Regressive Narratives

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As a pop-culture aficionado, I have always been intrigued by how popular media (movies, music, books) influences the way we think and act. Some of this influence is, of course, perfunctory like the “Friend” cap from “Maine Pyar Kiya” or the Amitabh-hair-cut or the Rajani goggles-move. But much of it is insidious and covert, affecting the way we reason about our world and our perceptions of that which is morally justifiable and that which is not.

Hence it is no surprise, that given the tragic incidents in New Delhi and the national conversation triggered over sexual violence in its wake, that Indian popular culture, frequently given the catch-all-label Bollywood, would be the second most popular target of blame (The first being of course the government, an even bigger catch-all-label than Bollywood).

“It’s the exposure”, some say “Semi-clad women cavorting sensuously—no wonder the beast is let loose.” I hear this frequently, from doddering aunties to right-wing traditionalists to shockingly, even some dyed-in-the-wool feminists. This of course is a perpetuation of one of the biggest lies about forcible sexual assault, namely that rape is caused by horny men driven to a state of out-of-control lust by either sensual images on screen or by the clothes of the victim. The hypothesis that porn (and by extension the unclothed/semi-clothed human form or the depiction of sensual acts) leads to rape has been disproved by several studies like this.

Because rape or sexual violence in general is a crime of control, of the strong (the mob, the group, the conquering army, the man with the iron rod or great physical might) over the weak (the young woman vulnerable on the street, the three-month-old-baby, the blind girl in an institution, the seventy-two-year old barely able to walk, the new arrival in a prison) ["The truth is you're the weak. And I'm the tyranny of evil men." (Pulp Fiction)]. What the perpetrator is getting off on is not the sex, though perhaps he also thinks he is, but the exhibition of his absolute God-like power over someone, whose defining choice, the choice with whom to have sex, has been taken from her. Clothes and cleavage have little to do here.

Many would argue that I am oversimplifying their argument. It’s not the skin on display that’s objectionable, but the imperialo-exploitative context of the “item-song” where the female Chikni-Chameli body is shown to be entertaining the salivating patriarchy. As a matter of fact, the very word “item” is the problem, in the world of commercial entertainment, a woman is not a human being, but a prop. This then is what, they say, leads to rape and sexual crimes, this objectification. While this may be part of the problem, I feel it is too subtle a concept, too academic for those lumpen elements who actually commit these acts to grasp, even at a subconscious level. Or should I say, there is a message which is even more overt, the 800 lb gorilla in the room, a message that truly resonates with a substantial section of the Indian population.

That being the narrative of heroism which embodies within it the total subjugation of women, in which her free-will is not to respected, in which her “No” can always be turned into “Yes” , in which she is to be tamed like Alexander did Bucephalus. More than the rape-scene-as-titillation, fortunately not as popular as it once was, which at least ends with the villain being thrashed or the “Tu Cheez badi hai mast mast” objectification, which at least shows the woman as a consensual partner (some may say the consensuality is a facade but even then), this takes criminal behavior and stamps it with a “That’s the way true men do it” seal of approval. I am not saying that this narrative by itself creates rapists. After all Dussashana did not watch movies. The desire to control exists within, it is a basic human condition. However what the filmi narrative does is that it makes this heroic.

Exhibit A. Aamir Khan in Dil. The song “Khambe Jaisi Khadi Hai”.[Video] The Madhuri Dixit character in the movie rejects Aamir Khan’s advances. To which he says “Hum ne khayee hai kasam, todenge iski guroor hum” (I have taken a vow to break her pride) and then proceeds to do exactly that, with unsolicited physical contact and verbal harassment, in the process of winning her love. What makes this pass for romance, as opposed to the glorification of pure neanderthal behavior, is Aamir Khan’s handsome mug. Replace him with the face on the street, and what you have is a story from the crime blotter.

Exhibit B. Hit song from the Hindi heartland. [Video] The lady is not willing. But the gent cares not. He declares that it does not matter if she pelts him with a barrage of shoes or shouts at him in the middle of the road, she will be his. And follows it up with musical molestation. Machismo has been established. The girl has been subdued.

Exhibit C. This time from the South. [Video]. Asin is a rich girl (as evidenced from the car she pops out of). She is also Westernized (as evidenced from her clothes). She gets molested. Hero, lower middle class (because the association with the target audience must be made) comes in. He scares the molester away. Going by the English subtitles, this is what he tells her: “Live life of a chaste woman. Show your beauty only to your husband. If you keep showing it to the public, everyone will be interested to sleep with you. If you come out wearing a sari, people will treat you like Goddess Laxmi. Now get lost”. Though I have not seen the rest of the movie, I am assuming that Asin undergoes a transformation after this brilliant monologue. While definitely different from the Chiltua Ki Didi narrative, it is about as regressive and as dangerous, using as it does the hero’s voice to legitimize the actions of the molester by making the victim responsible for the crime. For the street sexual harasser, this is the perfect justification for his exercise of control—”She made me do it” and its variation “I want to teach her a lesson”.

Now that we have established that there are elements of popular culture, very popular elements, that allow evil men to lionize their actions, the question is what can we do about it. The practical answer is “very little”. Censorship and banning, a staple solution for those easily outraged, is neither morally justifiable nor is it, and this is perhaps even more important, practically feasible. How do you control the content of Bhojpuri songs? How do you retroactively censor movies made decades ago? How do you wipe out decades of messaging? How do you control videos on Youtube? The short answer: you cannot.

The only way the malaise of sexual violence can be handled, in a way whose effect can be seen on the streets, is at the enforcement-side. That is in terms of higher conviction rates, the creation of an environment where complaints may be freely registered and a faster legal system that ensures that justice is dispensed speedily. Exerting social-media pressure to prevent a Bhangra-rapper, whose break-out song is a pastiche of misogynistic rhetoric culled from the songs of other rappers, from performing at one event might bring about some schadenfreude, but in the larger context will remain an exercise in futility. There will always be more from where that came from. So where do you start censoring? And, even more importantly, where do you stop?

 

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109 thoughts on “Regressive Narratives

  1. Long time reader, finally commenting today. I quite agree with you regarding the concept of heroism per Bollywood standards and its direct result in the society. There was a short movie that I saw on YouTube where in the interviewer asked a bunch of street boys right after they whistled a near by girl, as to why they did it- their answer because our heros like salman Bhai does something similar in dabaang, another guy in the group mentioned rowdy rathore and how the character cannot help himself from touching the actresses waist. So there Bollywood needs to take ownership for how the impressionable minds are impacted. Btw, where is the mighty shiv Sena, MNS on this issue- hiding?

  2. Having read the whole thing, great post. Spot on.

    I would also add that the portrayal of romance in films has undertones of rapey behavior. Like where the hero continually pursues the girl to finally have her break down sends the message that it’s the only way to get a girlfriend. Kind of like the song you posted.

    We need a cultural revolution of sorts if we want to see these behavioral trends change, but I don’t believe it will come.

  3. hell yeah – “right wing nationalists” blamed Bollywood, right?

    and left libbies, who keep quoting “freedom of expression” kept quiet, right?

    In a bid to be a fake “centrist”, I see examples from your tweets missing as well, not to forget, the media aunties who, I think, are needed for a “few recommendations’ ;), (*the Akon example, the Honey Singh example, “tu hai meri kiran” etc etc)

    Hyocrisy lives on ….

  4. Couldn’t agree anymore GB!!Have been thinking on the same lines ever since the horrific incident n then Honey Singh ban happened .However trying to suggest that banning Honey Singh from performing isn’t the right way to go,mostly invites raised eyebrows,a shake of the head and an ultra liberal moron tag which is hard to get rid of!!

  5. Come on down to Chennai and see the effect these movies have on the general populace. Not only are young boys enamoured beyond belief by these movie actors, but they secretly/not-so-secretly want to BE them. Now juxtapose that on the example you’ve written about, and you have a few hundred “heroes” “advising” girls to cover up or get molested. Most of these boys are not on social media, and even if they are, are confined to their own social circle with like-minded people. Bottom line, someone has to draw the line on depiction of verbal and physical harassment depicted in popular cinema. So amount of twittering can curb the menace otherwise.

  6. Unlike GB’s earlier post on this subject, this one is spot on. Not because it takes on an easy target. But because, from the time I’ve been watching Hindi movies (and I’m in my late 30s), elevation of an activity, that will surely pass for ‘stalking’ in any civilized society, to the status of a romantic pursuit, has been the hallmark of the first one hour of every single movie.
    Decades of this, and of course, an impressionable male teen (and which male teen is not) gets the idea that No means Yes. It is this factor in Indian movies which is sick and twisted, rather than any ‘item number’ or women in stages of undress.

    Taking down one Honey Singh or protesting against the next item number that comes out (yes, it’s only a matter of time) will not solve the problem. The makers of the stalking narratives, or the producers of misogynistic albums will have to realize that these are just not ‘cool’ and don’t sell any more. Only then will it stop.
    Did the Ranjeet-style rape scenes in Hindi movie die out because of a moral epiphany that the commercial movie establishment had, or was it because these did not sell movies any more?

    Then again, the debate that’s as old as the hills is whether society is a reflection of popular culture, or vice versa.

  7. all this, and perhaps (and in my opinion more important).. the responsibility also lies with the parents who failed to raise civilized sons.

  8. Rape :
    Rapes mostly happen in privacy. In certain places more often. rapists/victims can also be segmented according to age, race,class etc. Mostly rapists are drunk. Reasons for rape also vary. Presence or absence of certain things/qualities can help/prevent rape.

  9. Spot on. Blatant so-called-heroism depicted on screen(which in itself is a by-product of regressive societal values) and subsequent hero-worship misleads and misguides people left,right and centre. Now the question is whether stringent laws alone will prove to be a deterrent or whether strict laws along with sweeping socio-political changes are needed. But then easier said than done.

  10. For a change,why movies never show a woman pursuing a man? It’ll be different, for women never choose men on the basis of his size or looks.I’ve seen feminists falling into depression when men reject them.Another point to ponder is that pornography for women never took off since women want men to do household chores than have wild monkey sex.

    Even when in love,I don’t think chaste men/women throw themselves at the opposite sex either.They do not ‘stalk’ but ‘pursue’ their love interest and have the courage to accept rejection.

    If i see a woman dressed skimpily,i immediately label her as attention deficit. Skin show,in real or reel, is for grabbing eyeballs..

    salman khan gyrating,unnecessary titillation is not appreciated by mature and critical audience.These are for rickshawallas or those belonging to the lower middle class,who revel in such misogynistic portrayals.
    they are the ones who rape and mistreat..for all i know,they were not the ones who protested at India gate either…

    • First of all what is ‘chaste’ men/women? Who is chaste?
      Broaden your horizon. A woman, if she wears something short it can also be for comfort or/and to look attractive. If someone is going swimming you would expect them to wear a swimsuit/bikini, not a kurta pyjama. The kind of thinking you portray here is another one of the reasons why men think the women wearing hot pants are “loose” and need to be taught a lesson.
      You got all wrong ideas. Although I appreciate Salman Khan in no way at all, I have seen all kinds of educated and polished audience enjoying his song/music tamasha in kind of cinema halls that the rickshawwallas can definitely not afford. People live in ignorance, that is the real problem. They hardly understand the ideas being portrayed on the screen and grab them in a subconscious manner.

  11. These studies, though useful, hardly meet the standards of science (Feynman is better at explaining why) and I don’t think they are capable of proving or disproving much.
    Let’s say it was possible to eliminate sexual urge in all men (and I mean lust completely gone) do you think they will still pick up women and rape them because they think women are objects and can be subdued? I doubt it. Lust is the motivator of the crime that is rape. The loss of empathy that happens when men rape someone is same as when we commit any crime on a fellow human being. In some culture it is easier to commit them against women because men have been conditioned to subdue the will of a woman and see them as objects. But to say that a woman’s ability to arouse a man on the street has nothing to do with she being raped is ridiculous to me. Let those to whom being able to express their freedom (of dressing whichever way etc.) is more important than being safe believe it. It is like saying I should be free to leave my gold in my garden without the fear of it being stolen.
    Unfortunately the first line of defense against any crime is exceptional policing and not social change, which is what India should strive for.

  12. It’s a bit of chicken and egg problem. Is bollywood responsible for fostering this kind of male to female relationship, or is it merely representing and pandering to an existing psyche of the populace? Maybe they’re both feeding off each other.

    btw that bhojpuri video was disturbing – some middle aged man molesting a teenage girl. Yikes!

  13. @Anand: Women in sarees, salwars, burqas have been raped. Toddlers have been raped. How do you account for these incidents then? Change begins with you, change yourself NOW! Repeat after me: Clothes do not cause rapes, intentions do.

  14. @Anand: when toddlers get raped by their fathers/uncles/cousins/strangers,do you attribute it to the todfler’s ability to arouse the rapist with skin show???
    Its in the mind not in the dress.

  15. @Anand “Do you think they will still pick up women and rape them because they think women are objects and can be subdued?” Yes. Think about victorious armies’ atrocities. They want to destroy enemy’s possessions. They can’t rape houses, so they torch it. If you hypothesize human doesn’t know the concept of lust or sex in its current form, then they will find a way to torture women differently. that’s all.

  16. Ram,

    They want to humiliate the enemy. Since a house cannot be raped, they set fire to it. Since a woman can be given a fate worse than death (e.g. being burnt) they give her exactly that. Which explains why some women preferred burning themselves and death to being violated by the enemy.

  17. @Anand In that case are you being blind to physical abuse and domestic violence?Rape is just a medium of carrying such subduing actions.Lust as a feeling can take as far as harassment,after that it is ,as Arnab Da points out,the question of “taking the NO as YES” or “Teaching her a lesson” depending on if she is responding by not hitting back or slapping you on your face.So even if you neuter every guy,women exploitation and abuse will not cease.Targetting Honey Singh & Bollywood is just the lame and easiest way out and also the most ineffective.

    As for the gold-garden analogy,are you totally discounting the concept of law & order and morality?Sir we have passed the stone age long back.

    @Arnab Da :Spot on as usual or as we say “Vintage GB” :D

  18. @Tina: Where did I disagree with you? My basic point is: When men *motivated by lust* lose empathy with fellow beings they commit rape. Lust is the motivator and lack of empathy enables them. In most crimes (except for the criminally insane) the motivation changes but the enabler is the same.

    Given this theoretically there are three ways of preventing an act of rape from happening. 1) We try our best to prevent arousing lust in men. It can never be achieved but at least we can try not to tempt the beast inside the man. As you said, toddlers will still be raped. 2) Raise the empathy levels in society. 3) Regulate human behavior by ruthless policing by the state (what is needed now in India) or by the society (probably seen in conservative cultures).

    Coming back to the example of keeping gold behind a locked door. There is a reason why we keep what is precious away from people’s gaze because the unscrupulous among us will be tempted to steal it. If stolen the cause and responsibility of theft lies entirely on the thief *irrespective of where it was stolen from* but because in the end I stand to lose it I try my best to protect it.

    By asking women to dress in a non-provocative manner all I am asking is to protect themselves. If they don’t do so and something happens to them it is only the man who did the act who needs to be held responsible for it. In the India of my dreams even a prostitute’s rape would be dealt with the same severity as that of a nun but I don’t live in that India yet.

    With regard to Arnab’s post I was trying to say that he seems to believe that enabler is also the cause of the crime. My contention was objectification (loss of empathy) and the consequent subjugation of women merely enables the crime of rape it does not cause it.

  19. @Ashish Yes you are right, if we were to neuter every man other physical abuse and violence against women will go unabated but we aren’t talking about those crimes now, which doesn’t mean I have turned my eyes away from them. Neuter every man and the cases of *sexual violence* will drop dramatically. If that is true then you cannot separate lust from acts of rape as the post seems to be suggesting.
    The main issue that needs to be dealt with when dealing with all the crimes against women is undoubtedly that men think of women as some what of lesser beings, as objects that can be treated in perverse ways. This is not the complete picture, however, when we look at individual crimes.
    And I am sorry I was unable to understand your objection to the gold-garden analogy.

  20. @Anand,

    “With regard to Arnab’s post I was trying to say that he seems to believe that enabler is also the cause of the crime”

    This obviously escaped your attention.

    ” I am not saying that this narrative by itself creates rapists. After all Dussashana did not watch movies. The desire to control exists within, it is a basic human condition. However what the filmi narrative does is that it makes this heroic.”

  21. Another video from Telugu movie. This is although a bit edited in the end. When I first watched the movie, I cringed and had arguments with my friends that this is not romance or comedy. Replace NTR with anyone else and this becomes harassment scene where hero can make an entry and bash them up.

  22. Censorship is not the answer. And movies are nothing but a representation of what they believe the audience thinks—and hence what they can sell.
    I agree with your basic point. Indian laws regarding rape and harassment are plenty tough. it’s the conviction rate that’s embarrassingly low. That’s what needs to be improved.
    If I may go off on a tangent here, regarding the hero harassing the heroine (not raping, but annoying her). The ambit of sexual harassment is sometimes so ambiguous (telling someone a dirty joke at work or asking someone out more than once) that only women get to decide what sexual harassment is. And as you’ve put it, the “man’s mug” makes all the difference. A lot of office romances would’ve been cast off as workplace sexual harassment had the guy not been moderately attractive. This doesn’t apply to rape cases, but I’m sure people will clamor for harsher punishments for sexual harassment as well, so I decided to venture an opinion.

  23. @Arnabda Perhaps I was wrong but by reading first few paragraphs I got the impression that you are dismissing lust totally as being a contributing factor towards sexual violence. I feel due to a variety of reasons Indian men are a highly sexually repressed and frustrated lot and that it is somewhere contributing to this menace. If we keep this in mind it will help us in preventing it.

  24. Dear Mr. Ray,

    I fully subscribe to your view that Hindi movies do not significantly contribute to increase the quantum of gender-related violence in India. There may be a stray incident (of an item number inspiring a lewd whistle) here and there, but by and large, they’re exceptions, and should be treated likewise.

    However, I see that you’ve penned two posts in quick succession on the recent public outcry over the Delhi gang rape incident. And I also see that in both the posts, you’ve tried to find faults with the way things have been going. As a responsible member of the society, you could have shown a little more appreciation for the cause, which has united the country in which your parents brought you up. Extremely sorry to say this, but I’m unable to put you in a category different from Mr. Abhijit Mukherjee. Why, the first post was as bad as the dented-and-painted comment!

  25. @Anand: I wish someone would publish the statistics oh how many of the women who are raped were ‘provocatively dressed’, but I can bet that the number would be small. Don’t dilute the issue with your sill comparisons.

  26. Okay, I’m going to take flak for saying this, but here goes – I agree that lust is not the motivation for ALL rapes, but can we agree that it is the motivation for SOME of them? As Anand said above, if I leave my gold in the garden and it gets stolen, doesn’t a SMALL amount of blame come to me, even if MOST of the blame goes to the thief? I am just saying, very objectively, that women should take that SMALL amount of responsibility.

    Okay, I know this is politically incorrect. But do hear me out.

    Am I suggesting that women should wear only sarees or burqas? No. Should they wear mini skirts and shorts? Definitely! But be mindful of the time and place, and the kind of people you are going to meet. We do not live in an ideal society. In an ideal society, the gold left in the garden remains there, but we are not there yet.

    A friend was complaining on Facebook that she can walk in NYC at midnight without fear but she is scared to walk in Delhi. Delhi is not USA, is it? Not yet. Why do we have to keep pretending that it is?

    All I am saying is, when a girl comes out of a bar, drunk, at 3:00 am, wearing skimpy clothes, and asks a random car full of men for a lift, and then gets raped, then… can we put 10%… ok, 1% of the responsibility of the rape on her? To make it clear that I am not being misogynistic here – I myself (being a man) would not do such a thing (i.e. go out on the street drunk at 3 am and ask strangers for lift).

    Before you start shouting at me, see what I am saying. I am not putting the blame on the victims. I am saying, do whatever you are doing, but educate the girls ALSO (along with changing the male mindset, stricter policing, swift punishment etc.), that mindless aping the west is not safe all the time.

    Otherwise, your article is spot on. I always wondered how Govinda’s camping out in Karishma’s garden could ever be justified after she made in clear that she hates him.

  27. It’s always got to be on the enforcement side. Whatever pop culture might lionize and however much we love power over another human being, having an erection for a distressed woman is a disconnect from empathy and hence psychopathic. Every population base has individuals who are psychopathic, and pop culture censorship cannot cure it. Pedophilia isn’t culturally glorified in the educated west, yet it exists in shocking frequency. Only enforcement can tackle that.

    Objectifying/dehumanizing in the public domain/pop culture can certainly create more psychopaths whose psychopathy is isolated (extreme eg: a Nazi foot soldier working in a concentration camp, loving father but will kill Jews). But in our case I think if pop culture is to blame at all its less for the message of subjugation and more for the portrayal of the aggressor actually enjoying himself while the victim wails away.

  28. Anirban,

    In India, statistics say there is a rape every 20 minutes. How many of them happen at 3:00 AM, to drunk girls wearing miniskirts? Maybe you’re not realizing this, but you’re indeed being misogynistic.

  29. No woman should be blamed for being raped. But has it come to this that we can’t advise our wives, sisters, and daughters against walking late in unsafe areas? The moment we say that we become part of the oppressive patriarchy. To build on what Anirban said, we must not call a rape-victim responsible for the rape, but she is partly responsible for her safety. While swift police and judicial action for rape cases is a must, we shouldn’t shy away from telling women to be careful. No one is afraid to declare that a man who got robbed (talking on his iPhone and wearing a gold bracelet) in an unsafe area was being irresponsible with his safety.
    Also, a lot of rapes (not all) are about sex, despite feminist harangues to the contrary. Repressed societies that frown upon premarital sex and prostitution will have men with high libidos and no methods of assuaging them. This is not to blame any woman for her misfortune but let’s be honest.

  30. @Debashis Choudhury: You tell me, how many of those rapes happen to girls who are being irresponsibly unsafe (drunk at 3 am is just an example)? One a day? One a month? Just speak a number. I am talking about reducing that number. While you cry hoarse about social change and women’s freedom to wear whatever they want, I will also try to prevent those few rapes that happen due to irresponsibly unsafe behaviour (in addition to crying hoarse about social change and women’s freedom – I am not against that).

    @bharatwrites: My point exactly. Why can’t we speak about this without being lumped with the oppressive patriarchy? I study in a US city which is notorious for crimes, and most weeks there’s a mail from the campus police informing us of a mugging, or carjacking, or stabbing, or in worst cases, shooting incident that happened right outside the campus. All these mails end with some pieces of advise: Remember to keep your car doors locked while driving. Be aware of your surroundings. Try to move around in groups if walking on campus after daylight hours. Does that mean they are blaming the victims? What is so wrong if, in addition to everything else, women are also asked to be a little more careful?

  31. Anirban and Anand, this is a very simple thing you are suggesting, but it is fraught with so many complexities. I am always going around on the interwebs telling people, particularly women travelers, to dress appropriately for appropriate circumstances – BUT – if they do not, out of their ignorance OR their choice, it does not give anyone license to rape them.

    Let’s leave gold and gardens out of this. It reduces women, once again, to objects and property.

    Also, who decides what is provocative? If a woman wearing a very modest salwar suit catches the eye of a man who believes women should only wear burqas and he rapes her, is the woman at fault for wearing a salwar instead of a burqa? If this is outrageous to think about, then why should we blame women for wearing jeans or even miniskirts? “Provocative” is in the eye of the beholder.

    I don’t care if a woman is wearing bondage gear to do her grocery shopping. It doesn’t give any man a right over her body. If he gets excited, he can go home and take care of the situation in privacy using the hands God gave him instead of the body of an unwilling female.

  32. Andrea – I hope you understand that there is no disagreement between what you said and what I said. I never said that a woman going out in a bikini gives a man the right to rape her – I couldn’t dream of saying so. Provocative is in the eye of the beholder – agreed 100%. Besides, rapes happen everywhere – where women wear bikinis, as well as where women wear burqas. I am just saying girls should behave responsibly too. I think you misunderstood the gold and garden analogy – let’s put it this way. Let’s leave women and sex out of the equation. You have some expensive stuff that you want to protect, and other bad people (bad people will always be there) want to take from you – gold, electronics, cellphone, camera, money, whatever. So, when you are going out in a bad locality, is it more advisable to flaunt the stuff, or to hide it? Remember, women don’t come into the equation. Also, I perfectly understand that hiding the stuff may not work. I myself have been held at knife point and asked to show the contents of my bag that were hidden from public view. Still, I think flaunting the stuff is a little more unsafe. Won’t you agree.

    I have a problem with this either-us-or-them tone everyone is adopting. Heck, why can’t we have both? Ask women to be more careful AS WELL AS ask men to respect them. C’mon… girls are telling parents, “Teach your sons not to rape us.” Nobody teaches anybody to rape, and besides there will always be people who don’t have parents to teach. Rape is a crime, for God’s sake… and if you are hoping for a criminal-free society, then good luck! Do you think the six accused in the Damini case have Facebook accounts? Do you think there are no more people like those six, who haven’t raped anybody yet, but given a chance, won’t? Most importantly, do you think such kind of people will stop such crimes because of this outrage on Facebook, Twitter and blogs? Do let me know.

  33. Anirban,

    You’re a strong man. The hallmark of strong men is that they tackle the most difficult problem first, and leave the easier ones for later. In the present context, the “irresponsible behaviour” of women is a negligible contributor to gender-related violence. This part can be addressed later, after we have solved the major problems. To me, the major problem is the general mindset of gender disparity in India (Northern India more so), which gives rise to crimes like rape and dowry deaths.

    Everybody realizes the necessity of exercising caution, that is the reason why we lock our doors when we go out. But the problem in Delhi was that since many years, there was no effort from any quarter to reduce the occurrence of crimes. It was only after the public outcry, that new rules have been brought into place. It however, remains to be seen whether they work or not. If your campus police, just like Delhi Police, is doing nothing to prevent the crimes from happening, and is only working in advisory mode, they also deserve a kick on their backside just like their Delhi counterparts.

  34. What Culture and Country are we proud of where mythical goddesses are worshiped but real women are killed on birth, molested, raped, burnt in the name of dowry, eve teased, beaten on streets and in homes. There is no basic respect for women in this patriarchal society. To add to this media plays a pivotal role in shaping the mindset and attitude of the Indian Society. This film is produced entirely out of Youtube content, comprising of Bollywood movie scenes, songs, reality television clips & news reports. No content has been modified other than the original footage, news reports and songs found on Youtube. It has been edited to question the sociological impact of the shallow content on the ethos of the masses and the state of women in the present Indian society.

    Please see this till the end http://goo.gl/dhQ5C

  35. Firstly…gud article. Agree with a lot of pts there! I feel the underlying cause of such crimes is the deep -rooted misogny in indian society. This gets promoted much more by more such depictions in indian cinema.

    n Yes The solution to it..is ..i feel stronger policing n convicting in case of such crimes is the need of the hr. Fear of the law can defntly deter many such crimes. Rest Measures all can follow…

    For those who r commenting that girl needs to be careful…Thanks u v much!! let me just state some pts here.
    I m a educated , single , working female living in india…and Yes I have spent many yrs outside india…feeling absolutely safe. I have walked alone on streets in london at 4am n what not… n yes i dare not do that here in india. y, u ask…oh thats because the men here cannot be trusted that they can keep n control the stuff inside their pants.

    n No..its not jst rape that outrages me. what outrages me is how men think its their birthright to whistle, call out vulgar names, make lewd obscene signs and basically insult me as a fellow person on the street. n Oh yea..as some of u suggested…what I m wearing might be causing this to happen..so i make sure that i completely cover myself up..but does that stop any man from doing such acts.NO.
    n Yes..if i make sure i dont venture out at nite..like so many of u suggested here…but does that change things either..NO.

    Teasing n Insulting Women happens v much in broad daylight. You dont need to wait to get raped to feel voilated. A simple Obscene gesture is enough to get you worked up and spoil ur day! and yes…if u think that only uneducated , lower class people indulge in such acts…u should be out on th streets and Pls keep ur eyes very much open while doing so…I have seen highly educated, so called sophisticated men doing such acts as well..the only pt being they shud not be caught.

    People , Pls get a check on ur thought process before you ask a girl to dress up Non-provocatively, Not venture out at nte…not to be unaccompanied at any time…A woman in india tries her best to follow all these things…beleive me ..that is happening even b4 u -> the so-called brillliant minded fellow asks us to do….but even then indian men cant seem to control themselves and do not let go of a single opportunity to harass a female ! We cant stop such englightened , useless guys giving us such useless , non-relevant gyaan…what we can defintely do is have much stronger policing, much higher conviction rates and such crimes will defnitely come down!! Till then , such cases r bound to be repeated time n again. and in the meantime, would advise these liberal , educated men to keep their business inside their pants only and teach their sons the same as well!Tht will be v gud contribution u will b making towards the current indian society!

  36. GB you are bang on again, popular media most always portrays women as the weaker sex who can be controlled by rapes, lewd gestures, threats to harm them and their family members etc. etc. And we are not talking only of the 20th century Bollywood films. You try channel-surfing any time of the day and you will find more than one screen-shot of a woman being tortured, a woman crying, pleading. See, even in between a group of people who read GB’s blog (where the profile of people is surely better than the six accused in Delhi rape!)we have started a discussion about a woman’s dress. Even people of this profile think that a woman’s body parts are her assets (like Gold!), something to be preserved and protected chastely. That Fashion TV is for 50-up men and the clothes they show should be worn by the neighbour’s wife and certainly not by our wives and daughters! Is that mindset ever going to change GB? No, we will end up biting our nails when our daughters are only a little late cooming home, we will scrutinise their dress and tell them that it seems to be too tight. We will force a dupatta or a scarf to hide her cleavage, we will always keep a strict watch so that she is not left home alone with her boyfriend. We will encourage her to study as much as she wants, we will advise her to choose a good career but we will never never let her be free. For women “free” translates as “loose”.

  37. People are looking for a scapegoat to pile on and Anirban is an easy target.

    He asked women to be careful, because they are surrounded by perverts in India. He didn’t say they weren’t already careful. He didn’t say they were bringing it on themselves. He didn’t say the men weren’t to blame. He didn’t say the first priority isn’t improved policing. But then he’s the only one not reading from the script and hence should be crucified.

    The frustration and anger in the population today is resulting in emotional outbursts which will lead nowhere. A law that mandates the death penalty or chemical castration in the ‘rarest of rare cases’ will not result in FIRs being filed, better forensic investigation, women treated with dignity in police stations, rape accused sitting in our governing bodies, and of course, it won’t result in the reduction of casual sexual harrassment that women face day in and day out on the streets and in their work places.

    We have lawyers in Delhi refusing to defend the accused and pretending like they have done their bit for society. Idiots without a basic understanding of legal processes are flooding message boards to hail this as the next best thing to happen since Mahatma Gandhi.

  38. Anirban – I will try to use your analogy to explain. Flaunting valuables (gold or whatever) in the streets and then getting robbed, although not acceptable, is still a bad analogy. Plus the point is that analogy isnt even accurate here. Because according to that analogy, the inverse, not flaunting valuables would proportionally decrease getting robbed. However, that would not happen in case of rapes – which is what GB and lots of other research is pointing us to.

    Not just that, the girl that got raped which has caused the furor, was not “flaunting” anything at all. She wasn’t skimpily dressed, drunk at 3am in the morning. This is a girl who was returning from work and even had a male friend with her, but even that didn’t deter the rapists.

    And this is majority of rape cases. Women are soft targets in our society and getting exploited (regardless of what they wear). To deflect this issue with your “woman should take responsibility” garbage is despicable.

    Another example from first hand conversation. Many places, girls that dress modern/western are actually targeted less by eve teasers. Reason being they’re perceived as more confident and likely to standup for themselves and make some noise. Traditional dressed clothes bear the brunt of eve teasing a lot more. Can you explain this with your logic Anirban?

    Plus following your line of thinking is a slippery slope. Today we ask women to stop wearing skirts and not venture out at 3am. Tomorrow they will not be allowed to even wear tshirts and curfew is 10pm. Why should we change according to a rapists schedule?

  39. Well said Shubs.

    Today’s age of political correctness is not just annoying; it often prevents us from focussing on the right issues.

    Like it or not, there are always going to be perverts in society, even if you impose Sharia in this country. And all this talk of better respect for the victim and speed in passing judgement is post the crime – it may reduce but not eliminate rape and other crime.

    There is no substitute for women being more careful, as all of us are while carrying money or even while venturing to god-forsaken areas late at night

  40. Thank you Shubs. I was actually expecting most people to lash out at me, so I was not annoyed at all. I was pleasantly surprised to see a couple of people actually responding to what I wrote (as opposed to their illusion of what I wrote).

    @Debasish Choudhury: Interesting how you made the assumption that I am a strong man, and then went on to add your own definition of strong men to justify what you would do. No sir, I am not so much a strong man as a clever man, and the hallmark of clever men is that they make whatever progress they can first, and then think of the bigger hurdles. As for our campus police – I am inclined to agree with you. But my point was that being careful is as much part of the solution as the other things.

    @MumbaiMeriJaan: It is a waste of time arguing with people like you who lump blog posts with “research” (with all due respect to GB), that too when the research cited was conducted in the US, Denmark, Sweden and West Germany. But I will try.

    You have written five paragraphs with such conviction, and made assumption after assumption, without even an iota of evidence. Your personal experience part – I respect, and I believe without question. But the rest? For example, what makes you think, not flaunting valuables would not decrease the chances of getting robbed?

    Ok, Damini was not raped at 3:00 am, was not drunk, and was not dressed skimpily. I know these facts. When did I say she was? Is Damini the only girl who has ever been raped in the history of India? Did I say when women are careful, rapes will stop happening? If you think I did, please point it out. Damini was extremely unfortunate, but with all due respect, let us not lose our focus. We are looking at a bigger goal – drastically reducing the number of sexual violence cases against women. Whether Damini gets justice (not that she will get justice even if the men are hanged) is important, but it is a small goal. Look at the bigger picture here – that’s what we are discussing.

    I feel there is one important aspect in this issue that people are sidestepping. Remember, rape is a crime. There is a difference – and yes, I emphasize this point – a difference between those who commit crimes and those who don’t. I am surprised why nobody else is speaking up on this – I, being a male and an Indian, am fed up of being told for the last couple of weeks that I am a potential rapist. Just today, I was reading an article titled “Why Indian men rape” as if non-Indian men don’t. A criminal does things that a non-criminal would not do. When you see a flashy car, you think, “I wish I had that!” but you don’t go about stealing that. A criminal does. Yes, yes! I see you are thinking that I am comparing a woman to a flashy car. I am not. I am comparing what a criminal would do and what a non-criminal would do in a given situation. Coming to rapists – they are the criminal type. They will always be there in society, and that is why we need to be careful, be it with gold, money or our life or modesty. As you said, I am nobody to tell women not to go out at 3:00 am. Don’t you understand, that I am NOT the one who is telling them? It should be common sense! Would you go for a walk in the Serengeti? I wouldn’t forbid you, surely, but it is not advisable to do so.

    To emphasize my point that the criminal ones and non-criminal ones are different, I call upon GB. GB, if I remember correctly, a long long time ago you wrote a blog post in support of ogling at skimpily dressed women – as long as it was just “ogling” and not touching. Do you still hold that point of view? A person who is the non-criminal type – like all of you here (I hope), or me or GB, will be content with ogling. A person inclined towards crime is likely to cross the barrier of ogling, and those people should be punished. But we should not forget that punishment is AFTER the act, not before. For my friends, sisters, women whom I love and respect, I would focus on preventing any crime against them, not punishing someone who committed such a crime. This is what ramgun also said.

    But screw my point… you can go ahead and abuse me and put words into my mouth. I am done with this debate.

  41. All the commenters preaching on about how women need to be more careful, blah blah blah — what makes you think that we are not being careful? Do you think that, in India, women habitually stagger home drunk on the streets in the wee hours of the night? Newsflash — we are careful all the time! You have no idea how fearful all women are in every place in India when they are out in public. Honestly, it makes me sick to hear so much rubbish about how women need to keep themselves out of trouble, and not a word about how decent men could help them to keep out of trouble!
    Someone above said that women should bear ‘some responsibility’ for these crimes, etc etc. Why should they? This poor Delhi girl was just going home from a film show. What wrong did she do that she should have suffered like that? And, here is the crore-rupee question, what the responsibility of the people who committed the crime?
    And whoever brought up the gold-burying analogy — actually, why do you think it is so silly to bury your gold in the garden? If you did it on a dark night, making sure there are no onlookers, then you’d have a reasonable expectation that it would be safe. So you’re analogy is really stupid.

  42. @SB Delhi NCR is a crime hub. I lived there for a 2-years-stint with my GF (now wife). We were living in one of the posh areas of Gurgaon (DLF phase 2) just a 5 mins walk from all major malls/discs.

    Feel free to call me an agraphobic caveman as I absolutely forbade my GF to walk outside our society compound alone even during the day light or drive alone after dark. Yes it was tiresome for her to use her car even for small distances (even for grocery) or to tag me along (or her male colleagues) after dark. Yet, it was worth the hassle as we managed to return unhurt/un-scarred from India with “just” one bad incident of lewd comments on road (that time she was driving alone and her car window was not fully closed).

    So yes my heart goes for the Delhi rape victim, yet Delhi NCR is not Zurich or Stockholm to roam the street in an auto or mini-bus at 11 pm. For late night show we always used car (to cover merely 250 m distance at MG road). For people (with or without female company) not able to afford a car should be back home before 10 pm. That’s not convenient but again neither is getting molested/robbed.

  43. @S B: A quick reading-comprehension question: show me where the word “bury” has been used on this page before your comment.

  44. @aks: I hope you will not direct your anger…your frustation…your helplessness at these “educated” men who are commenting on this page and providing helpful tips at how to prevent a few rapes/molestation. You have to forgive them as they were not born in our country with a vagina that is the first and only requirement you need to have to be a victim. As a girl..as a teenager..as a women growing up in India (delhi, kolkata, jabalpur etc etc)..I have realized that we have been easy targets..My first case of inappropriate touching was when I was merely 10…properly covered from neck to ankle…heck..I was just a kid..in a public place with my parents..at broad daylight..No! as long as we have this mentality that somehow women can prevent this…somehow their dress can prevent this..somehow their behavior can prevent this..we have taken a step backward. There should NOT be a difference between a prostitute and a nun or a wife..rape is rape is rape….( I remember Julia Roberts in the movie..”Pretty Woman” telling that I choose who and I chose when”. That’s empowerment that a prostitute, even though her profession is one of selling sex can decide about it. Now of course comparing India to US is foolish..but as a women living here in The US..I wonder why? American men are not lust-less beings….why cant I go back to Delhi and walk carefree without the fear of being raped, tortured, killed?
    Now I am a mother of two sons and what I have to teach them is that no matter if you see a women naked..and unless its mutual..a NO is a NO!..anything otherwise is a rape.
    and all these men on this page..I just hope you don’t have a daughter and I just hope you are not bringing her up in our India but if you do…don’t be alarmed when she narrates to you how that man squeezed her private parts without any fault of hers! Since I am sure her first time will happen ..not at 3 AM..not drunk..not in a pub…not “inappropriately” dressed.

  45. I am not sure if I get the point here. Is the basic tenet that current and not-so-current Bollywood films and elements of our popular culture portray the act of violation of women as heroic and that can be, partially ascribed to the incidents of rape happening all around us in India ? Aren’t you (criminally) oversimplifying the whole act of rape to only the initiation of it when the perpetrator does not pay attention to the victim’s protests ? Well, in real life rape, there are things that happen afterwards that you have glossed over, shall we say ? If your thesis is to be taken with any seriousness, then the expectation would have been that given the decades of thrashing, mutilation, killing etc. of villains in mainstream Indian films who commit such acts (don’t forget Shakti Kapoor, Amrish Puri, Gulshan Grover and the likes ), the perpetrators of rape would have been deterred from committing the act. In other words, elements of popular culture make the act as heroic as they make it villainous, not that I am such a great fan of mainstream Bollywood films. To me at least, the logic seems to be deeply flawed. What is portrayed in pop-culture and what happens in buses of New Delhi and Kolkata and Bangalore and Chennai are reflections and consequences of elements of the Indian society – lack of respect for women together with lack of basic law and order that is meant to protect a citizen’s rights. Causality is a hard thing to analyze and substantiate, as I am sure you are more than aware. However, mere correlations are more easily pointed out.

    Almost as a “control experiment” in the analysis and thought process, I am curious about some other places where mainstream Indian films, Bollywood films at least, are very popular, i.e. the middle-east. I wonder if a similar number of incidents of rape occur there as well. Also, beyond the “mainstream rape events” that the media, Tweeter, blogs and Facebook choose to focus on, violation of women occurs on a much more widespread scale in the Indian society – by “affectionate” relatives, by the “caring” husband in the bedroom and by the neatly dressed commuter in crowded buses and trains just to name a few. I don’t know about the latter but the only film (not quite mainstream and not quite Bollywood) that dwelt on the former did not at all glorify it to make the act seem any heroic (Monsoon Wedding). However, that does seem to be a deterrent for the perpetrators, does it ?

    However, I completely agree with your conclusion about ways to curb it and that is by improvement of basic law and order. In fact, it seems to me that the preponderance of violent crimes on women is not that disconnected from other whole-hearted violation of citizens’ rights in India. I would be surprised if one could completely eradicate one without doing anything about the others.

  46. @Sujata: Cannot agree more with you ma’am.Thats the story of every Indian girl as we know it! For some it starts from home and for others from the streets!

  47. “If your thesis is to be taken with any seriousness, then the expectation would have been that given the decades of thrashing, mutilation, killing etc. of villains in mainstream Indian films who commit such acts (don’t forget Shakti Kapoor, Amrish Puri, Gulshan Grover and the likes ), the perpetrators of rape would have been deterred from committing the act.”

    No one cares about the villains. They do not post their posters on their walls and then rip them off and say “Shame Shame”. They do however put the posters of the Khans and the Kumars on their walls and their behavior is affected by the “hero” narrative. If you had bothered to read my piece with any seriousness, then you would realize that I have already countered your argument.

  48. I do not agree with all the above who have presented the gold-in-the-garden analogy, for however well-intentioned, it objectifies a situation which is completely different. The safety of a woman and her right to be where she wants and in what state is absolutely not-comparable to any object – it is about exactly that – human rights.

    In a place where criminals breed due to the overall loose mindset of the society, without fear of action of authorities, with implicit endorsement of the regressive people around, the solution is not to “protect” yourself. The solution is to fight back. I am going to elaborate on this, but to be clear that I feel the first line of action to curb crime and assault is better laws and their implementation and better policing. Societal change is a slow process and we cannot will all evils to go away just by asking people to be good and moral.

    However long drawn the process of evolution of the society is, there has to be a trend that indicates it is moving in the right direction. And right now, today and tomorrow, when I can only wish that the law and order was much better, being defensive is not the solution. Women (and men who support them) have to be brave and brash. Go out when you want to, wear what you want to. Show the louses it’s not their place alone. And the society will change. It’s already happening in places where people have started to accept and respect this. In better places in Delhi (the veritable ‘posh’ localities), women enjoy more freedom in what they wear and when they walk out of their homes. I’m talking about a small improvement, not that eve-teasing or crimes have reduced at these places, but men who leer and ogle at these locations have reduced taking their supposed supremacy over the female sex for granted. Along with effective deterrents of policing and law, and the realization in men’s minds that women are individuals who are entitled to the same rights and freedoms they have, things will improve. A combination of all this might make us one day say the same things about places in India what we say about women walking in the streets of London or Sweden or New York at 4 AM in the night. Mind you, we will be mistaken if we think crimes do not exist at these places, but the scale and nature is, I believe, very different from what we have here.

    As opposed to the gold-in-the-garden (GiG) analogy, I tried to think of a comparison which is more in line with the human angle. Say there are workers in a factory who are subjugated and made to work in harsh conditions. Their manager does not fear repercussions or doesn’t feel he needs to be answerable. The proponents of the GiG analogy might say the workers should take responsibility for their situation since they chose to work in that factory; they should bear the injustices meted out to them, or move to a better place where conditions are better; those who are uncomfortable with nightshifts should quit and move to dayshifts. Well, guess what happens? People protest. They form groups and unions and fight back. They demand better conditions, there are laws that enable them to do so. Some workers might choose to stay out of the fight, but that is their will and decision(All those who are thinking right now “How can you compare women to factory workers?” please relax. It is unfortunate that the concept of ‘dignity of labour’ is also a missing piece from this country’s psyche).

    Pardon me if the analogy above seems watered down as what we are talking about are far more heinous crimes and attitudes towards women. But I hope it gives a more human perspective to the situation rather than comparing them to objects that need to be protected.

    Please do not start questioning how this will prevent crimes against children, crimes by family members, etc. This is a multi-part problem, and requires steps taken at several levels, including changing collective social thinking, enforcement of laws, etc. I have only commented about how I feel women should not have a defensive approach but an aggresive one. Of course it has to be backed up with support from the enforcement agencies, and there is a risk of collateral damage here. Given the current lawlessness, those women who are not comfortable taking the risks should not be questioned either, but we should quit telling them to stay inside and cover up should they choose not to.

  49. Well written dada…

    @Sujata: When you ask why you cannot be free in Delhi but in America, I have a few reasons in mind but I think I can sum it up in the paragraph below:

    The American mindset does not make a huge deal about having girlfriends, sex etc. Guys here are better educated in that regards and hence seem to have better and civilized conduct towards women even though they maybe not be lust-less. Sex education/handling relationships/sensitivity towards the opposite gender or any individual for that matter must be part of our education and that too regularly, not just in an 8th or a 9th grade.

    Educating folks is crucial I believe that can root out this problem. Probably, such education might even result in people not being influenced by not-so-civilized entertainment. But I do not see any structured approach in dealing with that. Our current focus seems to be only on the punitive side of things (which is needed too) where we are asking for deaths/castration but not focused on any form of root-cause analysis. If we do not try to profile the demographics of perpetrators of crimes against women and make efforts to educate that entire population, preventing future crimes will be really hard through law enforcement alone. What will then happen is that you will see an increasing line of criminals waiting to be hanged/castrated.

  50. “No one cares about the villains. They do not post their posters on their walls and then rip them off and say “Shame Shame”. ”

    Exactly, and that is the point ! The part of rape that you are imagining to be incited by the so called “hero act” is only the very initiating part of it – the tip of the iceberg where the perpetrator is trying to overpower, albeit with persuasion, the victim’s protests. In the concocted picture of rape that have been conjured up sitting far from an actual scenario, this has become the main focus in your writing and you have comfortably ignored the fact that there is a far more egregious act that follows and that no “hero act” in mainstream Bollywood movies endorse. This is an act that in the pop-culture, has been strictly reserved for villains and according to you, “no one cares about”. No hero in pop-culture has ever shoved iron rods into a heroine and almost beaten her to death in the act of persuasion. And this is not just a prologue of rape that can be explained away by “with certain approximations”. This is the basic, fundamental violation of a human being in all respects. Please don’t forget that rape is not eve-teasing carried to one more step. It is much, much more. Yet, the fact that this happens rampantly must mean that these acts are not at all directly inspired by and may be even not connected to, pop-culture in any way.

    Besides all that, is the implication that the most shocking acts of rape have any traces of resemblance, physically or psychologically, to “evil men lionizing their actions” as “established” in the above “exhibits” ? Do you think that is how it all started for Tapasi Malik or the women of Kunan Poshpora ? If you actually have to write about an issue, don’t you think its worth delving deep rather than merely scratching the surface, much like the characters in your exhibits ?

  51. Very good article and the discussion is great! I have another point to make, which is the role of socioeconomic changes that are going on and greater freedom that comes with migration and urbanization. You have a large population of people from the hinterland of the country, including women, who are out and about in the major cities at all times of the day and night. The women are trying to enjoy their newfound freedom,make a life and career for themselves and find a good path in the new India.

    But you also have the badly-educated newly urban underclass from small towns and villages who are frequently exploited and are powerless to influence their destiny. You see them as bus and auto drivers and private taxi/rental operators, who are working long hours for little pay. They take refuge in a aggressive masculinity (encouraged by the movies) and feel resentful at urban women who are generally getting ahead, especially those from their background who consider them as “losers”. The act of teasing women or committing sexual molestation (and worse) on vulnerable women they come across helps them redress the (perceived) power imbalance.

  52. @Anirban: ” I, being a male and an Indian, am fed up of being told for the last couple of weeks that I am a potential rapist.”

    Very well said. Honestly, this unfortunate incident has been also used by assorted feminists to let loose their tirade against all males in general. Notwithstanding the fact that the most influential people in a boy’s upbringing are usually women (his mother and his teachers, who are again usually women in India)

    The other annoying point is repeated comparison (without data) to the US and other Western countries. US, with 1/4th India’s population, has about 4 times the reported rape cases (Wiki this up). Now, you will argue that rapes in India are under-reported. True. But even then, the multiple is 16x! That of course doesn’t mean we ignore the problem. But its important not to lose perspective and throw in random comparisons that are irrelevant at best and wrong at worst.

    The third annoying point is to link a crime like rape to general ‘equal status for women’ type pontification, again by feminists. I would rather leave this to each household on how they want to divide rights / duties / responsibilities between different members of the household. The law should step in only on evidence of crime (dowry, rape, harassment, etc)

  53. @Anirban: I hear you. But the thing is, that apportioning blame is a tricky thing. So, to use your analogy,suppose I DID leave my gold in the garden and it was stolen.Yes, Ive been stupid. I’m willing to take 10 % even 20% of the blame.
    But what does that entail ? Should I desist from reporting the case ? Should the police ignore my complaint ? In fact, should I be treated differently from someone robbed at gunpoint.
    If yes, then the victim of the crime is being blamed.
    If no, then it doesn’t really matter what portion of the blame I take.

  54. Nicely written. There’s a poem of Amitabh Bachchan doing the rounds in Facebook, supposedly written for the Delhi bus rape victim. Ironically I was watching one of his hit songs “Khatoon Ki Khidmat Mein” from “Desh Premee” a few days back and was wondering how the song made ANY sense at all. I guess Indian movies are not supposed to make any sense anyway, but how many bus drivers would have picked up and tried that song on “innocent bystanders”? Also remember how he just kidnaps Rati Agnihotri in Coolie? Where does the “hero”/”villian” line start?

    I am in no way blaming Amitabh of course. He got his just desserts by getting molested by Amrita “Dara” Singh in Mard.

  55. Nice to see a number of commenters actually taking time to think, before just repeating what everyone is expected to say. Although I do not agree with all of the statements made by TamBrahm, bishodgar, rationalsurd, etc. I do appreciate the discussion and agree with some things they said. In particular, “Please don’t forget that rape is not eve-teasing carried to one more step. It is much, much more.” – bishodgar’s statement exactly echoes what I have been trying to tell everybody – stop putting rape in the same category as eve-teasing, although both are wrong and unacceptable. It is like saying murder is just a slap on the cheek carried one more step. I also agree with rationalsurd’s statement that “This is a multi-part problem, and requires steps taken at several levels, including changing collective social thinking, enforcement of laws, etc.” TamBrahm’s observation of sex education in the West is very relevant here, something else everyone is trying to sidestep. As I said before, if rape in western countries is not about lust, that does not necessarily mean that rape in India is not about lust. We need separate studies for clearly understanding the Indian scenario.

    @ramgun: Spot-on! Rape is a serious issue and should be dealt with severely, but the media seems to be focusing on how and why every Indian man is a potential rapist, how our parents taught us that girls are inferior to us, how we, as one man, do not respect women. This is sad, considering a lot of Indian men (like me) have grown up in families where dowry was unthinkable even three generations ago, and gender discrimination is completely absent. It may surprise many if I say that if ever my parents discriminated, it was in favour of my sister and not me.

  56. @Cosmonaut:
    Should I desist from reporting the case? No.
    Should the police ignore my complaint? No.
    Should I be treated differently from someone robbed at gunpoint. No.

    Then what does that entail? You have to be more careful about your gold. Whether the police act or not is secondary, as police often don’t find stolen goods. In case of rape or murder, it cannot be undone even by punishing the culprits.

  57. Am a great fan of yours.
    I love the style, you exactly tell my thoughts…
    Some time back i had read in mint, that ours in a country which has a culture of a woman getting stripped/molested/harrassed/pawed and men around are mute spectators, drawing the reference from mahabharat, where Draupadi gets stripped only to be watched by maha yodhas, finally Sri Krishna arrives at the scene, only to supply yards of sarees , although he could have punched Dushahsana’s nose still stays aways from the attacker.
    Really difficult to say from where to begin ,how to put an end to this crime.The other day , i read your tweet about euthopian dream of indian girls carrying smart phones, etc..Really it remain euthopian

  58. @Anirban:
    “…the media seems to be focusing on how and why every Indian man is a potential rapist, how our parents taught us that girls are inferior to us, how we, as one man, do not respect women.”

    While none of us like to be stereotyped, it looks like most Indian males will need to live with the stigma for some time, especially those outside the country. It is difficult to blame the media, because unless the news is local, they are reporting from a 50,000 feet perspective. Unless they pepper their stories with disclaimers about how their story is not about EVERY Indian male, I don’t see how they can get the point about widespread misogyny in India across. While a Khasi male from Meghalaya may cry foul since his is a matriarchal society, and an educated urban progressive family’s son in Bangalore can take offence, can you really expect a CNN, or a BBC, or an Al Jazeera to bring out those nuances in a 500 word article?

    Just like stories in the Indian media talk about Pakistani fundamentalists, or Americans being obsessed with guns, or even the US media talks about violence shaping te worldview of inner city African Americans, these are stereotypes, aren’t they?

    Unfortunately, there will be people who base their views of others based on stereotypes. And the situation in India today is bad enough to be considered an emergency for women’s safety. It is only natural that you and I will be considered potential rapists for a while, at least by a certain segment of people who don’t know any better. It is the price we pay for what our country has become.
    There are many many segments of people worldwide who have lived with labels and stigma for much longer than you and I have been around, for no fault of theirs.

  59. And may I add, without trying to pander, that being stereotyped as potential rapists is a small price to pay compared to what most women go through throughout their lives – being labelled irrespective of what they do – dim witted if they don’t respond to a sleazy joke, dumb if they make a mistake while driving, bitchy if they are in-your-face, loose if they move on to another boyfriend, nerdy and mate-less if they are academically inclined, bitch if she’s the boss in office, and of course, a whole host of epithets if she’s not dressed as per our idea of how she should.
    Are all of us males like this? Of course not. Neither are women, but most live with these labels anyway.

  60. @Anirban – Ok one more try. First do you even read other people’s post or just frantically mash up your keyboard? Seriously do you?
    You responded to me “For example, what makes you think, not flaunting valuables would not decrease the chances of getting robbed?” – Actually I think exact opposite of that, which is what you’ll find if you actually read my earlier comment. So for your convenience, repeating: My point was that NOT flaunting WOULD decrease chances of getting robbed – i.e. I agree with you on this. However not wearing appropriate clothing (whatever that is according to you) WOULD NOT decrease chances of getting raped. Hence your gold analogy is invalid for explaining rapes. Get it??

    Ok so next i’ve made assumption after assumption without any evidence. And Sir where exactly is your evidence to support your gold analogy BS? And even when there’s any evidence for any claims, its unacceptable to you because its not a study conducted in india, nevermind the focus of the study was behavioural analysis, which applies to human psychology almost universally. But I’m guessing if there were a study conducted in india you’d still bitch about it with something like.. oh it was conducted 5 years back, or only considering north/south india, sample size not to your liking or something else.

    Here’s a tip : Google ‘psychology of rape’ and ‘rape and power struggle’ and don’t just read – try to understand. You will find that what you keep alluding to over and over is in fact a miniscule factor (if at all) in the context of rape. So when you say “We are looking at a bigger goal – drastically reducing the number of sexual violence cases against women.” it’s just baffling why you would then keep insisting with your ‘women should be responsible’ rhetoric. Even if it actually made any difference, its still an impediment on basic human rights of women to ask them to Censor themselves just because the police/law cannot protect them. You want evidence. Go watch that youtube video of ‘no country for women’ that someone has posted earlier. Young girls interviewed in that video are talking about being insecure about whether to wear a simple dupatta or not. I mean are you serious? A woman should not have a personality and dress according to what Men decide is permissible? Do you not understand that no matter what woman wear they will be targetted as long the law doesn’t get enforced properly. Oh wait, yea that video is so biased and made by ultra feminists.

    Common sense should prevail and yes i’d never venture out myself in delhi streets probably late at night, let alone advise a woman to do so. I agree with you on that. And women should and DO USE common sense. But if a woman decides/or has to go against this common sense and gets assaulted, its STILL NOT HER FAULT or IS IN ANY WAY RESPONSIBLE. Not even 10% responsible (this is from your earlier comment). And that’s what everyone has been trying to explain to you. I think you’re under the grand delusion that just because you put only 10% or 1% responsibility on the woman, you’re somehow better or different than the idiot minister lecturing about Laxman Rekha and Samaajik maryaada for women or the hero from the Tamil video that GB posted who puts 100% blame on the girl. Guess what, you’re not different than either of them! Your rhetoric reeks of denial and blame shifting, no matter how you polish it. You keep reusing the same BS analogy just substituting Gold with Flashy car or something else.

    Sometimes a look in the mirror helps so here’s what you’re doing Anirban.
    - State the RESPONSIBILITY and COMMON SENSE crapola – use same analogy but change little bits (eg Gold, Flashy car)
    - No need to provide any evidence as such that the theory makes even little sense.
    - If anyone counters – Claim PROOF or didn’t happen. If proof provided, find excuse why it doesn’t apply to india/indians/current scenario.
    - Repeat !

    Yes I know you WOULD find it useless to argue with me. That makes TOTAL sense!

  61. @RM
    i read your 2nd para with great feeling of deja vu.Such loosers get obsessed . I really liked the way you noticed how loosers feel low when they find someone from their background is succeeding. Seems like you have experienced such envy. would love to read more literature with similar theme.

  62. @MumbaiMeriJaan: You are right. Any study on human behaviour conducted anywhere at any time is applicable to all humans across time and space. Since I cannot argue with such logic, I quit. Thank you.

  63. @Anirban:
    “Then what does that entail? You have to be more careful about your gold.”

    So, now we’re reaching convergence. I’d say the percentage of women who go out drunk in Delhi at 3 am and flag down strangers would be about the same as percentage of people who actually leave their valuables out in the garden.

    But now that we’ve tackled the extreme case, it boils down to a discussion about how careful is careful enough.
    If I left my valuables on the bed and a burglar happened to spot it through my window as I hadn’t drawn curtains ? Was I being unreasonably careless ?

    What if I didn’t leave them on the bed, but the wannabe burglar spotted me putting them in my desk drawer rather than a steel safe ?

    At some point, you’ve got to stop telling the householder to be “even more careful” and put the focus on cleaning up the neighbourhood.

    And if the police force keep shrugging off burglary complaints with “Dude, you were just careless”, then something’s really wrong with the system. (We both agree on this)

    I’m sure you get the analogy here. I think that’s what people like Andrea are basically saying.

  64. @MumbaiMeriJaan: “Common sense should prevail and yes i’d never venture out myself in delhi streets probably late at night, let alone advise a woman to do so”

    This is the one sentence in your long post I understood. And I certainly agree. Thankfully everyone in my family (including women) understands this, without my needing to tell them so (and hence, in the language of feminists, put ‘restrictions’ on them).

    To me the matter ends there. Rest of the pontification floating around is pure nonsense. As long as there is human life, there will be crime. And most certainly there will be rape. There will be a constant effort by the State to reduce crime, and rape is no speciality or exception.

  65. Anirban, you’re right, dumb, bitchy are not labels that compare with ‘potential rapist’. But what are you going to do? Go to war against public perception? It’s the unfortunate reality. God forbid, if you find yourself in a crowd of white suburbun soccer moms who start pulling away their pre-teen daughters from your presence because they read a CNN article which shouted out “Why do Indian men rape” in its headline, what would you do? Start ranting against ignorance and media bias? You think people haven’t been in that position before? Face it, this is what it’s going to be. You saw an example of that on this message board. The lynch mob mentality isn’t hard to acquire.
    All I’m saying is that male victimhood is not exactly our biggest problem right now. I think that’s enough said.

  66. @ramgun
    I believe if we put money in research on crime prevention we can definitely reduce crime to very very low levels.

    A person wearing a google glass will be difficult to target by criminals in future as SOS will reach in seconds and private google authorised guard service will reach in few minutes to rescue.

    Thousands of people die in car accidents, but in few years it would be much much lesser thanks to technology & science.

    We can definitely outsmart the 99% of criminals.

    Plus, as chanakya use to cleanse system by using honeypots for possible problems we should adopt that and use in our neighborhoods to protect it.

  67. @ aks and Sujata – brilliantly put. I am also an enducated, working woman in India, and believe me, I already take all the precautions that “the highly educated Anirbans” here are pointing out. And it sure does not help. Yes, there will be men staring, pointing, making dirty gestures and trying to touch me (particularly in crowded places), no matter how I am dressed and even when it is broad daylight. It does not even matter that my husband is with me. So like every other woman in India, the way I walk in a crowded area is – with arms across my chest and my husband walking either in front or behind (whichever is more suitable given the place), so that I am not molested. I have been waiting for a day when I can get one of these guys who touches me beaten up in public, but they know they will be caught, so they touch and run. Mr anirban, any thoughts on this please? Would love to know your far thinking solution to this.

    So Mr. Anirban, what am I supposed to do? Not go out in broad daylight wearing a salwar kameez cause I am provocating the poor men on the street and they can’t control themselves? It is people with Anirban’s thinking (only at a more regressive level) who resort to eve teasing, molesting and rapes cause they beilieve the woman invited it. So Mr. Anirban, my advice to you – keep your gold safely locked and stop giving your regressive advice. We do not need it. As a woman in India, we learn at a very early age how not to provoke poor men who just couldn’r help themselves. But it never helps.

  68. @Rose- If you have noticed all these “educated nice folks” who are making analogies and giving helpful comments are all our fellow Indian men. My point is that if you really want to support your statement about this GiG analogy..why don’t you try to be in a crowded place wearing a burkha at broad daylight lets say noon and experience what it feels like to be a women in India!
    If anyone has followed recent election in US, the country was divided in red (republicans) and Blue (democrats). Unfortunately, India is divided in two as well men and women ( there are other divisions too but that is another topic). Being a man in India is a whole different experience than being a women. And for that someone who pointed out that their sister was treated better by their parents..that is a very lucky woman in your household..we are not discussing that here or even if we are…this percentage that makes up the Indian population is very very scarce..but can you ask this same sister…how many times her bottoms were pinched in a public place..how many times someone squeezed her without her even being provocative? If she is truthful to you then you will hopefully have a different perspective. We need Indian men like yourself..educated..affluent to be the change. As soon as you put .0001% blame on the women/victim..all our hopes of ever changing the way Indian society views/treats its women are evaporated. If people like you are trying to point a finger at the women (don’t go out at night, don’t wear this and that, save yourself like gold..etc etc) what is the hope that uneducated people will treat us better. And where will this curfew end? If tomorrow, a girl is raped at 10 in the morning..will you all then preach like that swami “shitful”..that women should stay indoors and not venture out AT ALL?
    No right? Law and order and the sense of justice is missing in our society by large. Once the cops, rapists, people etc are made answerable for their actions, crimes..atrocities against women will hopefully reduce.

  69. There is only one fitting response to all the “need to understand that women bear some responsibility, even if it is just 0.1%” crowd.

    People with this mindset DEFINITELY bear way more than 0.1% responsibility for the rapes that are happening at any given time.

  70. This came out today in the new york times. The last para is very pertinent to all this discussion happening here:

    “But rape is not inevitable, like the weather. We need to shelve all the gibberish about honor and virtue and did-she-lead-him-on and could-he-help-himself. We need to put responsibility where it lies: on men who violate women, and on all of us who let them get away with it while we point accusing fingers at their victims.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/08/opinion/after-being-raped-i-was-wounded-my-honor-wasnt.html?_r=1&

  71. @Jernau Gurgeh

    Spot on!

    Hear that Anirban, Ramgun et al? That is what the much maligned feminists and journos mean when they say that all Indian men are rapists. Rape is not just forcible intercourse, it is control. You wish to control females “for her own safety” while expressing sympathy and making the correct noises for law enforcement. Rapists also feel that they taught the victim a lesson for her own good or that she was asking for it anyway. Please read Sujata’s article and the one it links to.

    Forget the recent case and what will happen to the perps. As long as men like you exist, all Indian men WILL be considered rapists by any civilized human being (feminist or otherwise). Read my first para again when you feel bad about it.

  72. @Sujata: The problem is not with the claim that it some situations women bear some responsibility for the rape. The analogy is not totally wrong, as some people are claiming.
    The problem is that all too often, its used to put ALL the responsibility on the woman in ALL cases and let the rapist go free – as seen by the recent retarded comments by Asaram bapu.
    This is a classic case of a slippery slope argument, which is very dangerous in such cases.

  73. Anirban, I think it has been well established here by our good friends that you are, in fact, a rapist. My suggestion: take what remains of your dignity and RUN. Do NOT try to reason with a mob.

  74. @Rose & Sujata

    Poor Man/woman ratio, bad law & order situation & Alchohol are some of the reasons for so much harrasment. North India also needs role models and reformative cultural icons.

    If Amitabh & Anurag Kashyap decide to make hindi & bhojpuri movies with social message, it would definitely work.

    • The match was held because Indians bought tickets, Indian channels bought broadcasting rights and Indian sponsors hoped for publicity. If Indians continue to be deluded enough to think that this “people to people” nonsense somehow prevents these attacks then we really have ourselves to blame. This is OUR collective weakness. WE get our hopes too high with all these useless feel-good initiatives that only fill the coffers of the BCCI and leave us disappointed. The GoI did not hold this (or any other) cricket tournament.

      In an ideal world Indians would simply peacefully ignore Pakistani cricket players, performers, writers, write to the sponsors of these events et al. But we cannot sacrifice our own enjoyment and want the soldiers to make the supreme sacrifice for us as we sit and listen to Ali Zafar and read Moshin Hamid.

  75. The problem with the premise that the dress, appearance and conduct of women are “provocations” for rape (as if no women were raped a hundred years or more ago), is that this logic can be extended to defend robberies and burglaries as being provoked by the purchase of expensive items, cars etc, and then on to all forms of crime. Error of judgement is NOT an offence. If I wander alone at midnight in unsafe localities wearing expensive clothes and flaunting expensive cameras and electronic stuff, it might be an “error of judgement” or even stupidity, but can in no way justify any incidental mugging or robbery.

  76. The feminist hijacking of the post-rape discourse is pathetic. Any reaction, that doesn’t compete with the other in villifying more (or all) men more is pounced upon. Any attempt to meaningfully think about how rape can be reduced or eliminated is painted in a ‘he versus she’ framework or trashed as ‘defending the rape / rapists’.

    On the other hand, if you wave a placard and shout ‘hang the rapists’, ‘castrate them’, ‘push the same iron rod down their intestine’, you are politically correct and this is hailed as the ‘Great Indian awakening’.

    Absurd situation. It is almost as if feminists care about the safety of women less, nor do they feel for the victim. Instead, they want to further their own agenda of ‘woman’s liberation’ (whatever that means) using this unfortunate incident as a springboard.

  77. Ah! Finally your site renders so beautifully on my android! No more pinch-magnifying or screen rotating. Pleasure reading your blog, Great bong!

  78. blog looks good. Though commentators names are less visible and noticeable now. And icons with weird geomatric shapes seems bigger.

  79. in my opinion the debate on this thread can be summed as:
    side 1: is arguing from the point of view of “how things should be in an ideal world”.
    side 2: is stating the POV of “how should one behave given an imperfect world”.

  80. when and why do you think Indian society changed from one that respected women as devi’s (as depicted in scriptures), one that was open about sex and studied it as a science (as depicted in various books, carvings in temples, etc) to what it is today. I know this was a gradual change spanning centuries but is there an event that caused such a fundamental change in mindset …

    • I don’t think Indian society ever respected women, This Devi/worship business is also a form of objectification which holds women to impossible standards and denies them the freedom to just be human (while men will be men, boys will be boys etc). We like to think that those were the “good-ole-days” so that we can blame some interloper (mughals, british … ). In the light of what has happened, the less we discuss the Great Indian Society and treatment of women in the Glorious Days the better!

  81. I have a confession to make here. I instantly became your fan after reading an age old post about Dada. Thankfully, you still update your blog and write potent stuff. Thanks and keep it up

  82. Some thoughts:

    1. It’s very hard for men to empathize with what women go through. This analogy might help. Assume you take a route to office everyday and one day you find that there’s a dog barking furiously at you. What do you do? You will change your route. Women go through this everyday. Whatever route they take, they face stares(like barking, there is no physical effect but it does instill a fear), lewd behavior, touching, etc. I too was not aware of this till a female colleague of mine told that she avoids public transport and prefers personal private transport because of this.
    2. It might be hard to believe for some but skimpy clothes do induce lust(Ask the directors of films which have item songs) Just like there are undesirable human emotions like jealousy, anger, so is lust. Of course, that doesn’t *justify* rape. And nor have I come across evidence of evoking of lust due to provocative dress leading to higher likelihood of rape. My reading is that: it is a case of a woman being in a vulnerable state(wrong place, wrong time and among wrong set of people) rather than her dress.
    3. The right way to behave with female strangers is not to act as if they were your sisters/mothers(you won’t be able to get married), but to behave with them like you behave with your female colleagues at work.
    4. The right to wear what you want is analogous to the right to say what you want(as long as it contains no call for imminet violence). But, there are a few who support the former but don’t support the latter.
    5. Some people have the all-men-are-rapists attitude.How is this different from all-muslims-are-terrorists attitude?
    6. The act of a woman wearing a provocative dress while others wear more traditional ones could be construed as spatial striptease(my coinage) as opposed to a conventional striptease(a temporal striptease). Of course, this doesn’t justify anything.

  83. Exhibit D: In the Amitabh-Shotgun movie Dostana, Supercop Bacchan not only lectures Zeenat Aman who has dragged down a street Romeo to the police chowki by the ear (I just love her for that) for arousing the poor guy with her bikini, he goes on to sing an entire song mulling over the question of “who’s responsible? Who needs to be punished?” The lyrics of the song compare her to a statue in Ajanta, accusing her of being “dressed, but just about so” and her harasser is described in kinder terms like “manchala”, “diljala” who is almost a helpless victim of her charms.

  84. In my opinion and personal experience, clothes have no role to play in a harassment/molestation/rape. I have faced unwanted stares and advances in my loose fitting salwar kameezes more often than in my jeans. Most perverted men think a girl clad in traditional attire is an easy target. You know how we love stereotyping people, thinking a traditional girl is a bechari and too timid to raise her voice.

  85. Arnab, as with most of your posts I liked this one, found it relevant and poignant.

    But there is one point where I don’t think I agree anymore (I mean, I thought I agreed before, now after reading up a bit on that, my position has sort of shifted)

    The section I have some issues with is where you state that rape is not about lust but rather more about the control.
    “What the perpetrator is getting off on is not the sex, though perhaps he also thinks he is, but the exhibition of his absolute God-like power over someone, whose defining choice, the choice with whom to have sex, has been taken from her. “

    I have neither been a victim nor a perpetrator of sexual violence. For me to feel the trauma the victim undergoes, is possibly beyond me. I can probably understand and empathize the extent of the trauma, but that is about it. Similarly, it is very difficult for me to get into the head of a perpetrator of such a crime. I recognize the underlying “reasons” for the act, but cannot connect the dots in his mind that ultimately leads him to commit the act.

    I’ve read a lot about how the “sex” part has to be taken out of a sexual assault, and treat that crime as you would any other. But you see, even the act is called a “sexual” assault. You cannot take the sex out of rape. The perpetrator is getting “high” on the sex part of his assault. I think we need to acknowledge that.

    Read through this, if you want to, might make you reconsider your position => http://maggiemcneill.wordpress.com/2010/09/24/out-of-control/

    My overall stance on the whole issue (which I believe matches yours):
    - Stop blaming the victims. Period.
    - Enforce the laws and rules to the strictest level. Apprehend, prosecute and imprison, in a reasonably amount of time
    - We live in civilized societies, so a call for public hanging is as barbaric as the initial act itself.
    - Lastly, somehow (god knows how) decrease the sexual frustration among Indian men (which calls more a much broader discussion in itself)

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