By Shambhavi Saxena:
Given the chance, would you slap a girl?
Perhaps it’s unfair to ask this now, of a reader I presume is level-headed, not mid-conflict, emotions in check, rational, introspecting even. Perhaps the circumstances are just so. And yet, it’s no secret that gender-based violence and crimes are, for various reasons, routine across the world. In January 2015, Italian online newspaper Fanpage.it filmed a social experiment asking young boys to slap a girl they had only just met. It went viral, and so did the Indian edition, put out by Ufaan.org, featuring Indian counterparts of the Italian boys who refused to slap a girl.
Ufaan states on its Facebook page that “65% men think that women deserve to be beaten”
, and took inspiration from Fanpage.it. Yet, this well-intended video has some serious issues. I should’ve been hearing “violence is wrong”
and “why should I hit anyone”
. Instead, I was hearing “I can’t hit her, she’s pretty”
(subtext: she’s for enjoyment, but I might hit a girl I think is ugly) and “I can’t hit a girl”
(subtext: because girls are inferior anyway and I might be damaging someone’s precious property). The boys in both videos talked a lot about respecting women, but in our environment of good ol’ patriarchal protectionism and respectability politics, the concept of “respect”
takes on new dimensions. Respect is not a right, but something people become worthy of by adhering to what is acceptable. Respect is, therefore, not given to ‘deviants’
– be it women, homosexuals, trans and non-savarna people – who are incidentally the major victims of violence in India.
Yes, the girls are silent objects (plot devices?), and yes, one wonders why it focuses only on female victims of violence, but the videos have their moments. When a young Italian boy explains why he won’t slap a girl by saying “Because I’m a man”, we see not a possibility, but a future of young men reassessing and reshaping gender identities. That every one of these boys refused to indulge in this mindless violence speaks volumes about how we’re changing.
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