Disclaimer: Long Post. Don’t bother reading if you have the attention span of a meme creating troll, or even worse, if you have any political affiliations that you wish to strengthen using this as bait. This might make sense to you and boy, will that be a disaster?! Also, if you are a self-proclaimed moral ‘guru’, do let me know, so I can promptly remove you from my circle.
Call me cynical, but over the past few years of my transition from a teenager to a young adult, I’ve become increasingly convinced of a hopelessness with regards to the future of the Indian society. I do not expect much to change, even less to improve. The past week, events in and around my alma-mater have unfolded in a more or less expected fashion; much of it has cause my blood to boil, but then simmer and calm down. My cynical self, smiles at me with a snide, “I told you so.” I recall then, this post that I published four years back, (when notes were still a thing on Facebook) as I reflected on the horrific Nirbhaya case. (You may wish to read that and get some perspective here.) Still haunts me, and a substantial section of the female populous, I’m sure. While the memory of it still remains, the incident has now become lore and a scary story that I presume parents tell their daughters in the NCR and I know males use to instill fear in their female counterparts. It was sad and humiliating then, it is more so today years later when nothing seems to have changed. Sad and humiliating, for men and boys across our country. But, I digress.
I’m sure that what I have gathered from hearsay, about the events in BHU, may not be completely accurate and hence I refrain from mentioning any specific facts that may be in question. I do not stress on the mechanics of the situation specifically, for the simple reason that I wish to ponder more on the fundamental problem that stands the risk of being buried. I am sure some people will be taken to task, and people will pause to wonder about it all, even if only for the brief moment when the advertisement plays during a debate between political representatives, or some official from the university. It is in this pause that I ask you to think for a moment.
I believe this entire episode is a reflection of the sickness that ails the whole country and the society. There is an incident of abuse that is not dealt with in the strictest possible manner. Callousness is shown by the people responsible, and when the situation worsens, we end up resorting to name-calling and politicization. Meanwhile, the real issue is forgotten.
The Indian society continues to be plagued by a huge gender bias and nothing seems to be able to fix this. An entire half of the population continues to be downtrodden simply because they are of a different sex, and it goes unnoticed by the other half. It hurts my self-esteem as a male that we let our counterparts engage in a patriarchal thought process, that is already too deeply embedded in our psyche, and which results time and again in acts of such heinous nature, like this and several others, every hour across the country.
In the interest of being blunt, I personally believe that the flaw lies in the intentional ignorance of the ideas of sexual freedom and individual personal boundaries. Sex continues to be a topic we shy away from, and continue to view not just as a commodity, but also a luxury. The idea that you are in a position to exert power over another individual because you possess a reproductive organ of a certain kind, is simply absurd. That the biological design of the human body makes distinctions between the capabilities of the two sexes is clear, but to associate this difference with social ability is the basic flaw in the patriarchal mindset. And that this mindset continues to flourish in spite of humongous proof to the contrary is disappointing. The continued harping on about sexual objectification seems to have absolutely no effect on the actual target audience. We have come to the point where a significant section of the male populous now attaches no sanctity to the sexual act and simply views it either as means to demean the virtue of a female counterpart or as an achievement to enhance one’s own self esteem or reputation among other male counterparts. Is it any wonder then that sexual abuse is viewed as a means to exert ‘life-destroying’ power over a female?
I would have thought at a time that the understanding of sexual boundaries of a person, is simply non-existent in a very very large section of the society, but I have come to realize that this is not the case. In fact it is the opposite. It is the fact that violating these boundaries is associated with such consequences, that emboldens males to act upon their tendencies. This is fueled by the stigma attached with the act itself, more often than not being perpetrated by the elder generation. The idea that sex impinges upon the honor or virtue of a female but not on the male is again, absurd, for lack of an adjective. What is even more pathetic is that even females of the elder (not older) generation show absolutely no concern for a survivor of abuse or harassment.
I do still stand by the belief that until a discussion on the sexual act becomes a regular part of our upbringing (with the right perspective, of course), the sexual act itself becomes more commonplace and is integrated into our culture in a more respectable fashion, and the word ‘sex’ is not shied away from in our vernacular, there can be very little hope for substantial meaningful change. I am often cited as being irreverent of a glorious ‘Indian’ culture. And I repeatedly refer such people to Nehru’s ‘Discovery of India’, who in a pre-independence India had recognized that what remained of the culture was a mere skeleton and that we risk extinction if we do not evolve. What is the point of education and civilization when we are unable to recognize the flaws in our belief systems and work actively to remedy them? We are a culture of hypocrisy, a culture which worships the female form of the almighty in so many different forms, has absurd notions about the ideal female form, and even objectifies imagery associated with the Goddesses. A culture which has claims to have the utmost respect for the mother and has made the use of the most common expletive abusing the mother and the sister, mainstream in movies and songs.
As the social media explosion has penetrated the masses our ideas have been so conspicuously distorted in almost every sphere of life. Sitting behind a screen, people attach their religious identity to their names and then go on rants about sexuality that are not only misinformed and uneducated but irreverent to the very culture that they claim to be defending. But all this is an entirely different debate. As is the role of media outlets in cashing in on the female outrage and playing the sentiment to their own benefit.
I do recognize though, that in several respects I, myself am guilty of propagating patriarchal ideas. I apologize openly for that whenever I realize this. While that may not be enough, I do understand that there is an urgent need for us, Indian patriarchal males, to recognize that the solution lies in us, accepting that things are wrong, developing an understanding of how sexual equality is supposed to work, and making a conscious effort to change from our very fundamental ideas to our day to day actions. Feminism is a movement of the males, not the females. The onus is on our generation, for we are the future. I firmly believe that dialogue on these very fundamental issues is the best way to proceed, and I call for an educated unbiased discussion on the various aspects. If we can change the views of even a single person, that is a success. (My cynical self, smirks at me from afar.)
I’m sure the media will soon move on to bigger better more TRP-rich issues. But it is our social responsibility to keep this in the back of our minds and work diligently for a better future.
PS: If you had the patience to even gloss through the most of this, I’m eager to hear your views.