like a gorram neanderthal.” I suspect if that, or a variation of it was the reaction of most men – the few assholes would soon get the picture and cut it out.

    • Exactly.. But “a society where it’s safe to be female” is a) not a tangible goal – it is only a concept. b) not something that can be achieved by just the govt & the police, in the short/medium term. So, what is the point of holding a government to ransom over it? When the first thing each person should do is to introspect and change themselves – trust me, there is loads of room for change right there!

      • True. Government and police can, at best, deal with the extremes, and they can contribute to setting the agenda and rising awareness – schools are going to be more important than courts and jails though.

        But most of the actual hard work must be done by average Indians, and horrible rapes such as the one now causing protests are but the tip of the iceberg – hugely visible, but also incredibly rare and *already* both illegal and socially unacceptable.

        The changes are needed primarly on those parts of the iceberg that are invisible, 9/10th of an iceberg is under the water-surface. You’re young, female and Indian – how often do you experience unwelcome hands, rude or sexist comments, a lack of respect for your personal borders, or other sexist behaviour ?

        I don’t know the answer to that, actually – do tell me about your reality if you like.

        But whatever the answer is, I’m certain the answer is that all of these things are a hundred or a thousand times more common than violent rape by strangers. (even among rapes, both violence and strangers tend to be the exceptions)

      • You are absolutely correct. These things are a million times more common than violent attacks by strangers. In my personal experience – I must say there were quite a few unwelcome hands. I used to have multiple safety pins strategically pinned at various points on my dress while travelling. Every movie watched in a closed cinema hall had at least one instance of stamping savagely on bare-feet from the seat behind, ‘innocently’ feeling for my feet. Bitter pill is a personal story. Sexist behavior was aplenty just till 4 years back – both strangers and people I ‘know’. It isn’t easy being a girl, and one not trying-hard-to-gain-acceptance in a predominantly male ‘competitive’ school or engineering college. You are assumed to be dumb and if you are academically ahead, it is assumed to be because you learn everything by rote and butter-up teachers. It takes quite a bit of proving oneself to be in the top league (at every step) to be taken seriously and treated equally. Till then, there is always the guy who ‘comes forward’ to ‘help’ you with something technical, who believes that you are just waiting for his help to cross the road. All of that was taken to be part of life, and I was taught to, and had learnt to avoid, move away, ignore.

        But in the past 4 years – fortunately, things have changed drastically. I have learnt to look, dress, and behave confidently and assertively both at work and outside now. I don’t recall any unwelcome hands in the past 4 years (even in crowded public transport), though these were the years when I started taking public transport and travelling alone to a large extent. As far as sexist behavior from men goes, calling out their sexism on their face with a ‘u-amuse-me-jerk!’ smile – politely, but loudly – puts an end to it. The guy always stays a safe distance from me, and quite miserly with his words after that. Somehow, the wannabe-macho-dudes are unnerved by a woman who is very sure of herself and isn’t apologetic about taking on harassment straight on. Having said that, the fear of being harassed and the pepper spray can do still linger (after all, this city is notorious for mindless violence) – but it is not disabling; doesn’t intrude with my freedom and individuality. Yes, it does raise my parents’ blood pressure, but not mine.

        What I still haven’t learnt, is how to handle sexism and lack of respect for my personal space from women! Baffles me – and before I get out of that “did I just hear that? from a female?” blank-out state-of-mind, the moment is long past. How does one even start convincing these women that it has to start with their confidence – they can’t wait for society or government to instill confidence in them?

        I think THAT is where change should start – with the women’s self-esteem. Don’t ask for respect, safety, equality – just take it. The misogynists will have no option but to learn to accept it then. And the ignorant will learn from example.

  5. Thanks for sharing ! The plural of anecdote might not be rigorous data, but I see no reason to believe your experiences atypical. I agree with you about the problem-description, but only partially with your proposed starting-point of womens self-esteem.

    The thing is, you are correct that most harassers are fundamentally cowards, they will pick a easy target, and when you credibly signal that you’re trouble, i.e. not an easy target then you’ll be left alone most of the time.

    The problem is that it puts the onus to change on the victims, and most people are not capable of fundamentally changing behaviour. You’re smart and strong, and you know it. You’re a ph.d – that alone is proof that you’ve overcome a lot of challenges. I’m not surprised you’re able to assert yourself.

    How likely is the same solution to work when the harassed is the woman cleaning offices, while the harasser is a manager at the firm ? Or when the harassed is a nervous 17-year-old who’s drunk 4 beers for the first time in her life, and the harasser is the 20-year-old guy arranging the party ?

    The solution is sometimes also suggested to bullied people. I know, because I was one of them. “Just ignore them”. “If you stop caring, they’ll stop”. This advice is *true* but not helpful. Extremely few 14 year-olds can just *decide* to stop caring what the dominant part of their class says and does. (and the few who can, are probably seldom bullied to begin with)

    We should teach young people bodily autonomy. That they’re allowed to say yes or no. That everyone has the right to have their decision respected. That deliberately violating the limits of others is inacceptible. In contrast, I’m skeptical that self-confidence classes for women, or self-defence classes or similar things can play any significant role. On an individual level, sure, but as a societal solution ? Not so much.

    Crucially, I don’t think you can teach people that they’ve got the right to say no, without also telling them in *clear* terms that they’re allowed to say *YES*. A lot of what I’ve read leads me to believe womens sexuality in India is still only considered partially “theirs”.

    They “owe” virginity to their future husbands. (when this debt was aquired is somehow never mentioned) Or they said yes before, and therefore their subsequent “no” is suspect and/or less valid. Perhaps they even said yes to that particular guy a hundred times earlier – thus they can’t possibly be taken seriously when they say no *this* time.

    • Nope. It is not putting the onus on the victims. It is placing the power on victims’ hands and saying ‘there.. learn to use it’. Not a burden, but a skill to be learnt – takes hard work and pain to master, like any other skill.
      And believe me, asserting myself has nothing to do with my smartness or my PhD. There are enough PhDs, privileged and educated career women who don’t assert themselves and just as many maids and vegetable vending ladies who assert themselves because they have no choice! It is survival!

      I am not suggesting “ignore”. I say “stand up to it, look your intimidating best, shout, and if necessary, kick hard”. It sounds hard, but with practice, it becomes reflex reaction.

      Yes, that doesn’t come easy. To some, it comes from introspection and thought. To some, it comes from accidentally stumbling on it and experimenting with the new found toy. To others, it probably can come only from watching examples – right in front of their eyes.

      In a patriarchy, women too need to take a step forward and quit being victims and victims-in-waiting. After all, male chauvinists have zero incentive to change; most liberal men are indifferent towards spreading change. The active change seekers inevitably tire out and get disillusioned when confronted by ‘victims’ who refuse to make an effort.

      As to bodily autonomy and the right to say NO and YES – completely agree. Unfortunately, the problem in India runs deeper – the culture has no concept of ‘the individual’ – it is so ‘social’ (putting family, community, caste, religion, any other way of grouping people, above individuals), that ‘individualism’ has taken on the same negative connotations as ‘feminism’. Fighting for your family, your community, your state, is ‘honor’, but fighting for yourself is ‘selfish’. THAT, is what makes it so difficult for people – both men and women – to even toy with the idea of asserting themselves. It is just that women are twice the victims that men are – of patriarchy.

      • I think we might be arguing semantics at this point. I read you as “It’s not putting the onus on the victims, but the victims should ….(long list here)”.

        My intention wasn’t to say that only the successful can stand up for themselves. My point was that doing so is easier for some, and harder for others, and on the average it’s easier the more empowered you are in the situation and in your life generally.

        That’s not to say that it’s -impossible- for the slum-girl, or that the wealthy and successful-lawyer-woman will always succeed in it, but I do think there’s that the latter is more likely to be able to. It depends on specifics, and not the least on personality, of course.

        I think your guesstimate that the patriarchy “hurts women twice as much as men” is about right – but that means it does hurt men too, just less so. So I’d say that men absolutely do have a reason to change.

        That’s true on an individual level too: If I look at your face when I’m talking to you, if I keep my hands to myself unless I’ve got good reason to think they’re invited. If I respect your opinion. If I don’t use belittling baby-names for you (again, unless I’ve got good reason to assume they’re welcome) – I’ll get the same back, and given the right chemistry and circumstances, might even be lucky enough to gain a friend, lover or wife.

        If I do the opposite of all these things, you’d not respect me, you’d (rightly!) consider me an arsehole and a creep.

        There’s actually one thing I *would* want the women of the world to do – be more rigorous in rejecting advances from men who act sexist. That’s something I’m positive you’re doing already, though.

      • It’s funny.. Once you come to know of ‘negging’, you suddenly realize that Indian men are experts in the ‘art’ of negging. Forget face-to-face, random on-the-road interactions.. even ‘educated’ blog comments display shades of it – and expect to be taken as appreciation! And women don’t recognize it!!
        As patronizing as it sounds, I can’t help but say ‘they don’t know better – not men, not women’.

  6. True. Except the awesome women. There’s a tiny core of truth in it of course – if you behave as if some woman is a parsec out of your league, then she very likely is. But surely there must be some middle-way, somewhere *between* behaving like a drooling puppy, and being an insulting arse ?

    For the record, I think you’re one of the most awesome women I’ve had the pleasure of meeting (figuratively speaking) here on earth.

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