Moral Policing And Its Increasing Acceptance

Posted on April 5, 2012 in Society

By Anubhav Das:

In India, everything seems to be possible. With a luxurious house with 27 floors in a city which has Asia’s worst slums, to killing one’s own children because of their ‘love’- India has done it all. However the thing which is not restricted to a particular sect of people of a particular region and is felt and observed at national level and has hit the entire country with a massive turbulent wave in recent times is nothing but moral policing. It refers to the act of some self proclaimed moral people of improving the society in terms of ethics and aesthetics and keeping the tradition intact.

These people come out of nowhere and sensationalise the liberty possessed by a rightful citizen of the country and are found everywhere, in every nook and corner of the society. In you, in the person whom you just bumped into while walking on the road, in the person who is the head of your family, in the person who is the head of the state and in the person who is not even the head of himself. There lies a moral police in every one of us. It runs in our veins like hot blood which simply ceases to coagulate. And this phenomenon is no new thing; it has existed in the society since time immemorial. It has its roots deep down. We all, our ancestors, our ancestors’ ancestors, all are its victims and victimisers. Therefore, moral policing transcends its subjectivity and attains an objective nature.

Well if you do not agree, then take this example and record your instantaneous reaction to the following hypothetical situation. Just a regular railway station’s platform, buzzing with all sorts of sounds of the vendors and passengers, creating a beautiful symphony, families meeting, people departing. Suddenly, in some remote corner, a skimpily clad girl who dared to wear hot pants and a cleavage hugging tee in such a public place (as if it is a place of worship where norms of decency and decorum ought to be maintained), is kissing a guy and embracing him tightly. Without giving it a second thought, what reaction comes to your or rather our minds? “Look at that girl! What a slut! No decency! So audacious.” And even to worsen the situation, some elderly might as well bring in their all time favourite phrase- “This new generation!” The point here is not of promoting PDA, but to analyse our reactions which are largely biased and stuck to a particular sex- female indeed.

We are in such a society where the burden of morality and decency is imposed upon the delicate shoulders of the fairer sex. The clothes a girl wears, where she wears it, all seem to be the ultimate discourse of the whole nation. Truly in India, all girls are considered to be the nation’s daughters! The outfit of a girl seems to be of utmost importance to every stranger who passes her by and we do not hesitate to scan her from tip to toe and if one thing is just a little misplaced, do we hesitate to condemn her with our judgemental looks and sketch out her moral character? No. The outer appearance is given so much importance that one has to give in or be labelled as a rebellious slut of loose moral character. Thus now gender becomes performative, a psychological, social concept and not a biological one.

If a girl is being raped while her way back home from work, our dear chief minister madam feels it is because of the woman being too adventurous. The blame is put on the victim, only to push her to the brink of self-mortification. We have internalised patriarchy so much so that we just cannot stand the fact that the inferior sex is accusing the superior sex. The society and its conditions are judged by the condition of women in that society, no matter the peripheral existence in the society. Thus her morality becomes a major concern for everybody and ought to be kept under check in order to have a good society. We morally judge her but remain inert to our own morality. We do not improvise upon our actions but just keep on entangling her in chains of norms of decency and decorum.

The entire discourse of moral policing thus comes out to be like an intricate web with threads of patriarchy, decency, decorum, self-appointment and what not. So in this loophole, of we go deeper and deeper, we shall never want to get out of it and die out of guilt. But the rhetorical question remains: Are we ourselves morally policed so as to indulge in moral policing?