Tick, tick, tick…. “Mom, has the clock struck 12:00?” asked the young five-year-old Sameera, who couldn’t wait to dig into the delicious chocolate fudge cake kept in the middle of the coffee table of her drawing room.
“Baby, is the countdown about to begin soon?” Sunaina asked her boyfriend Faraz, who had come to MG Road, Bangalore to celebrate the dawn to mark the beginning of the new year, oblivious of the inhuman experience that was awaiting her and her sisterhood.
2017, which though marked the inception of a new period, started on a disparaging note for the nation. That of being intolerant towards its liberated and independent women. The reference here, as could have been guessed, is to the abominable ‘Bangalore Mass Molestation’, an incident which is a matter of shame for both the state and the society. The reasons being it provides breeding grounds for a patriarchal mindset, leading culprits like that to flourish. The role of the society will be understood in subsequent posts, but with regards to the state, it is pertinent here to highlight the role played by the two stakeholders from the state i.e. – the Legislature and the Executive, who by passing remarks inconsistent with the philosophy of the Indian constitution shirked their responsibility by justifying it. Where the representative of the legislature – Karnataka Home Minister G Parameshwara made the barbaric statement: “Such incidents do happen on New Year’s Eve and Christmas and that they do take a lot of precautions.” And the Executive’s representative – Chief of police in Bangalore- Praveen Sood, stated that – “a review of almost 70 CCTV cameras trained on two popular streets in the city centre had shown no proof of a mass attack on women in the crowd.”
P.S. – For the purpose of providing a background for all those who might not be completely acquainted with the facts and the statements made by the various stakeholders, I am providing links to reliable media sources. You can read this, this and this piece.
It was at this point that we, a group of 9 law students (two girls and seven boys), started our discussion with the motive to understand the problem and the sub-issues that might be resulting from a larger problem.
THE MAIN PROBLEM
There seemed to be a consensus among everybody present over ‘Patriarchy’ being the main issue behind the occurrence of not just the current abominable event but all the events that harm anybody not male.
Then we began one after the other to describe our first reactions upon the knowledge of the event. The following were the reactions:
At this point there was some remark made by one of the group members about feminism widening its clutches to the extent of becoming ‘Feminazi’. This was instantly rebuked by another member of the group who said that feminism has to be understood as a spectrum of beliefs, with only one underlying principle which is of equality of the male and female sexes – the very interpretation of which, in varied degrees, is the battleground for all the confusion. Thus, while attempting to understand the belief it’s essential to keep in mind not just the spectrum (which is to be not compartmentalized) but also the ulterior meaning of ‘Equality’ arising by virtue of humanity. Also, while doing such a labeling, of such a movement, the resultant attempts of providing an antithesis for the cause have to be kept in mind.
AVOIDANCE – A PROBLEM/ A SOLUTION
As we were discussing our first reactions, there was one prominent thing that we were lead to at the end. It was the problem of avoidance. An issue in itself, the consequences and repercussions of which are both short-term and long-term. The short-term consequences being that of it giving a further impetus to the offender to continue with his vulgar acts because of going scot free. The long-term being that the embodiment and solidification of the patriarchal beliefs for the current and upcoming generations of the society, making its women ‘submissive’ and its men ‘macho’.
While discussing the short-term and long-term repercussions of this avoidance, the group was not naïve enough to ignore the far more negative repercussion of revenge that could come back with a greater force for the women in the form for an acid attack, sexual assault, rape or even murder.
Later, in order to dig deep into the problem, we started to pose some serious questions to each other:
Whether anyone of us had received sex education formally, in schools?
The answer to this question without an exception was a big ‘NO’ for both the boys and the girls. Where, the source for satiation of such a curiosity for both became, majorly, their friends, with one exception being of one of the male members who had the privilege of receiving such knowledge from the biology books because of his mother being a biology teacher.
Implications– Every child passes through the ambiguous phase of puberty, which is filled with confusion and self-discovery. There confusion of discovering the new physical, emotional and sexual changes and the new curiosity or desire for the other sex/ person (of same sex). This leads to a lot questions in the mind of the person and a need for an outside agency to answer the same. When the role of this agency is assumed by people possessing half-baked knowledge, i.e. – friends (or internet), because of them being part of the same phase, it results into a situation of misconceptions leading to formation of faulty judgments and actions. This lack of knowledge adds to the consolidation of the already present patriarchal beliefs for the teenagers, because this adds to the insensitivity, especially of the boys against the girls with regard to the latter’s desires and needs. Thus, there arises a need of having a formal institution, other than the biology class, to provide this sexual education talk to the teenagers, where they can talk and discuss freely about their fears and apprehensions about the same. This will help them to confidently form informed identities, beliefs and choices for themselves and others.
What was their first reaction upon knowledge of sex?
This was the next question, which was posed by the senior most male member, at that time for the group and to my surprise and confusion, the response of the girls was not sought. Anyway, all the guys in unanimity called for the response to be disturbing and gross.
Implication – Well, the implication here also with regard to agency and the manner by which such knowledge was obtained remains the same making the response of ‘disturbance’ for it pretty much upright and in-the-face.
Now, though the action of not asking the female members could have been unintentional, it did reflect or point towards something that was operating at a more subtle and subconscious level. The reasons though may be hard to exactly point down could be varied, ranging from- discomfort with the girls who were juniors to engaging the other boys at a larger level so that they could understand and appreciate the motive and substance behind such a conversation.
Note: – While this question was being discussed one of the male members while bantering used the word – ‘B******d’. This led to one of the females opposing this usage because of sociological and psychological reasons. Now this was just a disclaimer for a discussion that would take at a later point.
How did you come to know about ‘Menstruation/ Periods’?
Now, this question was posed first to the boys, majority of whom while replying to this question had a rather sheepish smile on their faces, where everyone, except one, said that they had attained knowledge about the same by either their friends (by the virtue of curiosity being the driving force), or by inferences upon observing the behaviour of the women in their close proximity, when they were undergoing that phase. This, they all accepted, had left umpteen scope for misinterpretation and confusion among them and their peers, under a context where there no scope for both a formal sex education and an environment where this could be discussed with anyone possessing knowledge about the same.
The girls on the other hand, because of them being the primary subjects to the process, said that they had come to know about it from the adult female members of their family, i.e. – mother and elder sister.
Implication – This lack of knowledge on the part of the boys, especially, is just another addition to the number of gaps in knowledge about another sex, which ultimately adds to consolidation of misconceptions and disbeliefs. This further provides a ground for cultivation of insensitivity against the women, where the reactions range from- seeing women as dirty or out of place in the order, to their victimization. All of which is problematic as in both the scenarios, the females are not perceived as normal human beings. They are perceived as either in-human or extra-human (ultra-sensitive).
Both the women of the group took this as an opportunity to address, the aspect of victimization which is often less understood. They exclaimed that how they and none of the other women wanted to be victimised, in forms such as- getting less work (mental especially) or ultra-comfy environment, for undergoing a process which is natural. All that they want is a considerate and homely environment where the people around them are polite in their approach, keeping in mind both the physical (cramps or other body aches) and emotional fluctuations (PMSing) that they might be going through which are not the same for every girl.
What will be your first reaction if something happened to a close female member of your family?
Implication– The rightful way of starting the analysis to this question would be to quote Bible, where it is said, ‘Do to others as you would have them do to you’. This is to understand the gross indifference, with which the society operates, and creates a breeding ground for development of the patriarchal mindsets that allows for incidents like this.
It is very natural for anyone to feel agitated and disgusted, for any wrong that has happened to anyone in their close relation, but to feel the same for anyone else is the most difficult. This I suppose is the underlying problem for all the wrongs, from poverty to the stigmas associated to physical shaming, that we observe around us. Thus, a solution to the current problem at hand can lie only if ‘we’ as a society start treating the problem of sexual abuse as ‘our problem’ and not ‘another’s problem’, as it is not a wild possibility of having somebody close, despite all the measures, to be at the receiving end of the assault.
What is wrong with using anti-feminist abusive words?
This was the question that group was led back to, again, because of one/two people using the same during the discussion and others admitting to using the same generally in their lives. The usage of these terms was justified on the grounds of them being just a part of the ‘lingo’, without intentions of any sort operating behind the usage of the same. To justify the same, an attempt was made by people within the group, to create a distinction between- language, lingo and slang; wherein, language was regarded, generally, as a formal means of communication; lingo was regarded as just a local dialect; and slang being something spoken by a person as a part of friend’s group.
IMPLICATION – It is very essential to understand the relevance that the nomenclature of any abusive term entails. The fashion of abusing some people in the name of another is reflective of the relative denigrated position of such people, whether women or transgender people, in the society. Thus, in order to actually uplift such citizens, it is essential to realize the sociological and psychological reasons operating behind the usage of such term, used in such a loose fashion, and then stop disrespecting other people in their name.
The group then upon consensually accepting the negativity behind these terms, was informed by one of the members about the ‘Psychology of Abuse’ that is operative in the mind of those saying such terms. This came out as consequence of prior information, on a type of treatment for the psychological disorder of schizophrenia (where the patient gets extra-sensory perceptions, among other symptoms) where, one of the treatments was to make the person write what they were experiencing. It was the analysis of these statements that told a lot about the relevance of what the person was experiencing.
This information was taken as a connecting point towards understanding the earlier stated problem behind the use of such terms by highlighting, the difference in perception that comes in about anyone using such as an abuse, when they have to ‘write’ the same instead of just ‘saying’ it. About how impactful and in-the-face the former was for the one using it, as then one could clearly letter by letter read what the word was and then comprehend and feel the intention behind the same.
P.S. – To substantiate on the same, a photo is being provided with the post that talks about this idea of lingo and psychology of abuse.