Published on December 19th, 2012 | by Gaurav Kumar6
Shamed (A Shared Journal – Part 1)
When the monster in a story scares us, the best recourse for our naive selves is to close our eyes and pull the blanket up to our forehead. The comforting belief is that the fear of the unknown is intercepted thus. As we grow up, however, that door is closed on us. The monster doesn’t terrorize us from a distance, it crystallizes within us, inside each one of us.
Hearing about the deteriorating condition of the girl who was gang-raped in Delhi on Sunday has reopened that wound. People are enraged and shocked – ridden with a crushing sense of helplessness. The intensity of the outrage, however, suggests something else as well – a guilty conscience. We know that this is the Frankenstein we have created and are ashamed to acknowledge the existence of.
The emotional turmoil translates into volatile and empty status messages or notes on social networking sites, protest marches and Dharnas – making us feel slightly better about ourselves. People need to see themselves as responsible and to experience a sense of togetherness in the face of such cruel acts of mayhem. But the question remains as to how many of us follow these cases to the end to ensure that justice is delivered? Does any news channel run after these stories once people grow bored and weary of the business? How many of us question the rape culture and mentality of our society if the news media isn’t covering a story about some recent case of rape? Don’t these stories merely desensitize people to the horrors of brutality inflicted in the next case? Will condemning individual rapists to death actually curb the menace? We voice our thoughts, we protest and, as if following a circular protocol, we forget.
A rapist is not born and brought up in an imaginary castle away from our ‘civilization’. He (statistics would show that virtually all rapists are male while only about 2% of the victims are male ) is one of us, a part of our shared culture and identity.
“Being Sunday, Ram Singh ( one of the accused ) and his helper, Akshay Thakur had cooked a chicken dish and had a small party, along with Ram Singh’s younger brother, Mukesh, a driver-cum-helper. They decided to go for a joyride and also make some quick money by giving lift to people so that they could buy some more liquor,” said police commissioner Neeraj Kumar.
Quite a mundane start to a cold winter night, one would say. However the brutal rape which followed this unremarkable evening (which made even the doctors attending to the victim shudder and label the rapists as people “of psychopathic nature” ) begs a question : How did the men not know why or where to stop ?
The answer is because we have coached them thus.
Most of the researchers think that showing rape as an act committed by a few sick men is an understatement. The idea is too limited because it does not look at culture as an influential factor.We tell ourselves that women are weak, fragile, sensitive and submissive. We have accepted the generalization that men are, by default, tough, macho, aggressive, emotionally distant and incapable of crying. Thus, the moment the sex of a person is determined we impose these gender-roles on them, without any scope for deviations. People start believing that differences between men and women exist independently of their cultural training and are natural – closed to intervention/exceptions. Since the female body menstruates and reproduces it is seen as inferior to its male counterpart, and populist devices make sure these ideas are perpetuated.
Submission in our culture is assigned to the woman, possession and power to the man, hence reducing the women to an object instead of an individual – to be played with, possessed, teased and controlled. This objectification pervades almost everything around us –the Majnu culture (where the ‘hero’ keeps pestering and ‘teasing’ a girl until she gives in and consents to an affair, despite her initial disapproval and rejection) or item numbers in bollywood, popular songs by Honey Singh which presume that women are asking for “it”, trash talk among men using pejoratives such as Behenchod , Madharchod, et al. Pornography is an extreme form of female objectification. It says nothing about a women’s sexuality, but says a lot about how society wants men and women to behave. The psyche of the male population is thus conditioned to exert the masculine power over the person a man views as an object/means in the sexual act – giving in to the years of conditioning he has undergone. The popularity of the BDSM genre and fetish among men is a telling reminder of the strong pressure on the male to assert his masculinity in the sexual act.
The dominant (rape myth) ideology says that men are more in need of sex than women. There is also the idea that women do want to have sex, but they are too afraid to be seen as a slut. Because they are always willing, rape is not a very serious crime. Brownmiller, on the contrary, argues that rape is not a crime of passion but “a deliberate, hostile, violent act of degradation” – an exercise in the power men are told they have simply by the virtue of being men. An act of rape, on closer observation and in majority of cases, has nothing to do with sex , and everything to do with power .Ram Singh and the other accused must have had access to affordable sex-workers or spouses and were not even primarily looking for sex that particular evening. They raped the girl simply because they could.
Brownmiller (1975) further argues that women are trained from childhood to be “rape victims” – making sure that they don’t invite any advances or slights on themselves. She thinks that the moment the word ‘rape’ is understood, so is the power relationship of dominance of men over women. The male ego, on the other hand, is built on sexual conquest because through sex men gain respect from other men, ergo the fad of keeping a count of, boasting of and exaggerating their sexual encounters. Some men would go so far as to describe rape as “adventure” , “punishing the weak “ or “exiting” because it gives them power.
Unless we realize that stereotyping men and women in such a polarized, austere fashion and subscribing to such faulty constructs of masculinity are the factories in which the hideous monster of rape is born, not much is going to change. As long as we keep laughing at sexist jokes and treating gender as an elusive, insignificant aspect of our identity without being aware of the implications, we are partly to blame for such gender-based violence. If we accuse feminists of overreacting or being hysterical and turn into the angry angels of justice when our lifeblood boils at the gory details of such barbarous acts, ours is a culture of contradictions, marred by angry gashes of hypocrisy.
Let us stop this madness, shall we? Shall we form a society which does not impose codified gender-roles upon individuals? Shall we turn ourselves into a culture where power is not masculine and a victim of rape is not shamed and harassed at multiple levels? Are we willing to deliver and ensure swift justice to the rape victims instead of suggesting myriad factors by which the woman “invited” the rapist? Can we promote a shared rationality by which a rapist is not maddened but alarmed when his victim resists the act? Shall we introduce gender studies in educational institutions and raise awareness through all possible means?
No, that’s too much. Also, not important enough. Perhaps we are just predisposed to share SMSs and status updates on Facebook while waiting for the next incident to happen.
“One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.” ― Simone de Beauvoir
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