Monday, June 22, 2009

The Discussion So Far on Rape

My blogpost has attracted heavy criticism and comments which has prompted me to do this new post. Much water has flowed downstream in the interregnum including the alleged rape of a maid by a successful Indian film star. These days 25 per cent of Indian newspapers are filled with shocking disclosures of one rape case or the other. Recently another girl was taken for a good time by her boyfriend and gang-raped by him and his friends.

I fail to understand where I have laid the blame on women for being raped because they deserved it in the above post. The following is the comment I have made, note especially the use of the word “approve”: "So actually I also do not approve of sexily clad pop singers and their many imitators I see around me." That I don't "approve" (Blame my age and my conservative upbringing for this. After all, it's my blog, isn't it?) doesn't mean I am implying that their act of dressing sexily has invited the rape. In fact it’s women who dress ordinarily who get raped, women who dress provocatively are too smart to be taken advantage of. So where’s the question of my saying “they were raped because they dressed provocatively?” What I was implying was that a man (with his ancient, chauvinistic and libidinous outlook) when he sees an almost naked pop star on television and walks out and sees a few provocatively clad women (newly liberated, progressive, smart) he gets aroused. What next? He exercises his dominant male power over another woman (a powerless, probably minor, vulnerable, very un-provocatively dressed, financially challenged a la the maid in the alleged Ahuja rape case).

Why do men do this? Good question. But a difficult one to answer. However, I will give it a try.

The answer may lie in the difference in the sexuality of men and women. In the testosterone-charged workplace of today, where more men wield power than women, the latter are at a disadvantage and if she wants to make any progress, the choice put to her by the men are obvious. So the male film/commercial director or dress designer who asks the actress/model to bare knows she will do it. What then? Instead of condemning and fighting the exploitation of women, they take this as a sign of their progress. So the bolder the better; the more provocatively dressed, the best.

Commenter here have deliberately twisted what was my "disapproval" or what I thought was not appropriate to label me as anti-women and postulate that I believe that the women were asking for it. Not true. What I was offering was a considered view deduced from much soul searching, and not a bias against women. In the cases I mentioned in the blog post one was a servant or maid and another was only dressed for shopping in the mall. Come on guys and gals, do not impute meaning and twist words and implications without reading my post.

This is what I wrote in a reply to a comment: "I understand your concern. Society [Please note, I wrote "society" and not "women"] itself is to blame for making womenhood into an abhorrent word, to be abused and taken advantage of. Emancipation has come with more women working, but also the abuse continues in them being portrayed negatively as "sex objects" in films and videos (Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez, Beyonce, etc.) which has taken the level further down instead of up. Women who imitate these icons are following a stereotype instead of breaking away from it. So actually I also do not approve of sexily clad pop singers and their many imitators I see around me."

My critics on the blog has substituted "women" for "society" on the double and then proceeded to comment without reading any further what I wrote about "emancipation" and "sexual stereotypes". Not done. One even wrote in a rejoinder, "There’s a potential rapist in our midst." I am aghast!

Agyatmitra writes: "Also your whole argument puts the onus on women? Ironic. It is like saying people who are rich invite decoity/murder. It is saying women are to be blamed for prostitution because they do not take a stand. It is blaming a child for making a mistake for being abused by a teacher/parent."

You know what an "item number" is in Bollywood parlance, and what is the meaning of "item"?
"Item" in this case, if you don't already know, is a "sexy bold woman". You know what, there are many actresses who specialise in doing "item numbers". Have these sexy dancers ever voiced their concern at being called an "item"? In fact, has anyone from the feminist brigade? Why aren't they campaigning for the removal of the word from movie magazines and other trade publications?

Why Bollywood alone, in every Indian linguistic culture a beautiful woman is called "maal", "item", "charakku", "phataka", etc.

“Thu cheez (thing) badi hai mast mast,
Thu cheez (thing) badi hai mast.”

(You are an alluring thing, yes you are!)

I didn’t see any protestations and demonstrations after this song became a big hit. It is this mind set that has to change and it is not happening because even men who sympathise with the cause and want to discuss and remove the cobwebs are branded chauvinists.

Follow up comments on this post, not on the old one. I would like the discussion to go further than my old, narrow-minded, probably ossified mental confines.

2 comments:

Vallath said...

I don't think you understand rape. If I understand correctly, you're implying the scantily dressed women turn men on who needing an outlet rape the more modestly dressed, presumably weak women.

You also said, at least, understand a man's sexuality, and try to avoid the most obvious way of exciting his libidinous feelings. which further proves that you think a woman's dressing (not necessarily the victim's) contributes to rape.

Young boys, children, women in Saudi/Iran (where there is no scope for provocative dressing), boys in US (where most girls are dressed 'provocatively' by Indian standards) do all get raped. Rape is an act of perversion not committed by civilised men. The ability to control one's sexual urges is a mark of one's civility.

Assuming what you are saying is true, if a man is so easily provoked by a woman skimpily dressed, then the blame still falls squarely on the man's shoulders for being unable to control himself. Absurdly enough, men nationwide would turn rapists after watching Western movies. Are you recommending censorship then? Do you see how absurd your logic is?

Clothing is a personal choice which is what conservatives world over don't understand. You may not approve of other people's style and that's your personal choice. But it is unfair of others to force you to approve of their sense of dressing just as it is unfair for you to expect the world to dress by your standards.

John said...

Vallath,

I love your comment, because I love comments on my blog.

But you have again misunderstood the very premise of my post.


"You also said, at least, understand a man's sexuality, and try to avoid the most obvious way of exciting his libidinous feelings", yes in the future when women are going to be the dominant sex, by all means dress as you want and let men and his sexuality be damned. But so far as men are the more powerful at least give him the benefit of the doubt and understand the way his brain and his loins function, that was my considered and, maybe, biased and chauvinistic view. In that case brand me an MCP and move on.

I know I may lose many women friends and readers but I was trying to give voice to the feelings of many men who were unnecessarily provoked in the office and business environment by women who dressed in minis, stilettoes,plunging necklines, etc. I am talking of the formal environment of the office and not the disco.

I guess these women were making a statement for boldness and forthrightness but all the negative feelings got conveyed.

If men can dress conventionally and formally in the workplace why can't women, considering in the work place too men hold the reins of power.

So, to sum it all, as long as men hold all the power in social interaction women should give his sexuality a wide berth by dressing acceptably and at least without provoking the animal in him.

I have lived both in the Persian Gulf and India and I don't find any difference in men's or women's sexuality in both these countries. In fact, women in a Gulf country in which I lived had misused their power to rape a helpless Indian youth repeatedly,without his consent. He couldn't do anything for fear for his life and had to run away and work as a labourer. Your view of giving a carte blanche to women to dress as they wished without any restrictions is both flawed and meaningless and smacks, to my ossified senses, of lack of understanding and an already coloured view.

J