When the #MeToo movement hit Indian social media platforms in 2018, we felt the shock of the sudden rise of feminist voices subjugated by retaliation of the #NotAllMen tag circulating alongside a volley of misogynist comments. The debate surrounding Indian rape culture is not an ongoing scenario. It has existed, but never addressed to the core.
In our rage of inhuman behaviours, we forget that we teach prejudiced values. As kids, we imitate our parents, our elders, our society, our peers. The ability to withstand judgement and stand your ground comes with an understanding and maturity of yourself, as an individual. Cue the teenage rebel crisis.
This woke feeling is honestly not something you can expect to achieve when you’re 9. And in Indian societies, apparently, even when you’re 40. Because we are wired to put family above all else… or community, or caste, or religion.
A desperately lacking sense of the individual plagues our conscience when we rebel. The typical Indian rebel is one that defies not just societal norms, but familial ones. The orthodoxy that grasps the adult in our country is a direct reflection of the rigid and hetero-normative behaviour we force on our children. Yes, things are changing, but last I checked, I didn’t go to school with guys who had a genuine choice to wear skirts or sarees.
The crisis of this self-identity morphs into the idea of dismissing anything as collateral damage for the greater good: Being of one caste, oppressing another becomes a label of doing good for the community, being a man, ‘landing a woman’ becomes a sense of pride in masculinity, being straight, oppressing gays makes you an advocate of normal society.
These narratives showered on us with the intent of keeping us from straying away from norms become harmful, not to the community but the individual. And in a country with a population of 1300 million people, most times, we prefer not to care about the individual. No one realizes this at 13 years old because no one was ever taught to be accepting of sex.
We need to reconfigure ourselves in a way that we become a voice for the human condition, without prejudice.
We’ve let ourselves get gobbled up by a system that uses labels as oil for the machine. Why not add some pure, unadulterated love to the mix?
When talking about sex, don’t degrade its human value- we all know most people feel sexual desire so let’s act like it. Hiding behind a notion of morality makes us turn to the spiral of delusion, turning us into hypocrites. Some might argue, we’re all hypocrites. The question is, what is your poison, and are you making sure your poison isn’t killing other people?
Sometimes, we may feel like love, human-to-human doesn’t exist, but, if given a way to express this perceived loneliness, ‘the difference between you and me’, we might find a way through the diversity to an unusual connection that makes us adhere to society in the first place. Because passive-aggressive policies are adopted in every Indian’s life.
Because hypocrisy is not something that appears all of a sudden. It grows like a weed, and if the system we have developed around the concept of sex, intimacy, and gender is any proof, we have been planting weeds in other people’s gardens.
At home, we need to recognise a child as an individual. In schools, we need to teach children to structure their minds around the idea that gender diversity is normal and it’s okay not to want sex. When talking with them about these concepts, we must remove the ‘must nots’ from our conversation and inculcate reason within them. Because rebellion and regret are both human tendencies.
So, when anyone starts talking about feeling not-so-good in their skin anymore, listen. Instead of assuming things, ask. This goes to every adult out there: your anger is not justified by your inability to comprehend.
Media plays an important role in the representation of gender, sex, and equality. Today, more so than ever. Some TV shows or movies are full of narratives of explosive and impressionable nature, and a constant perusal of these can make people jaded and insensitive to the crux of the situation, even if the effect is unsolicited.
Recently, however, films have been making progress in portraying scenes of sexual and domestic abuse in a resonating manner, without a graphic spotlight to dramatize the effect.
From the delicately balanced story of child abuse in Highway to the recent Guilty that deals with the ugliness taking place in teaching institutions, Shubh Mangal Zyada Savdhan with a bold reflection of the queer community, and in series like Four more shots please, we have seen a slight curve towards media representation that openly acknowledges and deals with issues around gender.
More narratives of this nature can rebuild and change mindsets that have been fixated on gender-role dynamics. We all need a retrouvaille: a place to find ourselves and each other when we feel lost. Sensitization from a young age will change the way we look at things, and as Indians, we tend to shy away from change, instead, hiding behind our ancestry and/or tradition as an excuse.
The power dynamics in our country are skewed. It is, without a doubt, a male-dominated society. It is also, without a doubt, a power-generated society. When we talk about patriarchy, in particular, it never hurts to note that as individuals, we’re all susceptible to the ego.
When a problem stems from the ego of self-importance and self-delusion, men are heralded by society, and women disgraced. At least, that’s the narrative we’ve been hearing. Let’s flip the coin on its side for a second: When a problem stems from ego, gender is given more importance than sensibility and reason.
In our convoluted sense of power, however small that may be, we forget to see that rage, hatred, and shaming is not going to solve the problem of the self-inflated ego. And rape culture emerges from these underlying layers of systematic disintegration.
Within the complex web of the rape culture in India lies a 3 point misogyny: The lack of self-identity, the lack of sensitization and a delusional sense of power.
Now, as we are beginning to write our own narrative around these issues, just two years from the #MeToo wave, remember that in today’s age and time, you are the scribe of the story.
Rethink. Rediscover. Respect.