Thursday, June 09, 2011

My Tuppence on the Delhi Slutwalk

My twitter timeline and GReader feeds have been flooded by one issue over the last day or so, and I'm not talking about a certain baba's antics. Delhi's gearing up for a Slutwalk it seems, and the reactions are varied.

There's cynicism, there's support, there's wisecracks. There's a number of women who have blogged about their experiences in the streets of Delhi in an attempt to explain why, even though they may not necessarily agree with the entire concept of a Slutwalk, it is needed. And there are those, mostly from other parts of the country, who are wondering how "Dilliwallas" will react to this walk. You know, because Delhi's the only city in the country where men are scum. My own friends are questioning the name of this walk.

It's not that these kind of events haven't happened before in India. Blank Noise has been organizing activities that emphasize the concept of "I never ask for it" for years now. But this Slutwalk seems to have caught everyone's attention in a way they never did.

Is it the name? Why? Because people, most people, think a slut is a prostitute? The original meaning of the word, when I had looked it up in the Oxford Dictionary at the age of 14, was "a dirty, slovenly woman". Over time, it's come to be used to describe women who are sexually promiscuous. And that, as we all know, is to be severely frowned upon. Because it's fine for Ranbir Kapoor to have as many flings as he wants - it's after all material to be used for jokes at the Filmfare awards - but if Deepika Padukone goes on to another boyfriend, she's labelled a gold digger and all sorts of other things. And not just by men, dear Lord no. It's the women who can be cattiest about such labels.

Even if the word slut did mean prostitute, so? Does that justify sexual harassment? I worked as an HR consultant; if we chose to say no to working with a particular organization, they couldn't force us, right? So if a woman, who makes a living by having sex with men - for whatever reasons - says no to a man, and he forces himself on her, why should that be justifiable in any way?

Why is a Slutwalk needed in Delhi, of all cities in India? Do I need to chronicle incidents, the way this woman did? The groping at age 12, being stopped by a car two lanes away from my house, the numerous incidents in DTC buses? The comments on my own blog five years ago, by two men I consider friends, that a woman wearing a mini-skirt gives the impression that she is inviting men to try their luck. This post on Desicritics, some years ago, that outraged me and prompted me to write this post in response. And for the menfolk who express their concern that men in Delhi won't understand this event, look at your own cities. A friend was flashed on Pali Hill in Bandra. Those cops who started this entire movement, by using the word slut in the context of the women who were raped, were in Vancouver. Isn't that supposed to be a first world country or some such thing?

Don't tell me this mentality is about city or state or region or country. It exists all over the world. And I can guarantee that this Slutwalk will do absolutely nothing to even change this mentality. As someone tweeted yesterday, "When slutwalk happens, no one will think of the real victims. Just like no one thinks of animals during naked PETA campaigns." The last thing on any bystander's mind as they see a mass of women parading on a road is our right to tell them to keep their hands to themselves.

But there is the faint hope that maybe some men will be affected, maybe some women will change the way they view other women, maybe some folks will stop blaming the survivors of sexual abuse/harassment. And if this Slutwalk achieves even this much, I'm all for it. Oh yes I am.

UPDATE:
I realised, while discussing this post with the BFF on gtalk, that I never actually articulated what the Slutwalk is about, really. And why I'm not completely enamoured with the idea, even though I do want it to have some positive impact. So in her furious but very articulate words:
who even fucking says slut in india
no one even knows what it's about
IT'S ABOUT RECLAIMING THE WORD
IT'S ABOUT CONSENT
IT'S ABOUT NOT VICTIM BLAMING
IT'S ABOUT BEING ABLE TO WEAR WHAT WE LIKE
so after this will rape stats go down?
will all the sex-starved indians suddenly start respecting women and do all nahi nahi ma-beti jai-jai
and will indian women now start catching buses from DK in fishnets?
There you go then.


4 comments:

nutty said...

Slutwalk reminds me of the pink chaddi campaign. Controversial name, media buzz, but lasting value? I thin k we are getting there in other ways- by being bosses, kicking men where it hurts, bringing up children the way we want to be perceived.

R said...

I hate it. I hate it. I hate it.

1. I hate the word slut, not for what it conveys but because there is no equivalent for men. I don't want to claim it. I want to shove it on men or have it gone all together. The word itself is inequality. Claim it if you like, I have nothing to do with it.

2. It is an english word. It is a first world movement. In Melbourne the protests had a police escort. The country I have given up trying to love shows not a dot of individuality and blindly copies the west just as it has always done.

3. What's it going to DO? If the rate of rape goes down, I'll gladly, SO GLADLY, concede. But will it? Fuck u media.

R said...

You missed my charming comments on cultural disparity etc. :)

Absolutely Normal Chaos said...

Wow. That's an angry and very wise friend you have there. :)