My body is not an apology: The Delhi aunty incident

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Women have reached to the moon and back, have to their credit successful scientific inventions, nobel prizes, a whole gamut of laureates in diverse fields, and yet here we are, being shamed and called out for wearing what we want, something that amusingly still offends an entire set of self-claimed moral police mob.

What was supposed to be a peaceful holiday on a fine Wednesday turned out to be a day filled with disturbing and probably life-long traumatic events for a bunch of girls who went out for a quick bite. The Internet (as always) continued to be divided on opinions on a viral video shared by a group of women confronting a middle-aged aunty who shamed them for wearing short dresses to lure men. That is sadly not the first time that a regressive public incident like this has come to the limelight. Men in our country on their high horses denying patriarchy altogether,  the mike-blaring leaders on stage disgracing women for wanting their basic right and of course the neighbourhood aunties judging the length of your skirt from their balconies have often limited women’s existence as the torch-bearer of maintaining cultural integrity (apart from raising men, of course) in the society.

On one hand the world is having important dialogues and revolutionary movements like #MeToo on women empowerment and gender equality, on the other, we have naysayers like the older woman in the viral video who not only asked a bunch of men to rape those girls for wearing a ‘short’ dress, but also had no remorse on her toxic jibes that she let out so casually.

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The incident goes on to say that in a society where the struggle goes beyond educating buffoons to (forgive me for this) even fighting our own gender (such as in this case), imagining a world where women are respected in true sense is still a utopian dream. The whole episode created a furore, which quickly snowballed into a social media battleground for the self-proclaimed influencers and feminists.

There is no denying the fact that women are as much the victims as well as the perpetrators of misogyny. The regressive mindset of our society has plagued the entire social institution. The aunty fiasco is just one of the recent examples of it. The patriarchal belief is deeply rooted and internalized in both the genders. It is quite easy for someone like you and I to call ourselves feminists, but the reality is that the deeply conditioned patriarchal beliefs are so subtly ingrained that we often don’t even realise it. The idea of a good and a bad woman is handed down to us by our mothers and growing up, we often fail to detach ourselves from the toxic standards. Misogyny is methodically embedded in our customs and institutions. “No woman can call herself free who cannot control her own body”.  We  are raised in a society where restrictions on women include but are not limited to suffocating rituals and policing of their bodies. The expectation to adhere to the predefined portrayal of an ideal woman is knowingly or unknowingly sowed in our subconscious that most of us blindly start associating with it.

By not conforming to this image, a woman devalues herself sexually and socially, because of the patriarchal values imbibed since childhood. Whenever we come across those sections who do not adhere to the socially defined customs, they become a rebel in our eyes, a threat to the status quo. This is what happened to the middle-aged aunty in the video. As a victim of patriarchy herself, she simply could not picture those girls in a conduct that was different from her notion of a “Sanskari” Indian woman. What was a casual remark for the woman underlines everyday sexist behavior that all of us are subjected to in our day-to-day  life. All of us, at some point have judged, and shamed others based on how they dress, their body structure and so forth, without realising it.

Many social media bloggers partially sided with the aunty in question here. While some strongly condemned the act and rightly so, some others questioned the intentions of the women who confronted the alleged woman. Ex Editor-in-Chief of Buzzfeed and a popular self-proclaimed ‘feminist’, Rega Jha, clarified that while she is far from supporting such ghastly comments made by the aunty, she doesn’t believe in public shaming. Similar to her opinion, we saw others speaking out against public confrontation and how the ladies could have handled the situation better by not filming her on tape.

Is there only one correct conduct to tackle sexism? Have we as a society evolved to be truly gender-neutral? Is my feminism your feminism too?

These are some serious questions that have come to my mind looking at the aftermath of the entire situation.

Harassing the perpetrators family, again in my eyes is not how trolls should have processed. Instead of trolling her, one could have used the platform to bring out the burning issue that’s crippling our society and find a solution to it.

Moral sanctions are present in our society to deal with deviants and prevent anomie. While on one hand, we encourage women to speak up against atrocity or the wrong done to them, on the other side, aren’t we being hypocrites if we expect them to deal with their perpetrators differently, based on their age or gender. All the girls wanted was an apology. Are you telling me that they were wrong in asking for one? In our society, where people jump to victim shaming, the Delhi aunty in question getting sympathy is a classic example of excusing someone’s unacceptable demeanour because of their gender, which in itself in a sexist act.

Moreover, you and I, as observers in the backdrop of reality, should in no way be entitled to pass any judgement on a bunch of girls who were attacked and subjected to a potentially serious and violent situation as heinous as rape. Why are we finding faults in how the girls reacted to the aunty, and trying to be politically correct just because the attacker was a woman.

I agree that it will be years before we unlearn the internalized biases that our forefathers & mothers have left behind. We cannot expect change from the society when our minds are filled with blatant sexism. Even the women defending the girls as seen on the video are quick to resort to sexist remarks against the aunty. That’s how quickly it takes misogyny to surface up, and ruin the same movement that we are fighting for.

But is an apology from the aunty enough? Apologies mean nothing against the indecent remarks and rebuttals that came gushing out of her sorry mouth. No, I do not ask you to turn a blind eye on how the other women in picture also fat shamed the alleged aunty in question. The comments in the video posted by the trolls that ranged from death threats to raping her was a situation that escalated very quickly. The resolution to violence does not lie in violence, similarly the answer to misogyny and slut-shaming should never be countered with the same morals. This only further perpetuates a never ending cycle of sexists and cyber bullies.

The whole video going viral serves as a stepping stone for the women in future to stick up for their rights. While we ask for a stringer law for rapists, why the same shouldn’t be meted out for the ones encouraging rape? In my opinion, the woman in the video deserved to be shamed in front of the public for her nasty comments. Had it been a man in question here, would we have let this pass so easily? If the same remark was passed to, you, or me would you and I have dealt with it in a better way? The truth is I do not know. The aunty advocated harm to the girl publicly, she used the chilling tool, rape as a punishment. The girls did what they saw fit. You and I, from the comfort of our social media bubbles, do not get to tell the victims about how they should have handled the situation better.

Until and unless we set a strong example of bring the culprit to the limelight, and uphold the testimony of the victims in high light, people will forever continue to assassinate a character of a woman at their whims and fancies.

For now, can we simply rejoice the fact that six of our sisters gathered enough courage to stand up to a bully? Let us reserve our opinions and judgments for another day.

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Anindita Dev

I pen down everything and anything that gives me a little bit of hope and inspiration.

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