Hathras Rape: Why We Women Refuse To Be Just ‘Ma’, ‘Beti’, ‘Behen’

“We love mothers as the ‘sacrificial lambs’ for all the effort men wouldn’t make to change themselves.”

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Women
3 min read
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“If my daughter is anything like me,
raising her will not be an easy task...”
– ‘Mom’ by Alyesha Wise and Aman Batra

In their poem titled ‘Mom’, slam poets Alyesha Wise and Aman Batra light a flaming circle around what feminist motherhood can look like if it navigates out of centuries of patriarchal conditioning. They speak of the complex mother-daughter relationship, in the context of the dark and narrow of learned misogyny.

India’s ‘Obsession’ With Mothers

The poem is gripping, because the idea of motherhood is an obsession in this country. We love mothers. We love them as the sacrificial lambs for all the effort men wouldn’t make to change themselves.

We love them as glossy calendar goddesses gathering dust on crumbling walls, witnessing the violation of their bodies on the floor below. We love them so much that we immortalise them in ‘ma-behen’ ki gaali during spitball throwing competitions between men — all of them rooted in specific destruction they would wreck on the reproductive parts of their opponent’s mothers and sisters.

What Do Women Fear The Most? Their Designated ‘Protectors’

When women are violated in this country, they receive the highest civilian honour bestowed upon them by men — of ‘Ma’. ‘Beti’ is the second highest. Take a poll among women. If they were stranded on the road in the middle of the night, what is it they fear the most? Their designated protectors.

In the backdrop of Hathras and other cities where predatory men are ripping apart babies, adolescent girls and women – often due to the caste identities of the latter – these deaths have sparked a mass hand wringing accompanied by the bewildered question — ‘who would do such a thing to India’s daughters?’

Women of course know the answer to this question only too well. They’ve known it since they were three years old. Their skin bears testimony to this question. Their rage will burn down cities if allowed to be let out.

The men rushing to claim them as their daughters and mothers and sisters know this.

It isn’t just the men steeped in centuries of conservatism, it is as much the liberal woke men who believe women have their own identities, who are being told by women over and over again they don’t ‘belong’ to them.

For Men To Change Their Behaviour Would Mean To See Women As Human Beings With Agency

Women are refusing to be their daughters and sisters. Women are rejecting this forced ‘Beti-hood’. Men are pretending not to understand. To understand would mean to commit to affirmative action to change their behaviour.

To change their behaviour would mean to be able to see women as human beings with independent aspirations that do not depend on their philanthropy and benevolence.

To be denied the benevolence would mean women will no longer be required to seek their protection. Their emotional wellbeing will no longer be dependent on men’s goodwill. Identities and independence and individual freedoms mean nothing in a country where men trade the honour of their daughters and sisters as social currency.

The ‘Perfect’ Victim Is Ideally ‘Dead’

Male paternalism hates strong and opinionated survivors who are determined to send their rapists to jail.

These women are ‘liars’ and ‘gold diggers’ who ‘trap’ innocent men. Don’t believe this? Look up the reaction of most men in India to the #MeToo movement. Women who loudly talk of their own abuse and require no man to rush in to claim them as fathers and brothers and husbands and lovers, are possibly the ‘worst’. They rob men of the chance to be saviours.

The ‘perfect’ victim is one who is ideally dead.

And the farce of calling her ‘beti’ is an attempt to humanise the violence men know they are capable of.

(Rituparna Chatterjee is Director, Communications, at UNGENDER Legal Advisory. She tweets @MasalaBai. This is an opinion piece. The views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)

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