Sweeping generalizations


Earlier today, my FB timeline was flooded with snippets of Barkha Dutt taking on Leslee Udwin in a segment of Women In The World. I caught a couple of mins, realized it was about India’s Daughter (which I have not had the stomach to watch) and moved on to the next interesting thing on my feed. Then another friend forwarded this video link. Now, intrigued, I forced myself to watch the entire segment. “What are your thoughts?” he had queried.

What did I think?

A lot. My mind has been a jumble of feelings since. A part of me wanted to ignore it all and bury my head under the metaphorical sand. A part of me parsed what each person said and examined it for what I felt. What I realized is that I identify with the part that says “Yes we have a problem in the way we raise our children”. Then there is the part of me that also says “Hey! Why are we using an outlier (a remorseless murderer) to paint all Indian men with the same brush?”

Working at the stove, sauteing and tempering, I realized why I had trouble with the “barrel is rotten” comment from Leslie. For every rotten apple, I have been surrounded by many good ones. As a woman who has lived a good part of her young adult life in India, I have been subject to catcalling and abuse on public transport. I have also been surrounded by men who understood consent. By men who respected my right to walk home at a late hour without an escort. By men who did not expect me to use my gender as a means to swear of physically demanding work.

The men in my life have had to bend over backward to compensate for the rotten ones of their ilk. For the first few years of my marriage, Saathi took the brunt of my anger towards the misogyny I grew up with. He heard me out, and instead of being defensive, did what he had to do. He made our partnership equal in every sense. This is a man who was brought up like me and had his attitudes shaped by the same society we are talking about. He was subject to the same parochial views I was. I grew up resenting the societal norms. He grew up learning to work with them. In the many years we have been married, I am yet to feel his behavior in any way marks me as subservient because I am a woman. For the first time in my adult life, I realize the quiet, fiercely feminist man who I am married to is a living example of why generalizations do not work.

Leslee’s proclamation that India is unsafe for women is like all of the Eastern world proclaiming Western college campuses are full of predators waiting to prey on innocent freshmen based on a feature like the one that appeared in The Rolling Stone or the coverage following the Penn State scandal.

Rape is a problem. World over. Abuse of power is a problem. World over. Jingoism is a problem. World over. Medieval attitudes towards women are a problem. World over.

As a society, we need to sit up and take notice. We need to have these conversations. We need to demand the change we want to see. We have to do that one person, one family at a time. World over.


  1. For a moment ignore generalization. Unfortunately the so called “Sr Journalists” like Leslee, Burkha, Arnab, Rajdeep, etc sensationalize an issue out of proportions to meet their TRP needs. Nothing criminal in that, however when people realize the true facts on these issues (which takes time to fish out from the mountain of garbage news that these people spew) these Sr Journalists already have another sensational news in their hands and don’t bother to reconfirm the facts of the previous one. 

    In today’s technology world the public are being shown, fed and made believe what such media personnel wants to believe. Now as a society we can and we should talk about these issues. However as a first step we must restrict such biased perception fabricated by media! Now that doesn’t mean we censor the media or curb free speech, it means we remind such folks of responsible journalism and self-censorship. More importantly apply the uncommon common sense ensure rest of the world perceive the facts more than the masala!

    • Arun, Sadly common sense doesn’t seem too common. Not sure if you saw Radhika’s post on her FB wall 2 days back. If not, check it out. It is an extension of this discussion.

  2. A couple of days back, my husband and I were walking back late from a mall. By late, I mean 10.30 PM. I was surprised to see so many young girls out on the road at that time, some alone returning home from a late shift, some with friends, some with family, like me (although young would be, ahem, not quite apt in my case). I was surprised because I was going by the media frenzy of how unsafe the Indian road is for women at night. I was delightfully proven wrong.
    Yes, I am surrounded by people who respect me for what I am, so it IS frightfully unfair to generalize based on outliers (your term, very apt).

    • LG, I am so glad to hear of positive stories like this. Of late I have been paying attention to media bias and am blown away by how much it can influence a reader. Definitely a thought worth discussing.

  3. I have been keeping away from this bit of “news” world. Well this also :). I am with you when you disagree with generalisation. Like you I have come across many who just don’t fit the generalisation. In the same breath, I must say that I have come across even educated men who think women must be subservient. I live in a city where I feel quite safe travelling alone at night. Same is not the case in other parts of the country. Women who work in the spa I go to are from the north-East. I asked them as to why they travel all the way here instead of going to a city near-by or a city where people understand Hindi. Their answer : it is not safe there for them. So stark reality – it is not safe. Yes. Rape is a universal problem. No doubts about that whatsoever. Attitude here in India is also a problem. We have come a long way but have a lot of work ahead of us. I can live in my cocoon saying my city is safer, men I come across are good. Sadly…Broader reality is quite different. Yes quite a bit of it is also spiced up for ratings. We need change a lot of it and quickly!!

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