We need to reflect on the grotesque mindset that has come to define who we are as a society.
It's a disgraceful situation, made even more so by the so-called 'cultural experts' advising India's girls on how they should behave, where they should go and what they should wear. Let’s keep them aside for the sake of our own sanity, as well as the unfortunate lack of a harsh system allowing men to commit such heinous acts. We need to acknowledge that men think they can do these things in public, only because they think they will get away with it. Get away not just from the victim, but also from the society and most disturbingly, from the law.
Criminality is a problem that sadly is not isolated to cases like this.
The Real Villain is the Mentality
Let’s focus on something else here. Let’s focus on the sad state of misogyny that permeates our country (and the world, might I add). Where does this mentality originate? Yes, we all get very upset when obvious events of criminality occur, and yes, we have every right to be outraged, but what next? Misogyny, vile and vulgar behaviour towards women continues to exist almost every single day, every single hour and probably every single minute. It happens everywhere – in big cities and in small towns. It happens to young girls, and it also happens to married women.
This mentality has figuratively become a villain of this country – one that doesn't see any difference in what clothes women wear, what language they speak, how they behave, or what kind of culture they have been brought up in. It’s extremely prevalent, and we're all aware of it. But the million dollar question is: How do we solve this problem?
We tell our girls not to go out late at night, we tell them not to speak in a particular manner, and not to sit in a certain way. We insist that girls should learn to cook instead, and that they shouldn't get involved in rough sports. We tell them so many things on a day-to-day basis – often with no malice intended – that we simply end up making them feel that they are different.
Yes, I am carefully using the word – ‘different’ here, because even in the most educated of households (where educated men know that men and women are equal), they can make their mothers, wives and daughters feel ‘different’. These differences then manifest into barriers that bring insecurity, resentment and ultimately, anger. These words, these phrases then perpetuate from one generation to another. Young boys start to believe that girls are different and unfortunately, young girls do too and the cycle starts all over again.
From shouting at women in the workplace because men know their voices are louder, to staring at girls on the road to make them feel uncomfortable; from passing women over for promotion because you think they may get pregnant or married, to not hiring a girl because the job involves ‘work’ that won’t suit them; it’s a common phenomenon which goes unreported, and unsaid.
It’s not confronted; instead, it’s accepted and tolerated with thoughts like “Aisi Hi Hai Duniya”. What happened in Bangalore is a crime. Of course it is, but it is again, sadly, just the tip of the iceberg. Those perpetrators are obvious criminals, but they are just a minor chunk of the pie. What about the rest? Snide remarks, shameless brushing in cinema halls and other forms of inappropriate touching in buses and trains are a few constant pain-points for women who just want to go about their daily lives normally. And why ever not? They are entitled to go about their daily lives without uncouth barbarians objectifying them for every little thing.
Gender equality is not something that will be felt overnight. Unless it is drilled into the psyches of current and future generations that a woman is no different from a man, the idea of gender equality will only remain a figment of our collective imagination.
Sons are no different from daughters. I have both and they give me equal joy. They will probably also give me equal heart attacks in days to come and if they don’t, it will be because of who they are as individuals, not because of their gender.
Not all women are overly sensitive. There are plentiful men who are too. Not all women are overly emotional, lots of men are too. These stereotypes are outdated and it’s time we, as parents of the future generation, consign them to history.
It Definitely Isn’t About the Clothes
Then the baseless argument that men are physically stronger, and therefore, are best suited to do a particular task, or play a particular sport. How many men in the world can beat Serena Williams at tennis? How many can run faster than Flo Jo? How many would dare to step in a wrestling ring with Ronda Rousey? The idea of physical might being the be all and end all of everything is ‘Neanderthal’ in every sense of the term. Surely, we have evolved!
Over the course of my teaching experience, I can honestly say that I have found girls to be far more focused and prepared to work harder than boys. I am not making a judgement here by saying that girls are smarter. I am simply stating an observation. This too is conditioning. Ever observed how girls always outperform boys on an average in some of the most coveted examinations our system conducts? Not just here, but across the world. Why? Are they smarter? Well the stats would suggest so, but perhaps this omnipresent mental conditioning doesn't help either.
So the next time you are privy to a reprehensible crime against a woman, be outraged. Be very outraged. But don't allow this outrage to stop. It has to go further if we are to eradicate this menace. Eliminating the perpetrators of this utter humiliation against women may help in the short term but in the long term, the only solution is to educate ourselves and our children.
It’s not about clothes, and it definitely isn’t about the women at all. It’s about the mentality that plagues the minds of our men, and it’s time that we all understand this and do something about the source for the sake of both – our daughters and our sons.
(Rahul Puri is Head of Academics at Whistling Woods International, and Managing Director of Mukta Arts.He is an avid reader and loves books, especially pulp fiction. He is a keen observer of current affairs and politics, and is an avid sports fan.)
(This is a personal blog and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)
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