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.