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A recent tweet attributed another ‘boys will be boys’ comment to Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav. While that turned out to be a parody, it’s a common enough attitude.
Mulayam Singh Yadav is known for his infamous comment, “ladke, ladke hain… galti ho jati hai‘ (boys will be boys… they commit mistakes).” He was addressing a rally in Moradabad and tried to advertise his party (the Samajwadi Party) by saying that they would change the law from giving death sentences to those convicted of rape.
Furthermore, he accused girls of developing friendships with boys and levelling rape charges when differences occurred. He said that women who pressed false charges would be punished. His narrative seemed to be that most women make a hue and cry about nothing.
That was back in 2014. Now, four years later, a parody account claimed that Mulayam Singh similiarly defended Salman Khan who hunted and killed a blackbuck, one of an already endangered species protected in India. The tweet attributed to him the following words: “Salman Khan was young boy when he mistakenly killed the blackbuck. And young boys make mistakes. Now he is the role model. He should not be punished.”
While this may have been a parody tweet, the reason many of us believed it easily is perhaps because Mulayam Singh Yadav’s point of view is far from uncommon! Men are often let off very easily (no matter who the victim is – blackbuck or woman) and then the victim is blamed – after all, it was their responsibility to stay safe, wasn’t it? This is the whole foundation of rape culture.
You might think that you are very progressive, but the truth is that we all probably have a little Mulayam Singh Yadav inside of us who might not say such outrageous things but works more insidiously. We are all secret promoters of rape culture. What do you say to yourself when you hear about a rape case?
“It wasn’t her fault that she got raped, but you’ve got to admit that it was a little stupid to venture out so late at night.”
“This is why it’s important for all girls to learn self-defence.”
“I’m always going to carry a pepper spray with me from now on.”
“Sure, it’s not the victim’s fault, but you have to be realistic, society won’t change so easily. You have to protect yourself. You shouldn’t wear revealing clothes in certain places.”
Some of the above statements might actually be useful (and some are utterly useless) but by concentrating on them, we forget the real problem – the rapist(s) – people who think that women should be controlled and that rape is a good way of doing it. We advise our loved ones to stay safe because we care about them, but we shouldn’t forget that the real issue cannot be solved forever just by ‘staying safe’. In fact, it would be impossible to do that because then you would only keep getting pushed backwards by the patriarchy.
For example, in the parts of Pakistan occupied by the Taliban, staying safe would mean not going to school. Would you blame Malala for getting shot? There is no way to be completely safe. Therefore, it is time to fight back rather than sit back and take whatever sexist behaviour comes your way.
Even something as simple as rephrasing a sentence can help change the narrative in rape. For example, saying, “He raped her,” instead of “She was raped by him.” This places the blame on the perpetrator rather than the victim. One small step that makes a world of difference. Think about it.