(An abridged version of this article first appeared in the Sunday Guardian)
We never heard the door open. Swati and I had been going at it for more than two hours. We were having so much fun that we did not see her Mother entering the room. Swati’s mother shrieked when she saw what we were up to. She told us to stop and we did as we were told. She slapped her daughter and threw me out of her house. As I walked home, I wondered what we had done wrong. After all, we were only doing what kids our age have done for centuries. It came so naturally to us! And if we had done something wrong, why was Swati the only person to be punished, when both of us were consensual partners to the alleged crime? Of course, when you’re eight, you don’t realize that gender politics enables people to find something sinister in even a silly game of ‘house.’ (Hey, it was the 80’s! Time passed really slow back then. It was either this or watching bored doordarshan anchors give farming advice).
Whenever I hear bigots like NCW chairperson Mamta Sharma blame the victims in the aftermath of horrific incidents, I am filled with the same thought that I had on that lonely walk home almost three decades ago: But the victims did nothing wrong! According to ‘Logic for Assholes 101,’ the victim of the assault must have done something to bring this upon herself. She must have dressed provocatively! Remember ladies, If you don’t cover yourself properly then you’re just tempting people to invade your space and touch you inappropriately. If you go in front of a man dressed in a skirt, do you expect him not to rape you? Ha! Men who rape are fine upstanding members of their community who are blinded by a woman in a skirt to such an extent that they lose control of their mental faculties and automatically start raping anything they can get their hands on!
Maybe it’s the pubs! These dens of depravity which dare to serve decadent western values along with each portion of chicken wings. It is because of them that girls today know more about different types of Tequila than about different ways to cook eggplant. Only a person who hasn’t ever been to a pub or nightclub would say that. They base their opinion on what they see in the media. When the leading female protagonist of a movie or a teevee show goes to a club, something bad always happens. Some guy will spot her, drug her and then poke her with his penis. And then everyone around her will throw a hissy fit and blame her for everything. She will then proceed to get pregnant (what are the odds!) and become the shame of her family until the valiant male protagonist - who was silently brooding in the corner until now - will offer to marry her. Or she will find herself waking up naked next to a black guy whilst having no recollection of the events of the previous night. (In a Hindi movie, that’s when you know a woman has gone too far. When she intercourses a black drug dealer. This way, we’re able to simultaneously dehumanize two sets of people: women and drug dealers). The moral of story is that going to any place which has strangers and alcohol will ultimately lead to rape.
Maybe we’re just old-fashioned! We prefer our women to realize they are second class citizens and were sent to this earth to cook, clean and put out whenever their husband wants to fall asleep on top of them. It’s our culture! No! You’re not old fashioned; you’re a bigot. Old-fashioned people collect vinyl records or still subscribe to the yellow pages. Bigots use “blindly aping western values” as a code for saying “Put down that drink, throw away that cigarette, and head back home, you filthy whore!”
We rarely assign responsibility where it really lies: on the men who commit such crimes or who contribute to turning any place into a toxic environment unsafe for women. Everything is dismissed with a simple sweep of boys will be boys! You can be as inconsiderate as you want to other human beings as long as you can pee standing up! Hey, ladies, if God wanted you to have freedom and the ability to make decisions affecting your own life, then he would have given you a useful, nifty appendage - instead of whatever gross ladyparts you currently possess - which most of the time would function as your primary brain.
A couple of years ago, a best-selling author who claims to be a ‘youth icon’ was handing out dating advice to young men who were having trouble in the search for a companion. However, he did not extend this privilege to women because according to him, all a woman has to do is say make herself available for dating purposes and then men will flock to her like worker bees flock to their Queen. Because women can’t be be horny, needy, ugly, geeky, emotionally unavailable, unfit for human companionship. They’re simple creatures who must be spoken about in patronizing terms! According to this douchebag, the best way to build a permanent residence in a women’s heart is to irritate her. Pull her ponytails and she will literally marry you on the spot! If you have feelings for her, irritate her. If you really like her, quit your job and follow her around wherever she goes. If she calls the police, she probably likes you back and wants you to follow her even more. Do not stop, continue to follow her around and this time, make obscene gestures. And if you really, really love her, just go ahead and punch her in her face. Nothing says "I love you long time" like a broken frikin' jaw!
Once, in violation of the Geneva convention against torture, I was made to witness a Hindi teevee show. During a particular harrowing scene, a woman’s face was being blackened by a group of other, larger, angry women. Apparently, her crime was “stealing” a married woman’s husband. Because that’s always the woman’s fault! The men are just like footballs who can be kicked around by various women. They don’t want to have an affair! In fact, they’re being forced to have sex against their will by the hot lady on whom they conveniently always had a crush!
Perhaps that is the greatest trick the patriarchy ever pulled. Convincing successive generations of women to be it’s enforcers.