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Madhu Arora works as a content specialist with a leading multinational IT firm. She is an advocate of gender equality in both her personal and professional life, and currently walks the tightrope between full time motherhood, the idiosyncrasies of family life in India, and a demanding career. She blogs at Madhu Arora and her twitter handle is @aroramadhu
As the victim of the gruesome gang rape incident in Delhi battles for precious life, we, a nation of armchair activists, are busy getting outraged. We complain about the lax law and order situation, we lament ‘ki kuch nahin ho sakta’, we offer what we think are perfect solutions to the situation if only someone would implement them. But no one will; and women will continue to be molested, raped and maimed.
Because the truth is that change begins at home. Our home. You and me are as much a part of this society, as were those girl’s rapists. A friend of mine said this morning,
“While WE DEMAND quick and strict action against the perpetrators, we need to reflect …Ram Singh and Mukesh were not created in a day…”
Indeed. Every time you have laughed at a rape joke, every time you have spoken about women in terms of boobs and ass, every time you have told your son to be stop being a ‘sissy’, every time you have used the term ‘easy’ to describe a girl; you have contributed to the culture of rape that plagues this country.
And let’s be honest here, all of us have been at some point or another, guilty of the above or something similar. If for nothing else, then simply to fit in, not create controversy, not to be seen as a “cause wali bai/bhai” by our peers.
But you can only ‘hope’ for change and not really make it happen, unless you are willing to step out from your comfort zone.
So if you want it; real change begins with you and me, and here are some small ways you can start trying to change the status quo.
Discourage sexist language and behavior
Rape jokes are not funny, whether women dress up or dress down, they are not ‘asking for it’. No matter what women do, they are never ‘asking for it’. Be vocal against this culture of blaming the victim. Condemn ‘eve teasing’ and sexual harassment in all forms; don’t just brush it off by saying ‘boys will be boys’. Neither does it help to refer to women as bitches, whores, sluts; even if you do it as women with each other. Stop defining masculinity with aggression and femininity with submission. And with children, stop telling your boys to “stop crying like girls” and initiating your girls into the entire pink/ princess culture.
Be the right role model for your children
Children are the future. If we can teach them the right values, then we are at least setting up the next generation right. Show, don’t just tell your children that mommies are not damsels in distress, and dads are not know-it-all macho dudes. Teach them that no matter what the situation, violence is not the answer. If you are a mom, learn to change a bulb, pay your taxes, learn how your car runs, don’t just drive it. If you are a dad, help around the house, cook, clean, take the lead in child care when you can.
Teach your children that men and women are equal partners, maybe with different specializations but equal all the same.
Complain in the right forums about sexist media
Think critically about the messages you receive from the media about gender and violence. Don’t those fairness cream ads make your blood boil? As and when you find objectionable matter, try to report it. Radio/TV/Web related complaints can be submitted to the Electronic Media Monitoring Centre. For newspapers/magazines, you can complain to the Press Council of India. Here is a link from the organization which describes the process in detail.You can also reach out to the National Commission of Women.
Now, you could either argue that the system doesn’t work or try once for yourself and see what happens. The choice is yours.
Volunteer with organizations working for the cause
Last but not the least, volunteer. There are a great number of organizations that work with both men and women to combat the culture of violence and sexual subjugation in our society. Volunteer with one and help them have more impact. From counseling centers, to rehabilitation homes, to organizations that provide gender sensitivity trainings, you can take your pick based on your time and comfort levels. Just a few hours in a week will go a long way. For people based in Delhi, here is a list of organizations from the NCR region (PDF).
Some of the actions outlined above will often mean standing up to or against the people you hold dear; may be your spouse, your mother, mother-in-law, and your friends at work or home. But if a little discomfort, a little dissonance today leads to a safe and unfettered life for the women in this country tomorrow, is it not a very small price to pay?
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I thought the last paragraph captured so well the reason many of us don’t raise our voices more often. It’s tough to be in conflict with people we love (and whose opinions we care about), but unless we start in our own circles, we are never going to effect change.
Loved this positive article filled with things we CAN do. I agree that every time we stand up and speak and do the right thing, it makes a difference. It really does.
Thank you Madhu for this concise, well argued article. Yes indeed, these men were not created in a day and we need to change the way we talk about women and comprehend what ‘being female’ is. I am glad to see some positive points.
Very do-able things. Now we need to take large font printouts of this article and stick it everywhere we can.
Fwding the link.
I agree. When we tolerate disrespect for women in so many ways, we are doing our bit in raising a future rapist. Zero tolerance towards misogyny and Rape Culture by each one of us is a doable first step.
Nice Article Madhu.. Reminded me about yesturday’s incident, which shows how could the opinion about gender differences generates in an individual’s mind from his childhood..
Yesturday, when i returned home from office, while parking my two-wheeler, overheard the conversation between few boys & girls aged somewhere around 5-6 yrs.. Little boys were playing cricket, two little neighbouring girls approached them & asked to play with them. U know what one of the little boy replied?? He said “tum ladki log hamare saath cricket nahi khel sakti, ye ladko ka game hai, jao aur dusri ladkiyo k saath khelo”.. I was really surprised to hear that.. How could a 5 year old boy speak like this.. How come he knows about what girls can do & what boys can do.. It could be the thoughts of their family menbers, which has penetrated in their innocent minds..
Truly spoken.. Such men are’nt created in a day.. It was their surroundings, family beliefs.. We need to start a change at our level.. then only it will speard in our society.. Thanks for sharing the nice article..
Some of these points make me think.. Do we say that these are inevitable to happen because maybe we are afraid to take the blame for having created such people?
Well said. It is like the ‘India Against Corruption’ agitation. Most of us have been involved in corrupt practises like for getting a passport or for jumping a red light etc, but we raise fingers at others. May be the quantum is different but it always starts from an individual. We change, then only the country changes. And definitely, upbringing, culture and society influence our behaviour. Things have to change from within!
Yes.. Internal cleansing is very much necessary to avoid rape and like stances. In a sense , each one of us is a rapist , as we play with truth daily to gain some advantages (practically very petty). Like in queues, in hotels, in trains, schools, traffic, almost everywhere. It is now in our blood to tell a lie for a smallest benefit.
Secondly, use of liquor , abuses (a form of mental rape) and lawlessness also plays catalytic role in prompting the rapes.
Very well written Madhu…the way men r bought up in India has to go for a TOSS now and women need to stand from themselves even a small Eve teasing needs to be taken seriously….what women ignore as silly needs to be taken seriously to avoid these knd of Inhuman acts….
A serious thought on upbringing kids and women standing for themselves has to be cultivated in India….
I hope my comments are read in the way it is intended… So, are you saying that, jokes on women’s sexuality will directly lead to Crimes against women? If that was the case, then imagine the no of crimes against women in other countries, where these “jokes” are treated as jokes.
Its all in the mentality where most of the illiterate men have limited or no contact with women while growing up, all their sexual desires are misguided in this way. Legalize prostitution, make sex workers a part of the society, help them medically and also socially, if some cannot keep in it in his pants, first thing that will come to his mind, are sex workers, not RAPE!
Stop promoting false modesty and hypocrisy and everything will be fine. We should learn from other countries and implement those things here. Prostitution is not something new to India. It has been present since 1000s of years. Sex workers were integral part of the society where they were respected and provided benefits from the rulers/kings.
Our generation must speak up and speak out about violence against women. This is not just a problem in India or the United States where I live; it is a global problem. As a survivor of sexual assault, it took 20 years for me to find my voice. I will never be quiet again! I am proud the women of your country are in uproar about the rape in Delhi, India. Continue protesting and standing up for is right, good, and moral. In doing so, you are educating your country that sex crimes, brutality and inequality will not be tolerated anymore.
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Really enjoyed reading your blogpost Madhu and your down to earth suggestions for combating rape culture together with links to relevant websites and ways in which to tackle the problem.
People spend so much time talking about the shock and horror of sexist ads, or patriarchal mindsets, offensive songs or Hindi films with objectionable plots – why not take it a step further and make your revulsion official – complain to the right people, make a noise, ring a bell, protest on the street, refuse to laugh at rape jokes.
Humour about these issues is a long way off yet – we’re not ready for it. When men(and women) know well that rape is not politically correct… we haven’t reached that level of education yet. My remark about humour is aimed at INDIAN – who says that jokes about women’s sexuality will lead to rape – clearly showing by this comment that he equates rape with sexuality. This is the biggest mistake our society makes when we talk about rape. What has rape got to do with sex? Nothing other than that it is perpetrated by the male sexual organ and by the patriarchal mindset that thinks rape and sex are synonyms.
But thank you Madhu – although you wrote this three months ago.
‘there is nothing sexual about rape’ is very true, and we must understand that rape is not done only by men who can’t keep it in their pants, it is mainly done by ordinary men (not psychopaths) who believe women are lesser beings who deserve to be punished with their rape tactics. There is nothing sexy about men sticking a rod up your bottom or chewing on you like a piece of meat. If you notice the perpetrators of rape have no remorse at all of the heinous crime they have done, because they honestly believe it is ‘ok’ to do so. So YES, Prostitutes are not a solution, in fact they are also treated badly because not all men (who wants to rape) get to rape a women so easily!. AND, eve teasing and abusive remarks or jokes on women are bad not just because of the way they make women feel but because of the larger reason that they DO create an impression on certain people (especially the young) that it is OK to treat women that way and thus the dreaded Juvenile is born, who continues to live normal lives, except he thinks women are a piece of flesh who deserves to be treated a certain way. SO, my point is only this, the MINDSET desperately needs to be altered, because a lot of people i come across including my own family members (FEMALES included), think in some way women are also responsible for the crime, which is obnoxious. If some one provocates you, do you go and stab him to death? then why do we have to feel a girl’s ‘provocative’ dressing is the root cause of all evil? Women, a lot of them love men being aggressive and over powering her with his ‘masculinity’, as you can see this concept running through a lot of TV soaps..this attitude of women loving submission and aggression confuses me, the media, the comments we make however causualy does have an impact, and all the rape and abuse women face around the world even in developed nations is a product of hundreds of years of women’s submission and the mixed ideas we have about them. Rape isn’t anytime going down, so its a high time to except this inconvenient truth and take responsibility, each one of us, especially the women folk.
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