By Rakesh Talukdar:
While the whole country attempted in horror, to comprehend the visuals which would stretch the definitions of outrage and shock, there also exist in the country a thousand more women who would vie for the fact that this was just the kind of incident that was in the offing. And that it was nothing to be surprised or shocked about.
The pessimistic and dim view that this shade of opinion reflects is not in isolation to sound logic and a keen observation of events unfolding in the country over a period of time. It has been high time since we decided to look back on the actions that the society has perpetrated against the perennially victimised class of the society — women.
The womenfolk of our country (and the rest of the world, too) have had a long and harmonious relationship with nouns like domination and exploitation, amalgamated in the practices of culture, religion and ritual. Right from ancient times, practices like Sati and child marriages have reflected the most crude form of power used upon women , which in terms of Robert Dahl was ‘To make a person do something he/she would otherwise not do’. However, the more subtle forms of power structures, which Foucault describes as capillary often goes unnoticed to the common eye. The most basic of phrases like ‘Don’t cry like a girl’ reflects the deep set conventional mind-set of the society at large.
The Indian society is such created, that the rights and interests of the womenfolk are often plainly ignored, and at other times, it is dominated implicitly, by the use of tradition and rituals, which to the ignorant man or woman, would sound purely rational. The familial structure of the Indian society (or the whole South East Asian nations) has been arranged in a manner where the woman has been reduced to the periphery. This may have to do with the older religious practices, which had a lot to do with the overt domination of women, and a typically feudal society, which led to the men holding the ownership.
Many would however, believe that the women in the present day are far better than they were a hundred years ago. After all, they can wear what they wish, work according to their capabilities and also dream of challenging men in the most professional of fields. However, what they tend to overlook, besides the obvious fact that the majority of them don’t have access to basic needs of life, let alone equality in all the walks, is the gradual taking over of male chauvinism in the workplaces and cultures believed to be ‘modern’.
One attribute to the growing violence and hostility against women can be the fact the men have been reared to believe that women are a class inferior to them. Even the most urbane and modern teachings have embedded in them, the prejudices and misgivings against the fairer sex. Irrespective of the grooming, a boy is taught to be strong, and a girl is believed to be ideal when shy and ‘girly’. These attributes of ‘girlishness’ or even notions of ‘beauty’ are the characters of the society at large are some examples empowerment of women has been unable to negate and nullify . Most time, the people tend to associate a female leader or personality to be feminists. However, the truth is quite the opposite. Most times, the statistics have shown that, a woman leader in our society and country has to fight male chauvinism so constantly that she hardly has the space and resource, to implement social reforms. And most times, the leaders themselves have frowned to power because of the traditional chains which otherwise binds them to the ground. These exceptions to the rule hardly see a reason to change the rule itself.
Another character of our society is to generalise tokenism, which is often a reflection of the tide in the opposite direction. When a woman rises to prominence, we tend to believe that it is the norm. One survivor story makes us believe that the country is full of them and we often tend to ignore the norm. Add to this, the resistance to change by the society, which, though universal, always ends up targeting the same group, ultimately leads to the story of women empowerment ending at a superficial level.
The current society has been so shaped that the term ‘modern’ can also be interpreted as the very reason our society has remained in the end wagons of women empowerment and rights. Today, the definition of a woman who we tend to see as successful is often characterised by the male angle. A ‘slim’ model will make up for a very good success story; but seldom does one ponder as to whom the ‘slimness’ and ‘sexiness’ is catering to. Similarly, a woman as the head of a large multinational is considered a welcome step by the society, but little does one bother to think that the whole structure and seat has been made from a male perspective, and the women are just trying to fit in, mostly unsuccessfully. And there lies the greatest fallacy. We tend to rate and judge success and failures from a perspective set in a male dominated culture, and unless the women can carve their own system and definitions, they will continue to be an anomaly trying in vain to fit in an oversized coat.
Another factor leading to the higher intolerance against women in the modern times has also to do with the growth of religious fundamentalism. Religion has never been a friendly ground to tread for the women. Starting from polygamy to the biased property issues, one can ramble on for hours as to why religions are almost the proverbial opposite of feminism. And in the modern day, a person identifying with a particular interpretation ideology, like Hindutva, believes it is his birthright to thrash and beat up women to imbibe in them moral values. And this cover of morality is what provides the most immediate danger to the womenfolk of today’s India. Because, imported morality from abstract and illogical interpretations transcend into a crude show of power, often hidden by agendas that don’t come to light.
Hence, it ought not to be surprising to hear the number of rape cases being reported and even more people walking away scot free because the whole concept of justice is again intricately related to power. It ought not to shock us to find politicians accusing rape victims, or even raping women at will, exploiting them and hooligans molesting them. It is all a consequence of our own actions. Perhaps, we will be better off enraged than surprised. Because, anger at the system and its components will probably prove more helpful. Marx envisaged a revolution by the proletariat. The tragedy is the very notion of such a revolution, even in theory, also seems to be an achievement when it comes to the rights of the fairer sex.