Tuesday, January 11, 2005

a guy thing .

ive noticed that many men are very comfortable saying the word “rape”. being able to say “rape” comfortably means youre a man of the world.... in fact, being able to say rape confers a status on you, similar to the one when youre able to rattle off the current credit reserve ratio stipulated by the rbi.

but say “sexual abuse” before the same guy, and he hems and haws and looks away, looking and feeling immensely uncomfortable. the typical patriarchal kind decides you must be one of those hysterical, over-agitated, man-eater kinda feminists to say it. the nice ones just say something like hey come on.... you know.... i mean.... why dyou want to talk about that? they both agree, sexual abuse doesnt rate high as popular dinner table conversation.

i think this is very significant on many counts.

when decent guys refuse to talk about abuse - and ive noticed this in many of them – its because they are torn between loyalties. patriarchy has conditioned men into such strong buddy-bonding that they dont know whether to be loyal to the other guys, or to believe the women they personally trust, know etc. its a lousy social system that brings down the equation to this.

so when they are so uncomfortable talking about sexual abuse, they will naturally refuse to accept that it exists.... and we are never going to be able to address the issue - if you insist theres no problem, why would you even remotely think of ways to solve it?

also, when we refuse to talk about sexual abuse, and make it one of those things that Should Not Be Spoken Of, we refuse to acknowledge the victim : each scream of pain, of protest and outrage is being ruthlessly suppressed so that we may cling to our perceptions to continue feeling comfortable.

..... this is the state of decent guys – even ones who think the whole thing is so wrong and are almost squirming that one of their kind could do such things! wow... social conditioning has a lot to answer for.



Blogger Dileepan said...

You have said it rather well!

9:15 am  
Blogger m. said...

thank you :-)

9:24 am  
Blogger Manasa said...

hi m,

have now become a regular visitor to ur blog and really enjoi reading ur viewpoints.

This article, especially was hard hitting and to prove your saying I see only one comment for this post, when usually every post of urs is loaded with comments.

anyways, well written.

4:44 am  
Blogger m. said...

hullo. gosh, thanks - vary flattered! lol, i dont know about the comments thing - maybe somebody will help us with an opinion sooner or later :)

11:00 am  
Anonymous Shriram said...


This is my first visit to your blog and I must commend you for writing about those things that "Should Not Be Spoken Of" (sorry I ripped it off your post!).

One must admit that the society is changing rapidly and everyone is struggling hard to keep pace with it. I am 27 and feel that 22-23 year olds these days belong to a different generation altogether. The newer generation are willing to experiment and learn things at a much faster pace and in their own way. Not that I consider myself old but, the fact of the matter is that everything is changing around us whether we accept it or not.

That said, I am not trying to undermine "my generation". I have been fortunate to be educated outside India and have since come back to Singara Chennai. The experience has given me a wider perspective of things and broadened my horizon. I must admit that discussing these are still taboo in India at a macro level but, at a micro level it is happening and it is a question of time before it gets the due attention. I have met a lot of people (men & women, both in India and elsewhere) who are very comfortable talking about sexual abuse among other things than talking about Ganguly's current form. With hordes of multinational companies setting up shop in India, they bring with them their best practices and thereby increasing awareness. Atleast that is a start!

So, do we blame the patriarchal society for all the evils and not take responsibility? Lets take the latest Kushboo incident. Atleast from what I read in the news media, she had quoted pretty much from the much publicized survey conducted by the India Today group. What she said was a fact. Younger generation is beginning to experiment and there is nothing wrong in pre-marital sex and they should have protective sex and be aware of the risks associated with unprotected sex. Was this statement so wrong for people to protest? What appalled me was the fact that a womens group filed a defamation suit against the actress. There were quite a few men who came out in support of her and I can't think of any woman who did the same. How long do we hide behind the charade of culture? When women don't want to break free and look for ways and means to hide behind the charade, then why blame the patriarchal society. Once the womens group had filed the defamation suit, some political parties joined the bandwagon for the much needed publicity and created a ruckus. Culture is an important fibre for any society but, aren't we mature enough to see the reality and accept whats going on around us?

I am quite sure that most of us feel disgusted whenever we hear about any form sexual abuse. We don't belong to the wizarding community and aren't referring "the one who must not be named" but, a social evil that is slowly creating ripples in the society. Every problem has a solution and solutions don't emerge overnight. Especially in a culture rich society like India, it takes time and a solution will be found. I think it is upto we educated people to set an example to the younger generation and help bring about the much needed reform rather than blaming the patriarchal society!

2:54 am  
Blogger Ekam-Sathyam said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

9:29 am  
Blogger Ekam-Sathyam said...

Something went wrong the last time...

First things first, I wouldn't quite call it an objection. It is more of a discussion point than anything else!

I have never said we should close our eyes to the injustice happening around us and, I completely agree that we have to accept our mistakes to find a solution. Unfortunately, it isn't in our culture to admit mistakes. People go to great lengths to cover up their tracks and pass the buck rather than taking responsibility for their actions. You can even go back to Mahabharatha when Yudhishtra tells Drona "Ashvatamma Hatham....Kunjaraha". Drona is eventually killed by Dhrishtadyumna. Although, Yudhishtra felt sad about lying to his guru, didn't take responsibility. I was referring to this trait in my previous comment and sincerely hope this doesn't prolong. Else, we wouldn't come close to finding a solution.

As for the women's group filing the defamation suit. Atleat on the face of it, they don't seem to have any political connections. Nevertheless, the point I was trying to highlight is the fact that women don't see eye to eye on a lot of issues and end up isolating someone in need. The womens groups too behave the same way. The Imrana incident was in the print media for a couple of weeks before any group came forward to support her. Once it was on National TV, you had the likes of Ambika Soni, Brinda Karat etc making a beeline to meet Imrana and ensuring that their name appears in all the reports. There is hypocrisy at all levels (not restricted to women and womens groups)!

I wouldn't want to get into India Today's survey but, on a different note I think such surveys do increase awareness about issues that aren't discussed often. This comes at a time when there is talk of censorship in the print media. Very soon we could be reading a 'A' newspaper!

You are absolutely right about "let it be. these things happen”. The very fact that we are discussing such issues reveals that times have changed. Such a discussion wouldn't have been possible a few years back even on the internet let alone in other forums. Now, it has also spread to other forums which is a good sign. Quite a lot of people have begun speaking out and standing up for various causes and it is just a question of time!

9:48 am  
Blogger Ekam-Sathyam said...

dang! Where did M's comments disappear?

8:06 pm  
Blogger m. said...

gosh, ive no idea, but what cheek blogger has! LOL... neway, here are my pearls again!;)

Right, from what I understand, your main objection is that im blaming patriarchy to escape responsibility.

My take on it: if we choose to close our eyes to the injustice, disparity and misery caused by our current social system, we are then being irresponsible. As Roszak put it, if adulthood is to mean anything beyond being legally able to drive or buy booze and cigarettes, we as adults need to look critically at the world we have made and accept that we haven’t done such a hot job of running it. If we cannot even accept weve mucked up, were certainly nowhere near working out solutions.

Next, when you speak of the women filing the case against kushboo. Please, is there any doubt that the whole pil is a farce and purely for political mileage?! While I have scant respect for India todays survey I do admire the woman for having the courage to speak honestly especially from such an influential platform. As you point out, its hypocrisy to not accept what is very obviously happening.

Finally. While there are no doubts pockets of society comfortable with speaking up against and about abuse, its by no means a common thing. as a woman, ive been told countless number of times to just “let it be. these things happen”. I fervently hope youre right and im proved wrong - I would be most glad if this were merely my lousy experience and not the norm.

8:58 pm  
Blogger IdeaSmith said...

I soo much agree.

7:48 am  
Blogger Anurag said...

I know I am a bit late to respond. You know, many a times, people are just not aware of the extent of evil associated with words, and in some extreme cases even actions. As an example, one of the things women are advised to do when assaulted is to tell the assaulter that the assault tantamounts to rape. By doing so, the exact evil of the action is firmly established, and the assaulter may suddenly become aware of his actions. This is a rather extended logic, but may also hold true for the topic you have highlighted. The word rape had become very commonplace, maybe too much so, and speakers don't even realize the associated meaning associated with it. I have had friends (girls) who associated the word with themselves, when they actually wanted to say that they didn't perform very well at a particular exam. I found it alarming to hear the word from them, obviously. In the same vein, the word rape, like many gaalis, is used as a contrived synonym for other situations. However, the moment you use the phrase "sexual abuse", it brings the focus sharply back on the real issue. And most guys are not comfortable talking about it.

Please note that I am not defending guys here, just noting something.


2:27 am  
Blogger m. said...

Anurag, thanks for raising that interesting point.
yep. our language is loaded. when we (men AND women) hijack a word like "rape" and use it idiotically out of context, making it "just" another word, we are clouding the huge issue of actual rape, we are denying affected people a vocabulary to communicate with, and therefore shutting them out.
it sounds melodramatic when i say that, but your own example is so true: i too have heard so many women say rape senselessly and it makes me flinch every time.
we seriously do ourselves a disservice by constantly using some words without discrimination! - i suppose its alright for words like "cool" but "rape", "abuse", "sex"... dangerous.

7:53 am  
Blogger Red Jenny said...

Excellent article. Words are very loaded and "rape" is a power word. For many, it has been losing its power through common usage but "sexual abuse" hasn't lost anything yet. Saying it is like slapping someone - there is violence even in the words and people feel it just by your saying them.

10:55 am  
Blogger m. said...

red jenny: thanks for dropping by :)

6:20 pm  
Blogger ChasingMoksha said...

I wonder if sexual abuse tends to give off the connotations that it is something that is/was long going, reoccurring (i.e “I was sexually abused as a child.”). In other words, something that the abuser could stop and think about before repeating it again and again. However, rape seems like a concept easy to separate oneself from, as in only beasts or violent bad people rape. The patriarchy can separate themselves from rape, I can see that, but cannot separate themselves from sexual abuse, because I would think, without trying to be overly dramatic or marginalize anything at the same time, that patriarchy is sexual abuse, hence the discomfort when confronted with the phrase.

4:19 pm  

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