On a TV show discussing if child marriages are kosher, I realized I should not have been there in the first place. It was like discussing if waterboarding, maiming or beheadings were a laudable method of bringing societal change. There can be no discussion when one party justifies violence of any kind using any stretch of excuses or beliefs. Child marriages are violence. Things got worse, as they inevitably do on talk shows. A political party representative, a man, brought up Pakistani film actress Meera, and said he didn’t want a country where women like her defined standards of morality.
The speed at which men of politics mudsling women in the entertainment industry on any topic beats the time between announcement of food at Pakistani weddings and what happens to the korma and biryani treys nanoseconds later. This is also a kind of devouring and indulgence. The grossness of it is the same, the repercussions however much more dire for women everywhere.
This is sadly a South Asian phenomenon. The first one at least.
A Communist Party of India (CPI) leader has blamed a Bollywood actor, Sunny Leone and her new contraceptives advertisement for the rising rape cases in India. For a country with a massive overpopulation and under-poverty line existence problem for millions, it could possibly not be the condom ad he could want an end to. For Atul Kumar Anjan, the target was Sunny Leone.
Let us examine why.
As women who have complete command over their sexuality, these women horrify men who make it their business to govern the general construct of society. Where men call the shots; make decisions on political and familial scales that have no input from women and certainly don’t bring out in the open that there is this pervasive thing called sex where, frankly sexy women call all the shots.
A sexually liberated women is the epitome of a vulnerable heterosexual male – it undoes false machismo, masculinity and above all forcefulness. In his attempt to keep a second-to-none facade his empire tends to crumble at the sight of toned thighs. It becomes a threat to the concept of a state and its social order.
Rape signifies a malafide attack on the very concept of women’s sexual prowess. A putting in place so to speak. A tool used over centuries to settle feuds, wars, disputes and petty grievances men have against men.
It is criminal if not absurd to say that with advertisements like the one Sunny Leone acted in, there is no bar on what rapes happen as a consequence. This is like blaming the gas pedal for head on collisions. This downright refusal to acknowledge that there is a space between a stimulus and a reaction is the very basis on which civilizations after civilizations have built bloody empires. This war on women needs to stop. This attempt to single out one kind of woman, be it Meera or Sunny Leone, from the rest needs to be rejected in its entirety. It is the very essence of a woman’s choice that is under attack, today it is sexuality and tomorrow under its garb it could be child marriage; divorce; inheritance; education and mobility. Oppression is oppression under any new or shortened name. Tempting as it is to strike at the softest target it is not measured, only disgraceful.
Even more so because the Delhi bus rape case has not washed off our memory horror. Nor have we forgotten the sexism it exposed in South Asian society when victim-blaming statements poured in about how she was asking for it for staying out late. One would think the brutality of that rape would unfreeze any putrid rot of sexism from society, instead it only refined it though politicians who tell people how to think.
No amount of perceived or deliberate provocation from a woman can absolve blame from a man for a breach of consent in the act of rape. None. Ever. This concept is difficult for south Asians to wrap their heads around but we can start by calling out politicians that deliberately flame the rape culture and glorifying the crime itself by shifting the blame from the perpetrator to the victim.
It is the very passivity against these reckless statements that allows sick old men to trivialize the dehumanization of women. Every girl child is coached to slouch, hide under covers, ignore gropes and eve-teasers and beware of the passions of men who will after all be men. Well it is time to expect men to be more than invertebrates. Let us demand those that are not to grow some spine.