Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Cover me up quick!

Last year during the FIFA World Cup, I toured Brazil for a month with my husband. Since coming back, I've developed the subtle art of slipping in a Brazil anecdote in to most conversations. Like during a chat about office attire, I mentioned how cool and liberating it was to roam around in my shorts everywhere in Brazil, even in public transport. There was the whole body image thing - in India, even in a place like Mumbai, only girls with perfect bodies wear skin-baring clothes. The heavier girls and women, like me, favor long shapeless outfits that modestly cover the butt. In Brazil, women carry themselves proudly, wear comfortable clothes, wear their hair pretty. Rubs off on you.

And then there was the.... absence of staring. Wearing shorts in the sweltering heat seemed like a very natural, sensible thing in Brazil. Nobody cared if your thighs were showing. I mentioned this to my colleagues, as a very practical matter of dressing as per the weather. And one colleague contributed this little gem of wisdom -

"You try dressing like that on public transport here in India, and you'll be raped before you reach home."

Yeah, this isn't about Brazil or fashion - this is about rape and victim-blaming. But I had to slip in Brazil in that conversation.

Anyway, here, in no particular order, are things I've heard/read over the years.

Woman in my office, in the wake of Delhi gang rape:
 "You should see the way those women dress. What else can you expect?"

Senior (female) in my college, spotting me on walk back to the hostel:
"What the hell were you doing on that road? You'll get raped and come home crying."

Prominent Godman (now behind bar on rape charges) on Delhi rape victim:
"Should have called them Bhaiyya, pleaded with them."

Random well-meaning older woman, commenting on my dress:
"You should be more careful, you know. Apni izzat apne haath mein."

My mother, about the center spread in fashion magazine:
"These are the women who provoke."

Amitabh Bacchan (cop) to Zeenat Aman (complainant in eve teasing case) and 300 random extras (party guests):
Badi Khoobsurat Haseen Ek Ladki
Jawani Ki Dhoon Mein Chali Ja Rahi Thi
Fakat Naam Ko Usne Pehne The Kapde
Ajanta Ki Moorat Nazar Aa Rahi Thi
Koi Manchala Usse Takra Gaya
Mere Doston, Kuch Karo Faisla
Khataa Kiski Hai, Kisko De Hum Sazaa?

Question on Quora:
Rapes in India: Are we hypocrites when we say girls can wear whatever they want, but we keep our wallets in front pockets as a precautionary measure?

My friends, the first time we watched images of Mangalore bar assault:
"Come on, the TV channel will hyping this now. I'm sure this is not the complete story. Those guys must have found out something about these girls."

My friend in class 9, about Navratri in our hometown in Gujarat (they used to dance till the dawn before the time constraint laws came in):
"I can never imagine my mother letting me go out like this. I mean aren't these girls' parents worried?"

Guy in my class, when I confessed I'm sometimes nervous walking home alone because some of our senior girls got harassed recently:
"See, 'normal' girls don't get teased or harassed. It's only when girls try to be something more..."

Girl in class 8 to another girl who had picked a fight with one of the guys:
"Just calm down and don't mess with the boys. You never know what they could do to you."

Renowned female gynecologist in book on women, 15 to 65:
"End of the day, it's the women who suffer and bear the scars."

Senior (male) colleague, on the Tejpal scandal:
"Well I never take these stories on face value. You don't know what a scorned woman is capable of." (I told him the longer version of the story, the version not reported in mainstream media. He took his words back.)

Rajyashree Sen on Newslaundry, about American girl's article on her traumatizing experience of India:
"I’ve lived on my own in Mumbai and Delhi ever since I was 22 years old. It’s not that anything untoward has not happened to me because I’m blessed and born under the right stars or safe because I don’t have red hair, blue eyes and white skin. It’s because I’m very careful in the way I behave and dress in public, on the streets. This is the price you pay for living in India – especially as a single woman. You must be constantly vigilant."


None of the people quoted above is a rapist, to the best of my knowledge. But sure, let's ban the documentary. What was it the rapist was saying in the video, again?


Bonus - 7 politicians whose rhetoric beats that of Mukesh Singh:

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