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Men yell at other men all the time. Sometimes, the men even come to blows. But almost never is a video shot and made viral. And even less is a complaint made, unless there was physical violence.
I was walking the dog when I heard loud voices coming from down the lane. Curiosity led me to follow the screaming. A well dressed man was banishing his car keys and yelling at a hapless youth who was literally cowering before him. The youth’s bicycle had apparently skidded and left a scratch on the man’s car which had been (illegally) parked there. He had been caught in the act, and had to face the full fury of the man’s anger. His paternity was questioned, he was accused of having carnal intercourse with his sister, comments were passed on how people from his region were barbarians who shouldn’t be allowed into polite company. All that accompanied by much waving of the car key and spluttering droplets of saliva- I worried equally about the youth’s eyes getting gorged out and him potentially contracting COVID.
Finally, energy spent, the man got into the car, banged the door shut with a with a satisfying thud, and zoomed off in a spray of water which miraculously missed drenching the youth.
For the next 24 hours, I waited eagerly for a video of the incident to be forwarded to me over WA. I was looking forward to seeing an incident I witnessed going viral on social media. In my mind, I had already drafted how I would react- in a nonchalant way, I would say, “yes, I witnessed this last night while walking the dog”.
But nothing. None of the people who witnessed the incident seemed to have recorded it, and if they did, they didn’t forward it to anyone. How was that even possible? The video of the woman in Noida yelling at the security guards in her apartment complex had gone viral. Why was nobody even talking about an identical incident that I witnessed? What did the Noida incident have that the one I witnessed didn’t? Yes, you guessed right- the protagonist in that case was a woman, so it was news!
Make no mistake about it. The lady in the Noida incident was wrong. There had been a slight delay in opening the gate to let her car in because certain processes had to be followed- nothing in that warranted her losing her cool, much less in the way she did. The words she used were abusive, classist and threatening. Her body language was intimidating, and some of the gestures she used were absolutely crass. The FIR filed by the security guard was totally justified. And I am all for her being given the strongest punishment the law allows, so that it serves as a lesson to deter other entitled people from indulging in such crass and classist behaviour.
However, the point I am making is different. Why are similar complaints not lodged every time men indulge in similar behaviour. The incident I witnessed was identical to the one involving the woman from Noida. Both used similar cuss words, in both cases classist remarks were passed, and the body language was similarly threatening. Yet, that man got away, and all that the victim of his ire did was to get back on this bicycle and ride away.
Men yell at other men all the time. If both men are driving cars of a similar size, they yell at each other till they are separated by bystanders and sent their way. If one man has greater privilege than the other, he yells till he exhausts himself, then lets himself be eased away. Sometimes, the men even come to blows. But almost never is a video shot and made viral. And even less is a complaint made at the police station, unless there was physical violence.
It is because that the perpetrator was a woman that this incident made headlines. A large part of the reason why viewers who were horrified by the video was not because of the words that were spoken or the gestures that were made, but because it was a woman who was responsible for those words and gestures.
This is not the first time something similar has happened. About a year back, there was the incident where a woman customer assaulted a food delivery person. Yes, what she did was absolutely wrong but there are certainly other cases of similar behaviour by men which doesn’t’ make headlines. A few days after that, there was another incident of road rage by a female driver; road rage by male drivers occur every day, but the one time a woman loses her temper, it makes headlines.
Women are always held to different standards than men. What is ignored when a man does it, becomes absolutely unacceptable when a woman does it. Worse, when a man loses his temper, it is an individual who loses his temper. But when a women loses her temper, all women are expected to justify an act that cannot be justified.
This plays itself out in other ways too. Over the last few days, an old video where Ranbir Kapoor mansplaining to Katrina Kaif on prime time television has gone viral. Many remarked on how calm Katrina Kaif remained through the entire incident, though her annoyance was quite apparent. Yes, she was remarkably calm, but that was because she knew that if she reacted in any way, she would be taken to task. People would have overlooked the mansplaining actor’s transgressions, and focussed only on how she lost her cool. It was out of a sense of self preservation that she stayed calm.
The same Ranbir also passed a remark that body shamed his wife Alia while they were promoting a movie recently. She was clearly taken aback by the comment, but tried to laugh it off since she didn’t want to create a scene. Netizens were quick to blame “toxic feminists” for making an issue out of “nothing”, while ignoring the fact that in all likelihood, the nervous laughter was just a way to cover up her genuine embarrassment.
The standards of “acceptable behaviour” are certainly different for men and women, and I do not see that changing anytime soon.
Image source: YouTube
Natasha works in the development sector, where most of her experience has been in Education and Livelihoods. She is passionate about working towards gender equity, sustainability and positive climate action. And avid reader and occasional read more...
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