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What a woman does when confronted by the likelihood of being raped, cannot be easily understood or judged. Our focus should be on creating a more supportive society that can heal wounds and nurture dreams.
Less than a month ago, The Quint published a story titled, ‘Can we stop glorifying Padmavati for choosing honour over life?’ The article succeeded in attracting the ire of most of its general audience and some right wing e-media portals for coming up with what they said was a twisted rationale for Jauhar. While the writer argued that Rani Padmavati need not be venerated for choosing honour over life because she was conditioned to believe that rape was a fate worse than death, online critics and trolls laughed at the writer’s understanding of human emotions and history.
Amidst the chaos, the brutal attack suffered by a third party went unnoticed – the idea of ‘Feminism’ in the minds of innocent bystanders who are yet to acquaint themselves with the concept. And it’s not just this once – every time a woman voices her opinion online, a debate on whether she is a ‘Feminist’ or a ‘Pseudo-Feminist’ ensues invariably.
I don’t know about ‘Pseudo-Feminism’. So, let’s talk about what I know with the case in point, shall we?
Why do women commit suicide when the possibility of rape is imminent and inevitable? Is it because they are somehow, somewhere related to men, as suggested by the writer of The Quint article? Or is it because they are scared? Scared of being defiled by crowds of men physically and emotionally? Reluctant to live through a reality of pain and humiliation in the absence of all that they considered family? Carried away by an all-pervasive darkness that whispers nightmares about their existence in the coming moments, perhaps?
Be it a Padmavati or an ISIS hostage, isn’t fear and human ego the reason why some women choose to kill themselves over being raped? The denial of these fundamental emotions under the cloak of feminism and in the pretext of patriarchy is the irritant responsible for all those vitriolic comments and memes against the writer and her portal online.
But was the writer entirely wrong in her stand? I agree that the article was indeed poorly thought out. But her stand certainly demanded a level of introspection that nobody seemed to have sensed or grasped, going by the online reactions to the post.
Is suicide the only choice a woman ought to make when all her efforts to defend herself fall flat? What if a woman chooses to endure the rape and live her life after such an incident? To a lot of people, an option such as this is incomprehensible. “Who would want to live such a life?”, they’d ask and project that lack of understanding onto a victim who survived such an attack, in the form of insensitivity, apathy and of course – the eternal sympathy that wished she were dead rather than live through the ordeal. (Yeah, let’s be honest, many of us wanted Nirbhaya dead too.)
It doesn’t occur to them that staying alive is probably the only choice that she is left with – maybe she has a family to feed – maybe she has responsibilities, dreams – maybe she doesn’t think that a bite by rabid dogs requires her to die – hell, maybe whatever.
Our anger at crimes of violence against women is only restricted to a few bold words and #MeToo hashtags on social media. We call for the execution of the perpetrators, we write an ode to the departed. But, as a society, how many of us would lend a supportive environment for the victim to heal and move on in life?
In this context, does vaginal honour really weigh heavier than life?
Let’s leave that decision to the woman in danger, and instead focus on creating a society that can heal wounds and nurture dreams. Says Feminism. Not me.
Feminism is just another word for human rights, my dear friend.
Top image is a still from the upcoming movie, Padmavati.