** 2018 Relaunch Edit: This was originally the second part of a post I wrote in the wake of “yet another gang rape in India” and has been edited to be a rant at all the things – off the top of mind – that comes to mind when it comes to things that I believe need to change in the motherland, aka India. Please know that me saying this re: India is not somehow negating the complete shitshow effery that abounds in America (my level of shame for my country right now – & under its current leadership especially – is immeasurable).
In India, basically EVERYTHING needs to change, & I am sorry (not actually sorry), but I have very little hope for the motherland, because when you have that many people all subscribing to a culture that is so deeply entrenched in devaluing women, it would require a Gandhi-esque movement to really change things. The sad thing is that back then everyone “saw themselves” in Gandhi when it came to being oppressed by the British, but they are unable to do the same when it comes to the social condition of women. Anywho, where to start…?
Ermm… in no particular order…
Okay, the dowry system for example is a great place to start; sure, technically, it is illegal per the Dowry Prohibition Act in 1961, but matrimonial ads still allow parents to list how much they are willing to “spend in a wedding” (read: spend on a wedding AND give in dowry), every dating website and ad still lets you list your caste as if that has some real meaning or relevance and wives are still killed by their in-laws or husbands due to failing to pay an acceptable dowry …
Then there’s the fairness cream craze which needs to be completely eradicated, because it perpetuates the idea that women especially do not have value beyond how they appear to men (because let’s keep it real, the only reason anyone cares about being fair is so they can qualify themselves as “fair” vs. “wheatish” or the even more dreaded “dark” in a matrimonial ad and because they know this one quality is desired more than any other)….
& do not even get me started on Bollywood movies… I am a huge “Bollywood fan,” but in a society where a child living in a slum is more likely to know Shahrukh Khan than the Prime Minister of India, Bollywood is by far the #1 influencer of the social condition in India. Therefore, Bollywood movies need to stop teaching men that, as SA Aiyar puts in this great article on the topic, “if only you harass a woman enough, no matter how often she says no, she will ultimately say yes.”
Seriously, I have heard this from so many girls in India that this is the modus operandi of many – if not most – men in India… to annoy, pester, show up, write love poems, stalk on Facebook, SMS incessantly… all in attempt to “win” the heart of the one they desire. Speaking of Bollywood, the item girl concept also needs to go away. Believe me, I like – actually love – “item girl” songs for their catchy beats and awesome dance moves, but the fact that Bollywood’s leading ladies are okay being called an “item” (an object to be looked at, possessed, had) and most item girl songs involve very “exposed” women thumping their chests and doing pelvic thrusts as men seemingly no different than animals paw at and grope them, well… I will let you figure out the correlation between them and rape culture.
More than anything else, Indian women need to get their minds right. The female foeticide issue is not one in which only domineering husbands are having their wives abort their female babies (note: ultrasounds to determine the sex of a child are prohibited in India but there is a huge black market for them); women are equal – if not near equal – participants in this. Women themselves value male children far more than female children; the latter are celebrated, special prayers are done and gifts distributed in celebration of them, and mothers literally worship their male children, but female children are not celebrated, valued or treated in the same way. Instead, more often than not, they are treated like second-rate citizens – subhumans – who are a “burden” to their families.
Another thing when it comes to Indian women, PLEASE (for the love of God) STOP WORSHIPPING MEN. Seriously, what the bleep?! From young girls fasting for “good husbands” (uh, have you ever seen a man fast for a good wife??), to the one-sided festivals of Raksha Bandhan (sisters pray for blessings for their brother and brothers promise to keep sisters safe perpetuating that girls cannot protect themselves) and Karva Chauth (where women fast from sunrise to moonrise for the safety and longevity of their husbands) to women wearing white (leading a colorless unadorned life) after their husband’s passing, Indian women are the primary contributors to the perpetuation of misogyny in our culture. Traditions and festivals are great – I am personally a huge fan – but certain traditions either need to stop entirely or evolve; for example, sati – when a widow would immolate herself on her husband’s funeral pyre – was also a “tradition,” but thank goodness we actually got rid of that one!
Lastly, to all Indian people in general (as well as anyone from any other culture that partakes in this unfortunate mentality), please stop giving your daughters the incredible burden of being the “izzat” (honor) of your family. Indian daughters who are raped or are no longer able to tolerate the abuse from their husbands commit suicide or are killed by their own families – in lieu of “bringing shame to the family” – because of this outrageous expectation and it HAS. TO. STOP. NOW. Yesterday actually, but now will do just fine.
I know a lot of people will be furious at me for portraying our culture in such a negative way, and although this disclaimer should have perhaps come at the beginning of my ranting, I have insane amounts of pride for the motherland. I have been obsessed with India since I was a little girl, visit often – I even attempted to settle their permanently – and I always talk about my “mis-janam” (mis-birth – both made up words by yours truly) being born in America instead of India, because there is so much I am enamored with. There are infinite things that are beautiful, wonderful and exceptional about Indian culture; however, this post was written because another one of our own “daughter/sisters” (something I have come to realize most people like to say but really do not mean) was brutally raped just 8 months after the same was done to another daughter/sister.
In light of that, I hope you can forgive me for what I said because I do not ever want to fear visiting India (I have traveled the country alone much to the dismay and horror of my family) nor do I ever want to advise my nieces or future daughter(s) to not do as I have done, because it is “unsafe” to visit India.
On that note &, as always, thanks for reading,