Checking out how women ‘move’, being a casanova, casual sexism is all so normal. Why are you overreacting? That is the reaction I got today on discussing the Hardik Pandya row, from a person I choose not to name. I was taken aback. Never have I ever felt so let down. Maybe because I happened to know the person for years and respected him. It was shocking in a very sad way.
I also heard statements like ‘He didn’t rape, right? Why has the matter been taken to court?’ This is exactly what the problem is. I’m not worried about Hardik Pandya’s comments so much. There are two other things that are bothering me the most. One, he is a reflection of the men of this society, and that just makes me really sad. Second, he is idolized by hundreds of young boys out there who are learning to normalize such an attitude.
When you say not all men are rapists. Yes, all men are not rapists. Some are rape apologists. Some are victim blamers. Some are glorifiers of toxic masculinity. All men are promoters of rape culture. Nobody is a born a rapist. Gender-based violence does not happen accidentally. It is a process of socialization that conditions a certain kind of thinking and preaches a kind of culture that normalizes rape.
I can categorically vouch for the fact that there are men in large numbers who condemn child sexual abuse, but are against criminalization of marital rape. That is the problem. Rape does not concern family honour or a sense of morality. It is simply about mutual consent and respecting the right of a woman over her body and sexual integrity.
If men can consider women as objects that are to be conquered and sex as an achievement, such men are far from respecting a woman’s right over her body and her right to exercise her consent. If such men are glorified, and such an attitude is perpetuated, it will only further create innumerable such men who will make us uncomfortable and unsafe to be around them.
The most disappointing, and to some extent shocking, part was that my closest surrounding comprises such men too. It’s high time we realise that rape or any form of violence is not the only thing that is wrong. Inequality at every step of the day, unequal treatment and rights and privileges constitute gender inequality and perpetuate higher crimes.
Objectification of women, making a rape-joke, humming sexist lyrics of a song, flirting to the extent that it makes the woman uncomfortable, assuming her loud makeup or short dress means she’s ‘asking for it’, calling an ambitious and opinionated woman bossy, materialistic, hungry for money, being okay with your friend’s casual sexism because obviously ‘bro-code’, all this and more is what we see within our closest sphere of people. All these things constitute rape culture. Such statements compel us to normalize the inequality meted out against women. All of these establish a relationship of superiority and inferiority between a man and a woman. Rape is not about gender. Rape violates power, control and choice.
Normalizing rape culture is as serious as rape, because it perpetuates rape.