With the recent Bengaluru molestation incident, one thing is clear: We’re willing to blame anything except the patriarchal system we live in.
There are the usual ubiquitous theories blaming mothers or feminism (and of course, the women, who chose to be out at night in a public space — how dare they claim space that men have always laid claim to?).
Apparently, the molesters themselves do not deserve blame. Oh, you’re looking for a bigger reason, a deeper significance to this? Here’s one: patriarchy.
The idea of women being equal — equally powerful and equally safe — scares us much than a world where women are routinely molested, raped, and killed — our world. Feminists have been acknowledging — and combatting — the problem for many decades, yet we still live in a world where feminists are scarier than rapists: we would rather not even legally prohibit marital rape, for instance, for fear that women might have “too many rights”.
What then is the solution? It will involve multiple interventions and initiatives, over many years. Give women equal rights and equal representation in government, in workplaces, in non-governmental organisations. Let children grow up seeing their mothers and aunts and grandmothers as equals to men, as powerful.
Parents should ideally also pass on feminist views, but feminism in the home is not enough without a more equal world outside. A big part of this is sensitising media messages — no more glorification of masculinity, no more jokes about emasculation or rape or violence or sexuality or non-gender-conformance. (Not coincidentally, feminist activists and organisations have already been working on all of these solutions.)
We aren’t even ready to acknowledge the problem, to name it. Finding solutions can only come after.