By Cake Staff:
Salman Khan, one of the biggest names in the Indian film industry, is in the news for yet another awful reason – throwing around the word “rape,” the way many clueless and insensitive sports fans have been known to do, to describe something that is not rape.
While talking about the upcoming film where he plays a wrestler, Khan said that the grueling takes left him feeling like “a raped woman.”
Hold up. What?
The actor’s atrocities against human and animal kind are well documented, so it isn’t all that surprising that he also has a lifetime subscription to ‘Toxic Masculinity Weekly’ (not a real publication, but it may as well be). With 93 women in India being raped every day, and laws that still don’t recognize marital rape, it is important to acknowledge how awful rape is, but comparing your voluntary involvement in a film to what a rape survivor goes through is not how you do it. Some have been quick to point out that he “saw the error in it and retracted it,” but that isn’t the point. The point is that rape culture is so terrifyingly ingrained in us, that it comes almost mechanically.
Khan’s comment does not make him as good or as bad as a rapist (we’re not sure why we have to specify this, but anyway) yet the absolute throwaway use of the word brings back uncomfortable echoes of recent incidents. Like Steubenville, Ohio, where the schoolboys who assaulted a 16-year-old girl laughed and joked while they filmed it, or the men in Rio de Janeiro who took selfies next to an unconscious teenager they had raped. Or Brock Turner’s father downplaying sexual assault as a mere “20 minutes of action.”
Making light of what is essentially a violent crime, and an utter violation of a person’s bodily rights is never okay, and the fact that rapists/rape apologists do this regularly should teach Khan to be more careful. Khan is not like a “raped woman.” And due to obvious reasons, he can never speak for one. But when he does speak, he should be very aware of the impact his words and actions will have on his incredibly large fan following – many of whom hang on his every word, and revere him to the point of worship.
We should be concerned when so many Indian men are fans of a guy who thinks of women as “vices” (and has said as much). Hey! Can you guess what culture colours all women with the same sexualized-moralistic brush? Yes, it’s rape culture.
It’s the culture that judges a man’s worth by his sexual conquests and turns people into objects. It’s the culture that blames the survivor, and brushes things off with “boys will be boys.” And what does rape culture mean for the people who willingly, often self-righteously, perpetuate it? It means a grand Hall Pass to do and say what you want, to whom you want, with impunity. And make no mistake, as sorry as he may be for making that comment, Khan enjoys that impunity.
Here are the striking differences between Salman Khan and the “raped woman” he has never met. Members of his fraternity will still jump at the chance to work with him. A “raped woman” will slowly be edged out of her workplace. Khan will still be able to crack a sexist joke or two over drinks with the boys. A “raped woman” is told her drinking caused it all in the first place. Khan will walk away from his actions, no questions asked. A “raped woman” will collect video and photographic evidence, and still not be believed. Khan will not be shamed for his habits, his clothing or any of his preferences. A “raped woman” will – and she’ll have to hear it from friends and strangers alike.
But this isn’t about a stray comment made in bad taste. This is not about political correctness. This is a well-oiled machine called rape culture, and how some of us are crushed between the cogs, while others pull the levers.