(Trigger warning: graphic commentary on rape and rape culture)
My name is Raoul Kerr
and I’m a musician from New Delhi. I’ve spent the last four and a half years of my life working on my debut album, it’s called “No Flag” because it argues the need for us to fight for a better world by devoting ourselves to humanity, before devoting ourselves to our countries or our gods. It talks about the mindset that must exist before we raise flags of any kind.
I released a single from the album in response to the bravery and solidarity shown by people across the world who used #metoo to indicate the deep rooted nature of sexual assault and harassment in our lives.
It’s called “For Her” and was inspired by the brutal rape of Nirbhaya, as well as by how little things changed in response to the collective outrage that followed.
The album’s been ready for a while now, but when I saw #metoo flood my home feed, when I saw just how far beyond my home feed it went, I knew I had to put the song out there. So many people were standing up together, digitally hand in hand to highlight just how bad things are.
One post in particular got to me, because it exposed a layer of complacency, a safe guard of a kind, that had merged itself into the way I perceive sexual assault and harassment.
It was a post by a friend from school, I hadn’t spoken to her in five years, but I remembered her as a sweet, innocent, fun loving girl who was child-like, in the best, most endearing sort of way.
It wasn’t a detailed post, but what hit me was seeing her post the hashtag. I thought to myself: ‘Her? Who in their right mind…!?’ and that’s where that thought ended. It was followed by “why not her? Why does it shock you that she’s experienced something like this?”.
It was then that I realised that I’d been sheltering myself to a degree, because very simply, when I look at the extent and pervasiveness of this problem: it is just too much.
I’ve read articles about four and five year olds being raped, of a baby killed after being thrown out of a moving auto while men raped her mother in it, as I write this, a story of a seventeen year old bleeding to death after men gang raped her in Punjab has seared itself into my mind, and there’s no respite, because there’s also an article of a 100 year old woman dying after a man raped her in Uttar Pradesh. Beyond that I’ve opened my mind up more to take in that men are raped too. This is everywhere, this is a part of who we are, and even as someone who’s sensitive to the problem: it is really just too much.
“For her” is a limited title in the grand scheme of things. The reason I kept it is because I feel that destroying the mindset that gives rise to sexual violence and harassment of women, one based on a gendered power dynamic, is the first step towards a more compassionate society.
Another limitation of the song, one that it shares with #metoo, is the limitation of privilege. This song is a collaboration between women and men that was only possible because we believed in this message as people, before members of a particular gender: but it is a song in English.
This hashtag is a joint effort by people across the world to show everybody the magnitude of this problem, but the people who could and did stand up were those who had the privilege of owning a smart phone or a device that connects them to the internet.
Both these messages can or could have only directly reached a limited amount of people on the planet, and those people are privileged.
We are privileged.
We also know privilege is power, with power comes responsibility, and so it is our responsibility to use the power our privilege gives us to try and right this very pervasive wrong in our world.
Inaction is not and should never have been an option, but with #metoo, a part of our reality has been laid bare, the horror of the probability of the limited nature of the picture the hashtag paints is real. It’s made us stand up together, and we must not sit back down.
The people behind this album are ready for battle, and this song, this video and the messages they carry are our first contributions to the fight – the fight that people have been fighting for a very long time, one that can only be won if more of us join it.
We’re going to the front lines, we’re going to give it everything we’ve got, and we hope you’ll be there fighting shoulder to shoulder with us.