Many of you know by now that another young woman was gang-raped in India. This time it happened in Mumbai, which is known for being a safe metro area (in comparison to Delhi, for example), so people are reeling in shock that it happened in their city on the street they travel so frequently as opposed to the gang-rape of the rape victim in Delhi several months ago. People of South Asian descent are also understandably saying that they are ashamed of India and that they expect better of the motherland.
What I want to say is that I am NOT ashamed of India nor do I expect any better of the motherland, because gang-rapes are not exclusive to India (an 11-year old was gang-raped by 18 men in Texas last year). Instead, I am shameful of humanity and expect better of people – you and I included. Yes, you and I contribute to rape culture and the devaluing of women, which is ultimately why rape and all violence against women happens. Before I go on, if you do not know me or my story, I am writing this as a South Asian woman in the context of having been a victim of violence – domestic violence – last year and more of my story is at the end of this post.
Anyway, I am personally sick and tired of the outcry and outrage – even my own – that follows any highly public incident of violence towards women, because it is easy to post something on Facebook (I do it all the time), but to live your life and demand that others do the same in a way that actually changes anything is an entirely different story – one that most are not willing to sign up for. Why not? Well, because it requires a whole lot of work, effort, getting comfortable with being uncomfortable (being able to tolerate the dreaded feeling of “awkward”), and not doing what the masses do (which is usually nothing), and – more than anything – it requires people to really care about anyone other than themselves beyond their “popular caring” on Facebook. “Popular caring,” as I like to call it, is easy as demonstrated by anyone capable of using Google can outcry [insert horrific offense against humanity] or post a Gandhi (“Be the change you wish to see in the world”) or MLK (“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”) quote. *Rolling my eyes thinking of some of the people who popular care and post their quotes and what kind of people they are in real life.*
Let us be honest… what most people care about is their own lives being good and when they hear a story like this (something many resent having to even hear about because it’s not “positive” and all sunshine and roses), they momentarily feel distraught over what happened, but they count their blessings that it did not happen to them or someone they love and continue life as they always have, because they are not capable of seeing themselves or someone they love in that victim.
The following is what I believe needs to happen in an effort to dramatically and drastically change the position of women (which is clearly subhuman considering all the acts of violence that happen against them) – both in India and in the world in general – in no particular order:
We need to stop being desensitized to the suffering in this world and living our lives with blissful happiness because our own lives are good. Nothing will change until we really start living our lives with the mentality that “what happens to one of us happens to all of us” (my personal motto). I genuinely live my life this way, and I vow to never be – more like I am incapable of being – 100% happy as long as children are starving and women are gang-raped or are victims of violence anywhere. In spite of the domestic violence situation, I have lived a mostly charmed life simply due to the luck of the draw when it came to who I was born to and where I was born and many are not so lucky, so I resolve to take personal responsibility for improving their lot in this world – in whatever small way I can – as my rent for having lived such a charmed life.
Many people with a similar upbringing as mine feel so entitled and are blissfully unaware of their privilege compared to others dealt a less fortunate lot. They talk about their “hard work” as if their parents’ efforts did not set them up for the kind of successful and comfort-filled lives they are living. They talk about people on welfare and food stamps condescendingly with no thought to what a vicious cycle most people who have to use these kinds of public aid systems are a part of and are unable to wrap their tiny little brains around how we are where we are because 99% of us never had to worry a day about having a roof over our heads, a place to sleep to eat, or having something to eat. Worse than that, nothing in their existence suggests that they are doing anything to improve anything for these folks or anyone other than themselves, and the only thing they are good at is complaining that their “hard-earned tax dollars going towards” the services “these people” use.
These are also usually the people who “hate drama.” To them, I have to say “who, in their right mind, likes drama in their own lives??” Sure, some people like gossip and drama shows, but no one likes their own life to have strife, discomfort, pain, suffering, loss or whatever you decide to deem “drama.” Therefore, when someone is going through something and your response is to dismiss their situation by saying, “Ugh, I hate drama,” what you are really saying is, “As long as my life is okay, I am good, and I will excuse myself from having to care about your life and everything else in the world by saying, ‘I hate drama,’ because most people who are like me will respond, ‘Yeah, me too.'” To people like that, I say god seriously bless you and I truly hope that one day, you or someone you care about never has to go through anything that someone else will deem drama in your time of need.
Sorry, I digressed on this one, but until we genuinely see ourselves or those we love (it should not require either, but “happening to a human being” usually isn’t enough) in the girl being raped – whether it be by a gang or one person – and other victims of violence and the infinite atrocities in this world, our apathy contributes to these atrocities happening. One day, your daughter could visit India or go to a high school like Steubenville high or basically do ANYTHING – like simply breathe and exist on any street anywhere – which could result in her being raped, and if that bothers you, then stop your outcrying and actually start doing something that makes the situation different. Note: ^^ being said, your relation to a person should not be your impetus for caring; it should come from not wanting these things to happen to ANY humans.
We need to stop seeing women – and worse, women need to stop seeing themselves – as objects and ornaments to be possessed (“arm candy, trophy wives,” etc). Currently, the implicit – sometimes explicit depending on where you live – understanding is that a woman does not have value unless she is desired by the male population to the point of one man ultimately wanting to be with her for the rest of his life. Seriously, how many women do you know who feel like they have or are perceived as having failed at life because, in spite of their multiple degrees, successful careers, high-paying salaries and great-by-all-standards lives, they are not married? Why is that even a thing?? (& do not get me started on how much of a thing that is in the South Asian community where women are encouraged to become as highly educated as humanly possible but then at 25/26, there is no greater achievement than finding yourself a groom).
We need to stop raising our daughters to be “princesses” (particularly the kind which need to be rescued by a male “hero” – 98% of all Disney princesses) and “dolls” (unless you think your daughter is a plaything or worse, something to be put in a glass case and displayed) and stop “oohing” and “awe-ing” over young girls whose entire existence revolves around what they wear, being pampered divas, and being liked by boys. That is NOT cute. What is “cute” and awe-worthy is “smart, strong, capable, perseverant, thoughtful, successful and girls can do anything boys can” and we should hope that every girl can be like this force to reckon with.
Stop raising misogynistic douches. You might think you are not raising one, but you very well may be. For example, when you tell your young son to stop “being a girl” when he cries or say he throws “like a girl” when he fails to meet your throwing standards, you are teaching him that being a girl is an insult… an inferior quality that one does not want to be. Parents of young boys, please make sure you actively educate your young sons (most of all, by how you treat and speak about women) – even if you do not have any daughters and perhaps in the hope that your son will not be the failure-in-parenting that were the Steubenville boys who took pictures of a girl being sexually assaulted and posted them to Facebook or who treats his girlfriend as a possession or abuses his wife one day. Instill the belief in them that women are equal to them, fully capable, and as smart, strong and worthy of every and anything afforded to a man.
We need to stop qualifying the atrocities against women. The story is certainly more horrific – and generates a lot more buzz and far more “popular caring” outcries – when a woman is “gang-raped,” but every minute of every day, acts of horrific violence are committed against women. Rape by one man against one woman is not any less of a crime and an atrocity against humanity than a rape by many men against one woman. The latter disturbs us more, but why are we not outcrying “that things need to change” for the women who are raped every single day or the women who are beaten by their husbands and killed by their boyfriends (nearly 1 in 3 women is a victim of intimate partner violence)? If it’s not a “good” (gruesome) story, why do we not care as much? Also, it is the “small (insidious) things” that we do not consider to be assault or rape that ultimately result in rape culture – the butt pinch/pat/smack, the pressing against on the crowded subway, the snapping of a bra… these things are ALL harassment and assault and need to be understood & called out as such.
We need to stop rejecting feminism. Nowadays, if you are a “feminist,” you are one of the seemingly crazy of this world because the word has so wrongly been misconstrued to be “anti-men” when nothing could be further from the truth. Feminism believes that men are more evolved than their biological/carnal impulses and desires and capable of restraint, empathy, compassion and care; patriarchy is what says they are not, and we should all be collectively against that. & I do not know about you, but some of the stuff you hear about women (from the ability of a woman’s body to “shut” conception post-rape “down” to the birth control and abortion debates) makes me feel like we have jumped into a DeLorean time machine and traveled back in time 50-60 years ago where women were still having to fight for their right to vote. We may be able to vote now but that the above-mentioned are still even issues – and that a woman’s right to do anything to her own body (HER OWN FREAKING BODY!) is even up for debate – should be of great concern everyone whether you are a male or female.
We need to stop having such an absurd double standard for women when it comes to sexuality. We demonize women for wanting sex and “slut shame” (every woman who “wants it” – i.e. is biologically programmed in the same exact way that a man is – is a “slut”) yet no one blinks an eye at a man wanting the same. Men are expected to be sexual creatures whose desire is celebrated, high-fived and understood but women who desire the same – basically, err… essentially all women – are slut-shamed (like in this story of a 17-year old “Slane girl” where a guy and girl did something consensually moronic but the girl is a “slut” and the guy is a “legend”). In this case, the young woman was certainly not a victim of anything (other than poor choices and bullying after the incident), but when a woman is a victim of rape or any violence, we question her actions more than we question the actions of the man who assaulted her.
We say “She drank too much. Her dress was too short. She shouldn’t have been walking alone. Why did not she call the police”? We teach women how to avoid being raped by telling them how drunk not to get (because inebriated or unconscious drunk – which men *never* become – is a “rape me” invitation), what not to wear (at some number of inches above a woman’s knee sends off a “get at me without my permission” signal but a bikini – essentially walking around in your underwear – doesn’t do the same), and where not to walk instead of teaching our boys not to rape. I’m not the first to say this, but our expectation seems to be that if you have the Y chromosome, then instinctually you are no different than an unneutered dog and are therefore incapable of NOT raping a woman. If you are a man who feels slightly more evolved than this, this mentality should deeply upset you.
We need to stop being reactionary morons. I am sorry but just like people avoided movie theaters after last year’s shooting or how people became afraid of flying after the recent plane crash or 9/11, people in Mumbai will now say “such and such area is very dangerous for women,” and keep their daughters from going there. Um, no. No street in this world is safe from predators and if those without a moral compass can get there, no one is technically safe, so instead of being so reactionary to the actions of sick individuals (can you imagine how satisfying it must be for the truly disturbed to watch us change our ways because of the single offenses they commit??), DO SOMETHING to change the behavior of yourself and those around you. Some of the things you can be doing are mentioned throughout this post, but – most urgently – whether you are a woman or a man reading this, we MUST call out inappropriate/harmful/violent behavior when we see it (& safe to do so) and we must make sure that we are not perpetuating rape culture by the things we say, believe, or even laugh at (for example, that “rape *joke*” is NEVER FUNNY)
We need to stop perpetuating our culture which believes that a woman’s greatest asset is her physical appearance. Not her intelligence, her thoughtfulness, her character or her “great personality” (this is in quotes because it is actually considered an insult by most or the equivalent of being called “ugly), but her BODY even more so than her face. In a bikini-wearing culture (see previous comment about wearing our underwear in public) and one that worships the half-naked “goddesses” that are Victoria Secret’s models, women from a very young age are taught that having a “bikini body” is quite possibly life’s greatest aspiration. Have/acquire a bikini body – the focus of the cover of almost every woman’s magazine – and your bad grades, not-so-good job or empty head incapable of independent thought all become irrelevant, because a bikini body qualifies you to be a great trophy wife and as the Real Housewives and every celebrity magazine has taught us, there is no greater thing to be desired in this world than to adorn a man’s arm. *Vomit and pretend to hold a gun to my head*
On that note, we need to stop creating a culture that values the dumbest and most superficial sh!t ever. Real House Wives of the I don’t care where? Gossip Girl? The Honey Boo-Boo Show? Keeping up the with who-the-F cares? All these shows and the magazines that make us care about the lives of celebrities/reality stars more than our own (seriously though, why does anyone care about anyone’s post-baby body, who has the most cellulite or anything so trifling?) and make us get our kicks off gossip/drama/back-stabbing are at the foundation of the demise of humanity. I know this seems like a reach, but your watching/purchasing/existing decisions all contribute to rape culture and the devaluing of women, so give them a thought for a second before you keep doing more of the same.
We need to stop balking at hearing stories of no one coming to the Delhi rape victim’s aid (she was thrown off the bus naked and lay on a busy street for nearly a half hour before anyone came to her aid) when more likely than not, we ourselves would not do anything to help her. We all imagine ourselves being heroes, but most of us are apathetic and passive sheep (again, a HALF HOUR on a busy street in India and if you need a real-world story, see mine at the end). Watch any “What would you do?” show and most people are complacent and do nothing when faced with an apparent wrong, and it is not until one brave person speaks up and take action that everyone else jumps on the “hero bandwagon.”
Post-publishing (2018) edit: I am splitting this blog post into two. Please see: Dear Motherland, Get It Together.
An aside to put all of the above in context: As I mentioned at the start of this post, last year, I was a victim of domestic violence. Not an “alleged” victim but a real one, and after dating a prominent South Asian attorney for less than 3 months, I filed an order of protection (OOP) against him after he violently assaulted me and blackmailed me and my father (if you are new to my story and are now stuck on being fascinated with the blackmail, click here). I then found out he had another OOP on record from a year ago from another South Asian woman. I was then banned from a South Asian Networking organization’s – NetIP’s – conference, which I had pre-paid for, by my ex’s best friend and then president of the organization because I had the OOP (note: only I was banned and not both me and my ex which would have made logical sense).
Soon after filing the OOP, I lost most of my friends – to the point of having to subpoena my best friend to testify for me – and I was persecuted by an entire community (albeit many from the community supported me) because people felt that the e-mails that went out regarding the NetIP issue were an “inappropriate forum;” in their opinion, domestic violence is a private matter and there is an “appropriate forum” in which it is to be discussed (read: not at all). My ex served on the board of 2 South Asian bar associations and the local Chicago chapter removed him from his leadership position; however, the parent organization allowed him to stay because I lost my case against him.
Yes, I lost my case in spite of 1) my having a 3″ binder of evidence proving I was a victim of abuse 2) his lawyer trying to cut a deal with my lawyer before the case ended (because they, too, thought they were going to lose), and 3) the judge in my case was the same judge who oversaw the first case just a year ago. In spite of all of this, I lost and those who stood against me from NetIP and the community felt vindicated, which I will never understand because my losing the case did not negate the first case against him or all the evidence I shared publicly proving that what I was saying was true.
I am juxtaposing my story next to the story of the most recent rape case in India – not to even remotely compare the horror of the rape victim’s experience to my own – but because my story was how our Indian community living in America handled my situation, and my story is the perfect example of how we see women everywhere, which is that women are to blame for the offenses that happen to them. My “friends,” NetIP leaders, many in the community and the judge all blamed me for what happened to me and it was easier for them to believe that I made this up (because being known as a DV victim is good fun and having your parents know – or “imagine” – that their daughter was assaulted is what every girl thrives from) than to accept that a MAN – a respected, well-educated, refined man with his titles and wealth – could do this to a woman.
So let us not be “ashamed of India” or “expect better from India,” and instead let us all collectively be ashamed of ourselves – of humanity in general (or the lack of humanity) – and let us only expect better of ourselves in how we all collectively contribute to the pervasive issue of violence against women.
Thanks always for reading,
Resharing the quotes from my previous post, “Most of are Joe Paterno”)
I swore ever to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. ~ Elie Wiesel
What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal. ~ Albert Pike ( Thanks, Carl)
By Martin Luther King, Jr.:
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
“Not only will we have to repent for the sins of bad people; but we also will have to repent for the appalling silence of good people.”
“On some positions, cowardice asks the question, is it expedient? And then expedience comes along and asks the question, is it politic? Vanity asks the question, is it popular? Conscience asks the question, is it right? There comes a tme when one must take the position that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but he must do it because conscience tells him it is right.”