How to avoid rape: Indian New Year’s Eve edition

Let’s get the basics out of the way first. While you may think that every woman you approach is somehow obliged to sleep with you, or you are entitled to run your fingers, eyes, or genitals across her body without her consent, sorry to burst your bubble, you’re wrong! And no matter what politicians, annoying uncles, and serial rapists say, you still have no physical right whatsoever over a woman no matter what she wears, says, does, eats, drinks, and so on.

If you’re in a vehicle and see a woman walking on the street, follow traffic rules correctly, don’t get your eyes off the road, stop at the red signal, and drive when it goes green. Pro tip: If said woman looks like she needs help, you could pull over, ask her if she needs something, and for added advantage, don’t rape her. On the streets if you’re both walking in the same direction, continue walking in the same direction, and go back to minding your own business. Now, when in doubt always ask for help. If you think you’re going to rape or molest someone, have a friend or acquaintance know your intentions and get them to rescue you from rape.

An important thing one needs to do is to be careful of one’s surrounding. If you see women around you enjoying themselves, having a drink or two, speaking to other women/men, laughing, dancing, breathing, or even (gasp!) existing, leave them alone. Pro tip: keep your phone fully charged so you can play candy crush or pretend to have a functional relationship, instead of exposing your staring skills in public.

What’s more? Keep a few basics in mind. Like say, if you encounter a woman who’s passed out or comfortably asleep, let her be. At least try. It’s really simple to do, I promise. And if you end up alone with a woman in say, a shared cab, bus, alley, bathroom, basement, elevator, or just about anywhere, use the above mentioned phone trick. It works wonders.

Lastly, if you feel like your natural state is rape and the women in question are somehow to be equated with inanimate objects such as food, sugar, a bone, or jewellery, and you are supposed to be the hungry man, ant, dog, or thief respectively, who’d be drawn to them in this twisted metaphor, you are not ready to get out just yet. It is perhaps safest to stay indoors and set a curfew for yourself. Plus, if you think you’re likely to blame things like alcohol, chowmein, Bollywood, jeans, Western culture, A/Cs, heaters, washing machines, astrology, algebra and any such ridiculous (yet plausible, duh!) thing, house arrest is your way to go. Stay home for your own sake and avoid addressing the public if you’re a politician.

If you’ve made it far enough in life to be reading this without a single instance of sexual assault of any kind, well, good for you. You get the “congratulations, you’re a normal human being” award. Keep doing what you do, and get back to reading this when in doubt. And please don’t say #NotAllMen if you want to continue this winning streak.

5 Reasons why you Shouldn’t use the “Imagine if she was your Sister/Mother/Daughter” Argument Against Rape

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Empathy for a victim of any crime is nurtured when one imagines putting oneself in the victim’s place. In cases of rape however, the dynamics are entirely different. Empathy in this scenario differs based heavily on whether you’re a man or woman. Whenever a case of rape occurs (on a woman especially), an inherent sense of empathy gets nurtured towards the victim by associating with location, timing, perpetrator, age and of course their own gender.

In boys and men however, there is a tendency to invoke only a second-hand or outward sense of empathy by the only way we think it can be invoked- by saying “imagine if she was your sister, mother, daughter, etc.’ There is of course enough evidence to prove that this approach is flawed and utterly misleading.

Here’s why, in my opinion, one needs to stop trying to invoke empathy for rape victims in men by placing them in a familial context:-

  1. A significant percent of rapes are actually done by brothers, boyfriends, fathers, husbands, uncles, cousins or any male who is known to the victim (even mooh bola bhais?) So who is the demographic targeted when you’re trying to establish a familial connect? Imagining a victim is a sister/girlfriend/daughter/wife, could actually be counterproductive in cases like these.
  2. Now, if we say she is/was also someone’s sister/daughter/wife. What if she is or was say, an orphan or had no familial ties? Does that make her an easier person to rape or somehow, more deserving of rape than a potential victim who say holds strong ties to the men in her life? Did the fact that there was no man to ‘lose family honour’ behind her make her lesser ‘collateral damage’? A woman who is raped is a victim, and a man who rapes is a rapist. No presence or absence of males in her life can alter the pain and trauma caused by rape.
  3. It is reinforcement of the patriarchal philosophy of how rape is the loss of honour to the woman and in turn the male members of the family who supposedly have ‘ownership’ over her. Traditionally, women are supposedly the upholders of honour in a family system (ghar ki izzat?). In a patriarchal society, hurting a woman’s modesty is equivalent to breaking the metaphoric links of her familial chain, she already being the weakest link. Assuming that her pain can only be felt by those whom she was related to is reinforcement of the very misogynistic idea that the fact that she could ‘get raped’ was an assault or comment on the inability of her brother/father/husband to protect her.
  4. Empathy stems from putting oneself in the victim’s shoes. By using the sister/daughter/mother analogy, one is subconsciously distancing oneself from the crime and cannot fully comprehend the severity of it firsthand.
  5. Men (or boys) should not be taught that a woman who is not genetically or filially bound to them is unworthy of being shown any sort of sympathy. The sister/mother/daughter argument only shows that a woman whom one is not genetically tied to is ‘not human enough’ and somehow their victimisation is cause of lesser worry, since they aren’t in any way bound to you.

In a nutshell, a woman who is raped deserves every bit of your sympathy, empathy and support whether or not you see her as your sister, mother or daughter.

The PK Controversy Drives Home the Message Louder than the Film

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First of all, Rajkumar Hirani deserves way more credit as a filmmaker for making an important film like PK that strikes a chord and asks the right questions.
Questioning the status quo has been Hirani’s beloved trope, and this one is no different. Questioning the norms of our accidental existence into a world which makes you believe otherwise, has never been so comical and emotional at the same time.
PK delves into some valid inquisitions about religion and an ambiguous divine existence. All in all, I believe, PK is a must watch that subtly reasons with an otherwise unreasonable set of notions that we are given to take for granted.
What I found even more endearing and nearly poetic though, is how Raju Hirani managed to drive home his point about religious clubs that come attached with sentiments of glass both on and off screen with utmost grace and delicacy.
How? you may ask. After its release, PK, in no time, became the hot controversy of the month. The twitterverse was flooded with hashtags that spelt #boycottPK and more with words to the same effect. Within 3 days of its release religious groups began its very predictable and very much anticipated marathon of allegations and charges born out of hurt religious sentiments of the likes of the very people portrayed in the film.
If not anything else, the hate that PK is getting, is proof that we live in a world that is so consumed by the idea of religious divisions that we don’t even realise the ridiculousness of defending something of whose existence we are not even sure of. Very beautifully does the offscreen hate illucidate the ‘intolerance’ with which we deal with things (religious things?) that defy logic and reason.
I find it ironic, coincidental, and even comical that, for me, the message of religious parochialism and ridiculous intolerance through this very accidental ‘identity’ was proven off-screen even more than it was on-screen. Hirani you genius, you made your point. And all you haters out there (those who hated for non-cinematic reasons) the joke’s on you.

The Right Way to Moral Police

Moral police is a term used to describe vigilante groups which act to enforce a code of ‘morality’ (which subscribes to their idea of morality) in India. The moral police in India are often misguided and undemocratic in their ways to go about the act of policing itself and the things they do it for. So for everyone’s convenience and wellbeing here is a list of things one can do to actually satiate one’s inner vigilante and truly be the ‘saviour’ one is aspiring to be. Of course, the legitimacy of being a vigilante is a debate for another day. But if one just has to do it, here are things one should be policing.

1. Raise a voice against female foeticide and shame people who kill their own baby girls.

2. If a man catcalls/eve teases a woman, intimidate him. Preferably avoid using profanity which address their female family members.

3. Call honour killing ‘cold blooded murder’ and raise a voice against it. Report the matter to the police and ensure the ‘murderer’ is brought to justice.

4. When a woman is being raped/groped/molested, get together your band of men (fellow vigilantes) and intimidate (or maybe beat if required?) the rapist away. Ensure the girl is safe and report the matter to the police. Bonus points if you don’t judge or blame the girl.

5. When a politician (or an influential person) makes a sexist/misogynistic/downright idiotic statement, protest against it, boycott his/party and raise a voice against his/her ideology.

6. If you see a woman/man/child dressed in a way that makes you uncomfortable, assume that it is comfortable and appropriate clothing for said person, and he/she is dressed as per his/her desired occasion. Most of all, let them be. Don’t stare, don’t gape, don’t leer. Bonus points for stopping someone else from staring/leering at them.

7. Respect a women (or man) who married out of choice. Understand that she is an adult who can make her own choices. If you are anticipating problems based on who she married, let her approach you first if she needs help. Unless there is domestic violence and abuse involved, understand that her marriage is no one else’s business. If you are the in-laws this is addressed to you too.

8. If you see a woman in a bar/restaurant/pub/party, don’t approach her unless you’d want to strike up an amicable conversation. Understand that she is an adult and is aware of her fundamental rights and does not need to be told what is right and wrong from a stranger. Bonus points if you stop a stranger from trying to tell (or make her understand through violent measures) her what to do.

9. Understand that a woman’s choices, work, clothes, virginity, etc. are none of your (or anyone else’s) business. Respect her even if you think her lifestyle doesn’t fall into what you would deem as ideal. If you think she has gone astray and are getting severe urges to correct her, understand that hurting her, complaining to her parents, or using violence is never a solution. Bonus points if you stop others from using those methods too.

10. And last, but not least. Understand that, a woman does not have to be your mother/sister/girlfriend/wife in order to be (in want of a better word) protected by you. Even if she isn’t the above, even if you don’t see any of the above in her, and even if you don’t consider any of those roles being fulfilled by her, if she needs help, try and help her out. Bonus points if you help her by stopping an attack by the traditional misguided moral police.

The Basic Rapist Analogy

Here’s my understanding and analogy of a rapist’s mind.
Disclaimer: Not meant for the faint hearted.

I am someone who hates laughter. One day I suddenly run into a standup comic street performer who unwittingly makes a superb joke and makes me laugh involuntarily. I am trying my best to control myself but I can’t and I simply burst out laughing. The others present at the performance are enjoying themselves but I am dying of hatred inside me towards that performer, because laughing according to me is an emotion felt only by evil beings, and I am not one of them. After the crowd disperses, I approach the performer and start accusing him of turning me into evil deeds i.e. laughing. When he tries to reason with me, that it actually is a problem that I need to deal with, I get angry and want to teach him a lesson. Since I get that he likes laughter, the best way to teach him is to force it out of him, when he least wants it. The best way to induce laughter would ideally be delicate tickling but I will resort to violent measures, because right now I want to prove a point. I pin him down and take out all sharp objects I can spot nearby. I start to tickle him forcefully first and then when he doesn’t laugh enough I begin to force it further. I now begin to scratch him. In all the places where he would get tickled I scratch him with the nails and blades I picked up from the pavement. He is now bleeding and has developed bruises. He is also begging me to stop, but I have to keep going because I now feel powerful as I finally got my way with him. It was his fault after all, he is the one who made me laugh. How dare he make me laugh? I am going to teach him that making me laugh was a big mistake. Such an evil thing like laughter is not a part of my culture and I will make sure I don’t let anyone else practice it. So what if his culture doesn’t practice it? My culture is the best there is, we can only impart what is right. Also since he likes laughter so much, I’m sure he must be enjoying it no matter what. After I’m done forcefully tickling him with nails and blades he will never want to make anyone laugh again. And since he’s tainted, no one will ever want to watch him perform again. I think I’ve made sure of that.

The Gauhar Khan Incident is Basically Rape Culture Explained

If you’re an Indian citizen (and even if not) and haven’t been living under a rock or wearing blinders to the media (one would hope that was possible though) you definitely would know about how an excess baggage to humanity named Akil Malik slapped Gauhar Khan on the sets of the show she hosts. It was heartening to see the uproar on social media and finally evolving into people whose USP doesn’t spell tolerance. While everyone was bashing the slapper and slappee alike (more bashing to the slapper thankfully), little did we know that, this incident right there explains ‘rape culture’ in its most subtle and blaring form at the same time. And here’s how.

1. Victim Blaming– In a society where rape culture is rampant, the victim is often said to be ‘asking for it’ through her clothes, her choices, her travel plans, the mode of transport she chooses, her intoxication patterns, her living and breathing and existing… well anything at all. Though not an outright sexual assault on the face of it, the assaulter did try to assert violence on Gauhar Khan with the frivolous and outright stupid excuse of how her clothes bothered him or ‘provoked’ him. I’ll explain this with a simple analogyIf I hated laughter, then anyone telling a joke that made me laugh would deserve to be assaulted by me. Yes. That’s the stupid logic which our holier-than-thou moral police uses more often than not. Which brings me to…

2. Moral Policing– The self righteous upholders of the so-called ‘morals’ of society are living in troubled times (and a cosmopolitan isn’t really a habitable and sustainable place for them any longer, yes things are looking up). Had this man done the same thing in a village with a strong Khapesque moral code, he would’ve been celebrated and rewarded for his behaviour. Speaks volumes about our ancestral belief that a woman is responsible for upholding the moral fibre of any social fabric. In a sexual crime scenario as well, a woman is said to have ‘invited trouble’ by doing a certain something that bothered a certain someone and is basically being harmed as a ‘corrective measure’. By that absurd logic as well Mr. Akil Malik believes that his actions were justified as he was ‘making things right’ by supposedly spelling it out to Gauhar Khan how she should be conducting herself in general. And what about him nurturing any sort of fear of consequence you may ask? Well that takes me to…

3. Inconsequential Actions– The non-realisation that their actions have consequences is a classic assumption by rapists who believe that the ‘shame’ brought to the victim will act as a deterrent to them being implicated in any way. Often a tool used to silence victims in the past and make the rapist stronger and more fearless. Not convinced yet? Well, we’re a country that proudly maintained a ruling that a rapist could be acquitted of his crime by marrying the victim (umm… yeah. :/ ). In this incident as well, I don’t think the assaulter even for a second thought about what the result of this would’ve been. So clouded by his own perversion and screwed up moral hogwash was he, that thinking about anything else other than this would strain his poor little pea-sized brain. Of course, thinking about the fact that an influential woman like Gauhar Khan would not take this lightly is a matter for another day. Well, that kind of focus takes a very twisted mind (and un-evolved maybe?) to execute. There is a very different way in which people like him view women, explained in my next point which is…

4. Gender Policing Gender policing in a nutshell, is the idea that a person of a certain gender (mostly female) must adhere to certain characteristics that define her as a woman and must follow archaic norms of society that stereotypically characterise her moral standing. All boils down to the assumption that women should stay at home, have kids, be nurturing, caring and all that mumbo-jumbo. And while at it, also ensure that she does not ‘get raped’. The gender police often get threatened by a woman in a position of power (or what one would characterise as not following her gender guidelines) and are in search of an opportunity to penalise the person (woman) in question. Ring any bells about this incident?
Now, think about this. Had the victim not been Gauhar Khan, but say, (and dare I name) Salman Khan, for instance (mentioned purely due to his affinity for removing shirts, and no other reason). Would a man (or even woman) who walks up to him and assaults him for his sartorial taste ever be looked at in the same way? Would Salman Khan ever, even for a second, be judged for maybe ‘provoking’ the incident to take place? And, would people like Ajaz Khan ever come up with absurd statements that go as far as saying she ‘deserved’ it? No, right? ‘Cause let’s face it, Salman Khan’s success doesn’t bother the likes of Akil Malik and is even celebrated and upheld simply because he is…drumroll… a man. Seems preposterous even while I write this.

To sum it all up, even if it were a grope, slap or full blown rape, any assault on a woman is a nudge to the very norms of rape culture that is very subconsciously engrained, at varied levels, in all our brains. We all need some serious rewiring to actually revisit this philosophy and overwrite it with logic. Long way to go, but I’m hoping we’ll get there somewhere.

Another explanation to the incident is a very succinctly put video by this YouTuber. An absolute must-watch.