My mother returned from school at 4 PM today. I asked about her day and she began the narrative. The monologue started from an incident about finding two 17-year-old students kissing on the usually empty third floor and would have ended peacefully at her being horrified on seeing a young couple eat each other’s mouth in the car at the red light, had I not interrupted.
The monologue on her day’s activities, you see had taken a turn for the worse. It became an impassioned speech on how girls these days were asking for it. Yes, that is what she said. The rest of the one-sided conversation was about how girls these days shamelessly kissed their boyfriend/husband/male companion publicly thereby emitting some sort of “rape me” signal to men. I tried to stay calm. She is my mother after all. Respect had to be maintained. This is India.
My pointing out the Nirbhaya tragedy ( a mistake on my part) led to a vehement support of the statement again.
“Why’d she get on THAT bus?”
“Why was she out so late in a place like Delhi?”
My insides were cringing in shame.
There is a quote in Hindi, “aaurat hee aaurat ki sabse badi dushman hoti hai”. It means a woman is another woman’s biggest enemy. How very true.
Now I get this is India; the land of lecherous men and potential rapists. It is the land of a society that is steeped in patriarchal values to the sub-conscious level. How is the media or education or anybody ever going to remove these abhorring ideas from the psyche of our men when the women themselves believe in them? Not only belief, they pass them on and spread them like disease.
Telling your daughter to be careful and worrying about her safety is not the same as saying that girls get raped because they asked for it. Is my mother lacking education? No. Is she not a “strong modern woman “? She is. Is she not “cool”? Well, she is.
Then why is the belief system of not just my mother, but countless women like herself so absolutely rotten? Safety can never be an excuse for the occurrence of rape. Teach your daughters self-defense, teach them etiquette, tell them the realities of this horrible world and its horrible ways but for the love of your own gender, don’t say that someone was asking for it. Teach your daughter to behave well but teach your sons the very same.
A woman is not a wireless connection or a cell phone tower giving off signals to all and sundry. Statements blaming a woman, not only said by women but staunchly believed by women are a setback to any progress that could happen. Going out in the streets carrying candles does not bring light to the dark recesses of your mind which harbors such thoughts.
The nation was collectively outraged on the morning of 17th December. Collectively and publicly. Public being the operative here because once inside your home and mind, you will tell your daughter that she asked for it. You will defend your statement by saying that you are worried about your own off spring. Worry is no shield for misplaced blame.
Tragedies cannot be avoided once they have already occurred. What can be avoided is the continual belief in the woman’s fault and her many mistakes. We can only teach our daughters smartness and defense and hope that the sons out there have been taught respect too.
No woman ever asks for it.