Recently I came across a debate on woman’s dressing which went viral on social media. I was intrigued by it and started reading up the main argument and counter arguments.
The debate started with a post made by a person called Kundan Srivastava on November 2, who took a photo of a woman without her knowledge and posted it on Facebook with the following comments:
A random man taking pictures of a girl without her knowledge is not just objectionable but also illegal. We all know that such perverts who click photos without our permission exist and this is not something new. But, I was curious why was this specific post gaining so much attention. Who is this Kundan Srivastava? So, I looked him up on Google and also on his website, and his FB page.
Kundan Srivastava happens to be a young social activist who works on women empowerment. He is founder of “Be in Humanity Foundation”, “Nation with Women” and also the author of a book on social and women-related issues.
What is interesting is that on his post, the discussion did not stop at just his statement. This post was attacked by feminists and other women, but was also supported by innumerable others. He did not stop here. He further justified his statements by emphasising that he works for women empowerment, he works with rape victims etc. He also continuously posted screenshots of others who texted him supporting his ideas. I kept following his posts and the responses. Some of his recent posts are as follows:
By now you may have noticed that some of his comments are extremely objectionable to anyone who respects women. But why is someone who calls himself a person working on women empowerment talking like this?
I wondered, “on one hand this man is talking of women empowerment, and on the other hand, he is also becoming part of the culture that perpetuates rape“.
So today, I write this article critiquing his posts and seeking answers for his behaviour.
Dear Kundan Srivastava,
I begin this letter with a short note of appreciation for the help that you extend to women.
Now, without further ado since you have been working with rape victims, what according to you is rape?
Rape is not just sexual exploitation of a person against his/her will! It is an exercise of one’s power. It is a tool to shame. It is gross violation of the dignity that every human body is entitled to.
Now, here is my second question: have you ever, even for a second, pondered/researched on why rape happens? I am sure you did not! Your post on woman’s clothes and dignity testifies to that fact.
Rape happens because of multiple reasons; the uncontrollable physical urges that a person imposes on the victim is just one. Most often, rape happens because the rapist wants to show the victim his/her place….”Aukaat”, as they put it! Rape happens because the rapist thinks that rape, inflicting pain on a body and mind is a way to tell the victim that he/she deserves that punishment for not conforming to something! Rape happens because the rapist thinks he/she now has a right to punish; to abuse the other because he/she was asking for it!
Now, let me get to the third and the most important topic – Rape culture. I am sure you are aware of Indian culture, sabyata, and sanskar because you have decided to post on the “dignity of woman”.
But you may be wondering what is rape culture?
Before I get into the theory, I will begin by telling you that by posting pictures of a woman without her knowledge and permission, passing value-loaded comments and deciding that it is incorrect, according to ‘rape culture’, I feel that you are a rapist sympathiser yourself.
Let me tell you a little about what ‘victim blaming’ is. It means that we try and justify the act of violence and in some way accuse the victim that he/she is responsible for the incident. So, a rape culture is a culture in which we justify, normalize the violence.
For instance, if tomorrow a woman who wears skirts and a sleeveless top (‘western dressed’) gets raped and comes to you seeking help to get justice, what would you do? Fight for her? Or think she deserves it because she wore those clothes? Give her a bhashan (lecture) on what to wear and when and with whom to go out?
Let’s say you call the rapist and ask why he committed the rape.
And he says, “This lady was wearing short clothes. It is against our sanskar. I told her that. She raised her voice; so, I raped her”;
Or he may say, “I was tempted because she wore a short dress. I could not control myself”;
Or he may say, “She wore a short dress; so, I thought she is a woman without morals and values; hence I can rape her”
All these answers are not fictitious; they have been cited by rapists in past incidents!
Now as someone working for rape victims, would you support the victim? Or as someone who has a notion of sabyata and sanskar, a moral about “what a dignified woman should wear” would you support the rapist? Technically, the rapist’s views and your views are the same, right?
Now, let’s move onto empowerment…women empowerment.
The meaning of empowerment is, “to give power”. It includes giving power to decide, to think, to act according to one’s will.
And, women empowerment is never complete as long as others decide what is good/bad, correct/incorrect for women.
How could someone who is so judgemental about what women should wear even talk about empowerment?
Now, let’s move on to the topic of Indian culture and dignity. Which culture are you referring to when you decide what is dignified clothing?
Is it the one during the Maurya and Sunga periods (about 300 BC), where men and women wore rectangular pieces of fabric, one on the lower part of the body and one on the upper part, and nothing else?
Or, are you referring to the Gupta period where women just started using stitched garments with breast bands?
Or, are you referring to the 15th century when Islamic insurgence introduced salwar kameez to Indians?
Or, are you referring to the Victorian traditions that the British brought with them to gift us the “blouse”? Yes! You read it right! We Indians, bharatiya naaris never wore a blouse before that! Not just those, the shirts that you men wear are also a gift of the British!
So, which Indian dignified attire are you referring to?
Culture is not an isolated patch. When people come together and live together, there is something called exchange of information, thoughts, and habits. This is called amalgamation of culture. So, every time a new thing is introduced into what we call “our” culture, it gets absorbed partially, rejected partially and customised partially! And then it becomes part of “our” culture. You just cannot separate them from one another and say, “This is my culture and this is that of the outsiders”.
Before I conclude, I would like to present some facts which may cause more cognitive dissonance in you…did you know that we all live in a country where the youngest rape victim is as small as 6 months and the oldest is above 80 years?
I am sure that both the infant and the old woman wore “dignified” clothes! I must also tell you that it is the same culture where husbands, sons, and fathers have raped. And last but not the least, small boys and young men are also raped. I am sure they are all quite dignified in dressing too. Mind it!
P.S: So, through this letter I would also like to invite you to an open debate on this topic. I want you to present references from written material and not just justify your stance by passing it off as rhetoric or using your fame as a celebrity.