Monday, January 7, 2013

"'Where are the men?' I asked her.
'In their proper places, where they ought to be.'
'Pray let me know what you mean by "their proper places".'
'O, I see my mistake, you cannot know our customs, as you were never here before. We shut our men indoors.'
'Just as we are kept in the zenana?'
'Exactly so.'
'How funny,' I burst into a laugh. Sister Sara laughed too.
'But dear Sultana, how unfair it is to shut in the harmless women and let loose the men.'
'Why? It is not safe for us to come out of the zenana, as we are naturally weak.'
'Yes, it is not safe so long as there are men about the streets, nor is it so when a wild animal enters a marketplace.'"

This is an excerpt from Sultana's Dream by Rokheya Shekhawat Hossein, written in 1905, depicting a 'feminist utopia' in which women dominate the world and men are marginalized.

I got introduced to this in the context of a tweet in the aftermath of the brutal Delhi rape incident, which made a very pertinent point in a sarcastic way.

If one has to be respond to rape by means of restrictions, then it makes much more sense to place restrictions on men rather than women, since they are the perpetrators. If you think that restrictions on men are absurd or inapplicable, then suggestions of restrictions on women are equally absurd and ought to be considered equally inapplicable. Why should the burden to prevent rape (supposedly) be on women by restricting their dress, movement and behavior, and not on the men, who are the rapists and are running around rampant and unrestrained?

The idea that women provoke rape is a myth. It is simply untrue for the vast majority of cases. It transfers blame from the perpetrator to the victim and makes people feel better about the world they live in. This victim blaming mentality is a pernicious mindset and has to be challenged by all those who encounter it.

Rape is hardly ever simply lustful desire. More importantly, it is a disregard for other person's consent, it is a propensity towards violence, the need for sexual gratification by means of control and domination, and it is driven by the context of vulnerability and opportunity. Cases of rape become possible due to rapist's access to women (and men) in situations in which they are vulnerable and the rapist can get away with his crime. This has nothing really to do with how women dress. To decrease rape, the sensible approach would be to focus on making public and private spaces more safe, and by increasing apprehension and punishment of those who commit rape. Talk about women's modesty is nothing but a red herring and serves to distract from the actual causes and perpetrators. 

1 comments:

ofbeinghumane said...

Very well put. And I liked the tweet message, quite amusing, as well. I wish this could be declared for just a day and I would really want to know how men feel about it!

Just one more thing in addition to the conclusion/solution you have put forth in the last paragraph, rape is also about one person having more power over the other (physical power aside, it means social power, mainly, which a man enjoys in the society by the mere virtue of being a man) and hence, power redistribution in its real essence would be required to bring about the real change.

 

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