A gang rape happened in Ohio and no one heard about it. A gang rape happened in India and everyone heard about it (as we should). The American media has represented India as a misogynistic country where women need to be constantly wary of the men that surround them. And after that gang rape, large-scale protests blocked the streets and clogged the media. Now, I am in no way saying that rape and domestic violence are not problems in India. As an Indian-American woman who has been to India many times and is incredibly familiar with the culture, I am in no way denying that. Rape, in India, is a serious problem. Rape, especially in lower class areas in India, is an extremely prevalent problem that needs to stop being ignored and taken seriously. Violence against women in India is a serious issue.
But violence against women in America is also a serious problem. Violence against women in South Africa, and Sweden, and Chile, and Thailand, is a serious problem. Violence against women is a serious problem. Period. Full stop. While our media went out representing India as a typical place for these deplorable events to happen, another woman’s similar story went ignored and without subsequent societal action. This country outright refuses to admit that it is a rape culture.
Our media and our country are so obsessed with presenting foreign countries as worse than us or uncivilized or, most importantly, undemocratic, they will blast our radios and timelines and homepages with news of rapes in India, but refuse to acknowledge that the same thing happens here and is happening here."
I really recommend reading the entire article. Trigger warning for discussion of rape and rape culture - it’s a tough article but very important.
(Thanks to byunbbi for submitting)
I think this quote also really captures what is happening when one is reported so much more than the other in American media:
“24,000 rapes in one year. That’s an epidemic. Brutal gang rape. Police doing nothing to protect or prosecute. Culture of rape. But something like that would never happen here in America, right? India is dirty and dangerous and overcrowded and backwards and misogynistic and this is just a third world problem, right? A really sad problem, but it would never happen here, right?”
It creates another false dichotomy where “we” feel bad for “them” that they have to live in those “conditions.” Definitely both situations are in need of address, but it’s worth examining why media leaps on framing India and its sexual assault issues as if they are a world different from ours- as if “our people” /culture really act better or respect women and victims more (they don’t.)
24,000 in a population of a billion vs 188,000 out of 300 million?
it’s way easier to dehumanize poc culture and portray it as being primitive and backwards than to analyze the structure of misogyny and rape culture in the so called “developed world”.
- “indian men rape because they are sexually frustrated”; “indian men rape because they get away with it”; “indian men rape because x y z”. Bullshit, all of it because a) statements like these assume rape is carried out only by indian men and b) they become excuses and offer rationale for the execution of such a heinous act when there is none. do not confuse motive or impulse with rationale. there is no rationale. men get away with it in everyday life.
- “india is not safe for women”/ “such things happen only there”. talk about convoluted. discounts the various kinds of rape completely: marital rape, date rape, statutory rape, incest rape etc. rape is sex without consent. it is coerced sexual activity. again, this can happen anywhere and it fucking does.
- “what a brave girl she is, fighting for her life after all that”. how fucking condescending of these narratives, glamorizing her struggle and making it sound as though the decision to want to live is an important, virtuous outcome of something so devastating. that it signifies valour. do not turn her choice (which may well be a coping mechanism) into some kind of elevated virtue. there are people who commit suicide after such incidents. there are people who struggle with PTSD all their lives. there are people who will do their best to live “normally”. and there are people who want to live to see the next day. these are not vertically stacked outcomes of rape, where choosing “life” over “death” is somehow laudable, they are all different and exist alongside each other. she is not your trophy.
- “these men should get the death penalty”. ja capital punishment solves everything no? perfect way to divert the topic too — would castration be justice? would life imprisonment? can we fucking talk about the actual problem of rape instead of turning this into a rhetoric about what punishment would suit these men the most according to our own preferred brand of vengeance? a discussion about punishment is a separate one. don’t use that as an excuse, for fuck’s sake. repeat after me: the problem of rape goes beyond and is deeper than a) what happens to these particular men and b) your favourite flavour of justice at the moment that is in vogue thanks to public memory.
- “woman was raped and tortured in bus, indian public protests” and or “outrage”. too many headlines following this twisted, sensationalist narrative. kyun be chutiyon, is rape worthy of discussion only if it happens so brutally in public? is this the right degree of glamour for you? would you have preferred the incident to be longer than 40 minutes? in a metro instead of a bus?
let me clarify: i’m not saying the protests shouldn’t happen. i’m not saying the issue shouldn’t be raised in parliament. i’m saying the way we’re talking about it is misleading. rape has always, forever, since history and time and man happened, been wrong. the tone that is being adopted is anguish and anger over the public nature of the crime. look at the words used— “shock”, “shame”, “barbaric” (where the last two are used in relation to each other). as though this particular brand of rape is somehow more shameful or more shocking than the kind that happens silently in our daily lives, where men force us, emotionally, physically, into sex — any kind of sex — that we just don’t fucking want. stop it.
- “OMG I TOLD YOU DELHI IS A BAD CITY FOR WOMEN HOW TYPICAL”. before you fuck off to pit one city against another and completely miss the point of creating a discussion around what happened, read the brilliant prayaag akbar on the subject. then re-read him.
- “well i mean not all men are like that, these men were just uneducated and poor so they did what they did”. gonna file this under “chutiyapa SILVER STAR” (TM) under charges of ‘missing the point’ and ‘wrong, wrong, wrong” respectively.
- “WILL SHE LIVE!! WILL SHE NOT!!! OH THE SUSPENSE!!!“ (ft. and of course the men must face worse punishment if she DIES) also see: how to appropriate someone else’s trauma into your own soap opera 101. PERKS: INCLUSION OF EXPERIENCE BY VOYEURISM. NO CLIFFHANGERS. WE WANT EVERY DETAIL. WHAT DO YOU MEAN, RESPECT? I AM [VICTIM]!!!!!
- because what i am thankful for: the fact that no one knows her name. or else we’d have that fucktarding “I AM [insert victim’s name”] narrative doing the rounds. You are not this girl. You are not Malala. You are not Adam Lanza’s mother. Sympathy and empathy do not allow for superimposition ESPECIALLY if if it means efficiently sneaking into someone else’s trauma and playing actor-audience at will.
- “we should be ashamed.” no, we should be angry. it is very easy to take this notion of shame on behalf of men and blend it at once with those of “lost honour” and apologia which is completely unwarranted. shame creates hierarchies of power, where the one at the top (man) gets away with everything because he has someone masking his actions (the state, wilfully, and women, unwillingly.). if we are angry, as so many of us are, it places us on the same plateau. it demands action, not apologies.
- “i feel so helpless while that poor girl is suffering”/”i feel so helpless at not being able to help you”/”i feel so helpless because x fucking y z means i can’t do a thing”. congratulations, you have successfully made this about yourself. upgrading you to “chutiyapa GOLD STAR” (TM) because you’re able to do this so EASILY and out of INSTINCT!!!!
- n forms of victim blaming which include bonus tracks: she shouldn’t have been out late (ft. “i mean yes i shouldn’t say that but it’s a reality”) which is not to be confused with “please take care if you venture out late at night” as our scared parents and friends tell us (and why wouldn’t they?); oh but what was she wearing; if she hadn’t tried to protect the guy….; she really should have known better…. for further details, talk to one of your male friends, they usually have a ready list ja?
- “x y z stats prove that rape mostly goes unreported”. yes, do you know why? because safety. it’s not just because it’s “taboo” or because the crime itself was “mis-classified”. we’re too scared to file an FIR (because the accused gets a full copy of your personal details) and too scared to take this any further, not least because we are already traumatized, and our own family and friends would rather we “put this behind us” because it’s so bloody SHAMEFUL (happy now?) already. when the state itself is complicit in violence, why the fuck would we trust it? india may be “socially conservative” (what does that even mean?) but the deeper issue is that of individual recognition and the omnipresent beast of patriarchy: women, everyday, across the world, struggle with the issue of whether their rights were violated, whether by being married to or in a relationship with someone they can possibly be “raped”, what consent means. this shit doesn’t get reported. we take it to our graves.
- secondly, what does documenting rape involve? who will document? what about state-sanctioned rapes carried out by army men? what will filing a report do then? and while we’re on the subject: having a car and a chauffeur doesn’t mean you’re any safer. that kind of thought, again, promotes the public/private dichotomy in the recognition of what rape is. it’s more like, “is man, can rape”.
- “this is a one-off incident”. no, it is not. and i’ll tell you what else, genius: if you think rape is an “occasional” incident, misogyny everyday — sexual harassment, molestation, lewd comments — is going to blow your fucking mind. because that is what lies at the core of acts like these: lack of respect, and the dominant belief that as a man, you can do whatever the fuck you want and not be held accountable to it, ever. you get to call the shots on what constitutes harassment and what doesn’t. what women should do instead of what men shouldn’t do. you want to know what rape culture looks like? hold up a mirror. and proof of patriarchy? the pathetic existence of all of the above.
ETA: B has added comments, especially for dudebros. The last point on her post is an ABSOLUTE FAVE and totally relevant for all yougaiz.
Because I’m seeing a lot of discussion going on regarding what happened in Delhi, I firmly believe this is very, very important to go through and understand. Do read.
The violations started small. I was 12, fairly tall with brand new boobs. My mother wouldn’t let me buy “real bras” for a long time. It didn’t occur to me that was weird until boys in my class started advising me to “stop wearing sports bras” because I was looking a little “saggy.”
It was a boy who told me I had to start shaving my legs if I wanted anyone to ever like me. I said that wasn’t true. He laughed in my face and called me a dyke.
That night after shaving, my mother asked me why I was so vain.
They started finding reasons to touch me, pinching my butt, snapping my new “real bras,” (“They look a lot better. Did you stuff?”) or straight-up grabbing my breasts. Dropped pencils with awkward leanovers. Staged run-ins.
One time, a popular boy I knew who lived on my street forced his way into my living room while my parents were still working and fought with me over a remote control so that he could cop a feel. I didn’t say anything. Speaking up was not an option—rather, an easy road to being even more ostracized and labelled “crazy.” Besides, who would believe that he’d wanted to touch me?
They named girls one by one, by the flaws of our bodies. What they considered theirs. They would write them on chalkboards to taunt us. Draw crude pictures.
If we showed it hurt us, it only got worse. I would cry in the bathroom and hope for some serious illness to keep me out of school, if only for a day.
When I kissed one boy, he encouraged me to do the same with his friends. Not because he thought I might want to, but because I was a toy he wanted to share. An experience he wanted to give his less “successful” friends. For them, a celebration. For me, certain social suicide.
Even if I wanted it, there was never any winning.
I will never forget how excited I was to be invited to watch a movie with the popular boy I liked. I primped for hours. (I was, after all, a teenager grappling with my own new sexuality.) When I got there, he did not put on the movie we agreed to watch, but a porn film. I had never seen one before. He unzipped his pants, pushed and pulled at me. I cried the whole walk home.
They could pinpoint weaknesses. Worse, they knew they were wrong but there were just never any consequences. They knew this—treating us like objects there for them—was what was expected of them.
I want to say that they stop. But the truth is that some never do.
I have never stopped being reminded of my there-for-men status. I am reminded when I am violated in my sleep, or groped in a bar, or held down by a longtime friend. I am reminded when I refuse conversation with a strange man and he spits in my direction, or calls me a “bitch.” I am reminded when I am asked why I wore such a pretty dress if I wasn’t trying to “pick up.” I am reminded when I am told to be less angry and more agreeable. I am reminded when I talk about my lived experience and am told to “stop being so negative about everything.” I am reminded when young girls are bullied so severely by men who wanted to see their bodies that they commit suicide.
We don’t talk honestly enough about what it’s like being a teen girl. If we did talk about it, what it was like for us, perhaps we wouldn’t be so harsh on them. Perhaps we wouldn’t throw our hands up in the air and exclaim “oh, teen girls, they’re so difficult!” Perhaps they wouldn’t be so scary. Perhaps we’d see their lives for the small and large violations they’re often made up of; and what those violations do.
Perhaps we would have been less surprised today when we learned that a fifteen-year-old boy was arrested on the scene of a sexual assault, in connection with a series of sexual assaults occurring in the Bloor and Christie area of Toronto. Perhaps we would be less shocked by the fact that it’s 12-17 year old boys who are the most likely to commit sexual assault (Statistics Canada, pg. 13). That is, after all, what they were doing to me.
My stories are not uncommon. They’re more common than we want to think. As my friend Panic said: “Ask anyone who is or has been a teenaged girl. 15-yr-old boys assaulting women is common. It’s ‘normal.’” It’s so normal, in fact, that we don’t talk about it until we’re women and we know it doesn’t have to be.
Pretty much everything in North American culture tells men and boys that women and girls are there for them. So please, do us some favours. Stop telling us that we have to take self defence. Stop telling us we shouldn’t drink or go out at night or on dates. Stop telling us that we need to be prepared for whatever “boys-be-boys” violations come our ways, because it’s bullshit. We don’t have to accept this or carry it around in silence.
Start talking with men and boys about the messages they’re getting about women and girls. Tell them that they are not entitled to our bodies, no matter what. Talk to them honestly and comprehensively about sexualization and objectification. Stop being afraid to talk about boundaries, sex, and pleasure—leaving that to schools, the Internet, and peers is simply not cutting it. Show them what consent really looks like.
And this sounds basic, but remind them that we’re, you know, people? We deserve at least that much.
Addendum: Thank you + notes