The recent rape case of the Hyderabad doctor is deeply distressing. It has sparked a high voltage public outrage with people coming out on the roads to protest with slogans of “#SaveOurDaughters” and an Internet clamour to ‘hang’ the rapists. My entire social media feed is filled with gut-churning details of the crime, gory photos and an unequivocal demand to kill the rapists.
The same men who had canceled the #MeToo movement last week in view of the recent developments in the Utsav-Mahima case, are very, very angry. For them, this is a heinous crime. A rare, monstrous incident. The four men are being called animals and devils. Almost as if they were not brought up and raised in the same society as us, by us.
One of my male friends who forced his wife to quit her job and become a stay at home wife, posted a status demanding that the perpetrators of the crime be publicly castrated. He seemed really angry. And that’s where the problem begins. Women are harassed, raped, violated, beaten, murdered every day. Then why are you only upset when a woman dies a tragic, spine-chilling death? What’s so unique about this case or the Nirbhaya incident?
The hashtag-ification of such crimes while successfully condemns the symptom, it does nothing tangible in understanding and fixing the root cause of the culturally sanctioned systemic violence against women. It deflects the conversation and turns it into a lone shocking incident- instead of acknowledging the fact that we as a culture are rotten from the inside. We live in a world where men beating up their wives is normal and hostels have different in-timings for boys and girls lest they get raped, why does this incident come as a shock? The inadequacy and fallacy of this exasperated selective outrage against individual cases of rapes and murders without addressing the everyday sexism and rampant patriarchal rules in our culture cannot be ignored.
We teach our women to be polite, to be obedient, to be timid. We teach our women that if they don’t follow all the rules, the punishment is rape and harassment. Every time a woman is raped, people ask, “What was she wearing?” Men enjoy a position where they act as the gatekeepers of women’s conduct who are constantly pressurised into behaving a certain way so as not to get raped.
I cannot help but wonder, would the people still be so angry if she was only raped and not charred to death. Would there still be rage if she was just eve-teased and lived to tell the story?
We as a society, are obsessed with finding the perfect victim and in this case, the 26-year-old veterinary doctor of the Hyderabad case meets all the prerequisites. She was not wearing shorts, she was not with her boyfriend, she was not at a pub drinking late at night. She followed all the rules that the society had laid down for her, and yet she was raped and burnt. No wonder, she gets our sympathy.
Imagine, this happened to a girl wearing a mini skirt smoking outside a cafe. The same men would jump at the first chance of victim shaming and victim-blaming.
Why are we not full of fury every time a girl going to college is cat-called, butt pinched or eve-teased? Why do we give free pass to men with ‘Boys will be boys’? Why are we still laughing at the sexist jokes that men make in the locker rooms? Why do we not understand that pervasive patriarchy is responsible for any kind of violence and discrimination against women?
Why is it that ultimately, the stories that gain the most traction are the ones where the girl dies a horrible death at the end?
As a country, we have a history of cherry-picking the most appropriated victim and organising candle marches. Once this anger dissipates, you will go back and crack the same sexist, homophobic and vile jokes that your fathers and your grandfathers did. When confronted you will ask me to calm my tits and not to overreact. You will teach your women to constantly check, modify and guard their behaviours to feel safe – don’t go out alone at night, be alert, censor your words, body and clothes, keep quiet if someone catcalls you.
And if yet I am raped and killed, I know you will demand justice for me because, in your twisted patriarchal world, only a girl who follows all the rules deserves justice.