Storms ruled the first thousand years of life.
By the time I claimed my room, I turned into a zombie...
Suspended somewhere between the worlds within and outside...
Vaguely aware of either...
But then, existence needs more meaning, and spectacles need a windowpane...
Right here, I found mine…

Who am I? An average woman - trying to work on my share of maze through layers of haze...

Friday, April 20, 2018

The Glitter Boobs Girl and the One from Meerut

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The Glitter Boobs Girl

Itwas the night of Jan 11, 2018, when I first came across the glitter-boobs girl. In a footage shared on Facebook, I saw her walking topless amid a swarm of people, until a man sneaked up on her from behind, grabbed a breast and ran back to sit on the grass nearby. The girl, angry, returned to hit the man. The whole incident seemed to have been caught on camera by an onlooker, and later shared on Facebook, where it went viral and earned the girl her new nickname. You guessed it right — the girl had glitter sprinkled on her otherwise bare chest.
The incident, to me, was too absurd to deserve further thoughts, and the girl one of those bird-brained attention seekers who misuse Western liberalism and reduce feminism to a joke. I moved on. What stuck with me, however, was her anger. She was furious at being groped in public, while in a state that arguably asks for it, and she saw no reason to not act upon her fury then and there. Her total lack of embarrassment was new to my Indian psyche.

The One from Meerut

The next morning greeted me with a morose news headline — ‘Harassed for months, 14-year-old student drops out of tuition to avoid goons, commits suicide later’. The article read as below -
Meerut: Tired of being harassed for months together by four men that stalked and misbehaved with her, a 14-year-old in Uttar Pradesh committed suicide by setting herself ablaze.
The student was regularly stalked and harassed by four men — Shobhit, Ankit, Mohit, and Ravi –on her way back home in Bhawanpur, from her tuition classes located in G. She first dropped out of school and then she dropped out of her tuition classes, hoping that the harassment would stop. However, the four accused kept visiting her village to harass her.
Upset with the harassment and finding no other way to stop it, she set herself afire on January 6, the police said. Meerut CMO Ajit Chowdhury told PTI that the girl was rushed to a hospital with 80 percent burn injuries. She died during treatment on Thursday.
Her family has filed a police complaint against the four men claiming that they gang-raped her too recently emboldened by the fact that she couldn’t reveal the details of the incident to her family and chose to ignore the advances by the four grown men.’
Sickening is probably the word you’re looking for.
Unfortunately, such incidents are common in my part of the world. Once upon a time, they brought tears to my eyes. What they now bring instead is a little more fatigue, a grim reminder of my place in the world as a woman. Each time I come across such news, I’ve to put up this little internal fight to resist the thought that the Utopian land of gender equality exists nowhere but in the shared dream of a handful of wishful thinkers like me. I fear that the entire world will soon be claimed back by the sexist, supremacist forces that we thought had been cornered for good, and our sons and daughters will see a future different from the one us egalitarians had dreamt of.
On this particular morning, however, it was not dejection that overwhelmed me, but a sense of despair that refused to die down. This ill-defined restlessness dragged me back to Facebook, and to the page where Miss Madeline Anello-Kitzmiller’s glitter-chest appearance in a music festival in New Zealand continued to stir up hailstorms left, right and center.

The Jury Game

“If you choose to be naked like animals, so expect some animal’s acts”
— “No it’s called men being accountable for being unable to keep their hands to themselves…why am i groped when I’m fully clothed at a concert then dude? …”
“One way to express your “empowerment” — walk naked and expect respect. Feminism in its current form is stupid.”
— “How is that stupid?? There are just breast. Keep your hands to yourself. That’s really that hard??”
“If she doesnt want harrasment, why she goes in a beach without top ? i mean , how psychotic and lame an human can be! MANS ARE NOT ANGELS, some man can digest and resist themselves from teasing naked girls but not ALL! ! i am not saying what happened to her was right, but saying its both a men and women responsibility to be decent atleast for some part of body which is provoking ! but no one is getting the message!”
— “If a man can’t control himself then he shouldn’t be allowed in public … that simple”
“If it was a male revealing himself, we all would’ve cried “indecent exposure”… double standards much…”
— “I’ a male and I can go topless anywhere…”
Note: All of the above quotes are actual comments from Facebook.
Hundreds (if not thousands) of comments had already been posted on the footage, and many of them continued to attract responses. Men and women, conservatives and liberals, the religious and the rebels, all argued with a vengeance. Every opinion, however obvious or absurd it might sound up front, found support and ridicule from a hundred other voices.
A few minutes of this bizarre read left me grappling to find my own voice. It no longer mattered that Miss Madeline’s glittered assets were of no consequence to me. The world was at loggerheads on my boundaries as a woman, and my perfectly sensible voice suddenly seemed way too fallible. I wondered how the dead girl of Meerut would’ve responded to this conversation.
Was Madeline the answer to the question her death had left upon the world to answer?

A Deathless Question

It took me half a day to find my way through the chaos. Once I did, it became evident that much of the exchange around Madeline’s footage boiled down to one polar question ‘Can rape or molestation be justified if a woman is less clothed than how the man in question would like her to be?’
In case your mind has already let out an emphatic shout — ‘Obviously not!’, remember that the acceptable limit for less clothed is not in your hands. Remember, when you take away the right of men to teach lecherous women a lesson, you also lose the power to scare the women in your society into wearing attire that suits your sense of propriety. Remember, wet T-shirt contests are a staple of college spring break celebrations at several parts of the world, and the absence of rape threats makes it so much easier for your wayward daughter from following suit.
But if your answer is ‘Yes’ (or any variant of it, like ‘No, unless’ or ‘Of course not, but then’), you empower those four lads whose daily amusement constitutes teasing school-going girls, and who one day decide to teach one girl a lesson for not wearing her dupatta right. You empower a Mukesh Singh who, while on trial for a gang rape and fatal assault that shook the nation, says on record that it was the girl’s fault because being a girl she was out of her home at night. You substantiate the worldview that women are like honey that must be locked away lest they attract flies. You lead to the acceptance of men being seen as creatures of uncontrollable urge and women objects of desire that must either be guarded or preyed on. In my opinion, it is a rather savage view that dehumanizes both genders.

But I Want a Decent World

Let us learn to see indecent exposure as an issue separate from victim blaming.
On a personal level, I believe in decency. My ideal world has no place not only for titillating skin show, but also for flashiness in general, or for cuss words. Men and women there strive to be recognized for what’s inside their skull and under their skin.
But the world need not subscribe to my sense of ideal, or that of yours, or that of preacher X or dictator Y. By all probabilities, your definition of right and that of mine are both products of upbringing and social conditioning. They’re way too narrow to be held up as a yardstick against the world.
In a free world where people are equal and master of their own choices, there are no sex objects, and censorship is an alien term, for people are in charge of their own sexuality. Unfortunately, we’ll not see a free world anytime soon, and the need for humans to control each other is here to stay. In a more practical setting, enforcing decency in public spaces must lie in the premises of the local lawmakers and administration, not a random man (or woman) looking for an excuse to feed his perversity or sense of moral superiority.
What emerges is -
  1. If there’s a glitter-boobs girl at your local music festival and she makes you cringe, mutter under your breath and look away. Alternatively, call up the helpline for indecent exposure. However, if you see the girl being forcibly groped, try to stop it.
  2. Similarly, if you see a highly inebriated girl exiting your local pub late to enter a car with men only, feel free to be vexed with the girl for having made herself so vulnerable. But you must also feel a concern, and act on it if possible.
If this ends in rape, she’ll have deserved it.’ is a very damaging thought.
Men predating on women who’re vulnerable, either due to life situations, immaturity or their own lack of judgment, can never be supported.

Conclusion

All battles, for better or for worse, are fought between people of extremes, and people of balance can only choose their side (okay, they also act to drive sense into the former and temper their views in due course of time!). Between the glitter-boobs girl and the one from Meerut, between their respective worlds, if I’ve to choose one reality for the daughter I don’t yet have, what do you think my choice would be?
Of course, the girl who can’t be shamed into wearing clothes wins hands down over the girl who could be shamed into a lonely, lonely, voiceless death.
And the world that tolerates Madeline’s glittered boobs wins hands down over the one that tolerates rapists.
Originally published in beyourself.

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