Sunday, December 30, 2012

A Manifesto for Indian Males

I feel like I've lived these past few days with alternating bouts of frenzied activity and a rage-filled grief about the situation in India. First the news of the teen rape victim who committed suicide because she was being pressured by the cops to marry her rapist. Then the brave fighter who only wanted to live, died despite that will, in a strange land.

I want to hit something, someone. And I realize that these events reminded me of how close I've come to Damini's fate. I will call her this because that's what she was--lightning that flashed for a brilliant second and died away. But her name is immaterial. She is me. She is all Indian women.

I too was a twenty-something in Delhi. It was an unfamiliar city and I was brash, cocky, young, living in that state the young live in--infallibility. I got on to the wrong bus and there I was at night heading towards the U.P. border instead of to Delhi University. I had no idea where I was but I got down with a bunch of other people. It was pitch-dark and I managed to find an auto-rikshaw. Another woman got down with me and begged me to give her a ride because she was scared.

The area looked dodgy, seedy. She tried convincing me to stay the night at her place. I couldn't trust auto-wallahs. Why did I want to wake up my sister late at night when I could go home early in the morning?

Some instinct kicked in and I made her get off way before the place she wanted to go. I still don't know. Was she a procurer? Something worse?

I trusted the auto-wallah. Not because he was great but I had no choice. I could either be stranded somewhere unfamiliar late at night, be sold into something unsavory or risk being in a vehicle with a stranger. I made the right choice by chance that night. Damini did not. Could not. There was no right choice to make.

I know that feeling of desperation, of fear, of the million what-ifs. I felt it that night and many other times...but I was lucky. That's all. Luck!

Women can do nothing more in India but be lucky. This problem--this culture of violence and rape--is on the heads of Indian men. And perhaps on the shoulders of the mothers who bring up these little princes by telling them that all other women are fair game and if they are out there they are sluts anyway.

This is what men need to realize:

1. Women are are human. Take a minute, and think about this. Is the blood rushing to your head? Sit down then, and think. We are not exotic creatures no matter the books that proclaim our Venus heritage. And as humans we have the same emotions and feelings and dreams and aspirations as you do. And each unwelcome touch, each crude comment, each assault, each anything done without our consent grossly violates our human rights.

2. Not only are we human but we are fully equal to you. Whoa! Did that blow your mind? It's true. We have the same rights as you do. The right to walk the streets and go to any public place without hindrance. We have the rights to employment and life and liberty and the right to live our lives. Just as you do.

3. Any right of yours that infringes on ours is not a right. Is this a hard concept too? Let me explain. You too have the right to pursuit your happiness. But if your happiness comes only by molesting or touching someone without their consent it is not a right. Your rights (and mine) stop at the edge of our respective noses. Your pursuit of happiness stops being a pursuit when it only comes at my expense. See two equals cancel each other out and we are equal.

4. Rape is not sex: Rape is a sexual manifestation of many things. At the very least it is a lack of impulse control. At worst it is about violence, rage, control, domination and a deviant desire to hurt. There are actually women who will have sex with you...willingly. But for those who fail to see your charms? Just move on. Really, you might discover that sex is actually more enjoyable than rape. Sex is about pleasure--mutual pleasure. Rape is about stealing something--sometimes violently--that is not yours and is not about anything mutual.

5. You can change. Trust me on this. First of all, there many, many wonderful sensitive non-rapy men out there. They manage to live and love and prosper and do all the things they need to do without it being at the expense of women. Some of these men stood shoulder-to-shoulder with women in Delhi protesting the hideous crime in Delhi. If you too think of us people (not goddesses or princesses or any other label that diminishes our humanness) who are kind of like you then you can change. And it might even be fun. You might even make female friends. We're fun and stodgy and irreverent and stuck-up and funny and bitchy and nice and not nice: human. Judge us on our individual merits or de-merits, not just because we are women.

And mothers of Indian men? Stop making your sons into female-hating assholes. Just because women are not their mothers, sisters or wives and are out there in public does not make them whores ready for the taking. In fact--even they are whores they still have the rights to their own bodies. They still have the right to make their own choices about who can touch them and who cannot.

You are fond of bleating on about India being poised to be in the first world. Guess what? That is not going to happen unless and until this problem is addressed. It's a human rights issue stupid!

These are not radical rights. Most of these rights in some way or the other are already enshrined in the Indian constitution. Don't believe me? Read it. Nowhere does it say in that document that women are second class or that we do not have the same rights as men.

Even if not that: you can think the way you do...but you do not (and moms teach this to your potentially rapy sons)....touch anyone if they don't want you to. I don't believe in thought policing. I do believe in freedom of speech. But actions...they are another thing altogether. You say something crude to a woman in the streets or touch her or assault her...that is a crime!

See? That wasn't so hard right? Think of all the rights you legally enjoy and take as your birthright. We, as Indian women, have those exact same rights. You can think we are sluts, whores or whatever else. You *cannot* act on that. Just the same way that many Indian women might think most of the males around her are sex-obsessed, crude, assaulting assholes. But if we become vigilantes and start pre-emptively kicking random men in the balls or castrating them...that is a crime.

Did that make you cringe? Good. That was one-thousandth of what it takes for an Indian woman to go about her daily life, being prepared for a constant barrage of invasion and criminal assaults to various degrees.

Feel free to pass this along. And feel even freer to change and help others to do the same.

3 comments:

Katie Hayoz said...

Just as it should be said. This may be to Indian men, but men everywhere should read it and take it to heart.

C. said...

Awesome J, can you get this published in an Indian newspaper? You should try. Yours is the voice that says what are all feeling and thinking.

dipali said...

So true, every word of this.