taking up a job researching rape culture: ten observations and then some

by Priyanka Sutaria

prologue
scene:
my boss is
interviewing me for the job
I will eventually take up,
and she asks me if I have ever
experienced sexual violence.

I say no.

scene:
it is my first day
at work and my boss is
still wondering how I have
made it through life without
experiencing sexual violence,
and I tell her that I have
never been assaulted, but
I ignore the daily reminders
that I am not safe
in this world
as a woman.

flashback:
my boyfriend and his friends
argue about whether he should
drop me home. when I ask
why they are contemplating this
so seriously, they eye
my short dress
nervously.

flashback:
I am walking back to
my college hostel, a man
follows me on his motorcycle
asking me to fuck him
the whole way back.
it is the main road,
in broad daylight.

flashback:
the boys in my college
are friends with all my girlfriends,
but whenever the girls are drunk,
the boys hit on them
in the hopes of
getting lucky.

flashback:
a drunk man in a car
propositions my flatmate and me
outside a bar, and after we
reject him thrice, he tells us
we're bitches and
that we should
fuck off.

flashback:
men take aim and fire leers
and whistles and catcalls at me
everyday, and the people
around me swab my hands
for gunshot residue.

I am shocked back to the present.

one
sexual violence exists.
you know this of course,
but now you have to
confront it. You have
enjoyed your privilege
and life with a few good people.
you have not been abused
or assaulted and people
call you lucky.

you probably are.

two
there is no good rapist;
once a person rapes
they are a bad person.
you may not know they
have raped, but they are still
a bad person.

three
if you know they have raped
but you continue to
associate yourself with them,
for personal or social reasons,
you are also a bad person.

four
you will find out
that people don’t care for the
manner in which men occupy space
while women measure their every action,
unless the space that the man occupies
is a woman’s body and her entrails
are pouring out of her gut
on the side of the highway,
and the country measures
the moments until she dies.
when she dies,
they draw up a binary
of how rape occurs - between
nothing and nirbhaya - and call it
a scale as though it can possibly
contain the multitudes of rape culture
within itself.

five
you will learn
that men do not like being told
they are complicit in this culture
of gendered violence.

a year and a half ago,
I gently told a man that
what he is doing may be
contributing to rape culture;
now he goes around telling people
I accused him of being
a rapist.

six
this entire world
is a metaphorical locker room,
and most women are walking
at a swift uncomfortable pace
from one to another, locker keys
sticking out awkwardly
between two fingers, a test
for anyone who tries to reach out
and grab them, use them
as towels for their bodily fluids.

this entire world is a
metaphorical locker room,
and most of the times the hands
which reach out to grab
aren't even real - they slither out
from movie screens
and whatsapp jokes
and facebook comment sections.
you can hear the
tap-
tap-
tapping
of the fingers
as they leave behind
pieces of crumpled fear
in your other inbox.

seven
if you call your project
Why Indian Men Rape,
like my boss did, people will
only see the linguistic connotations
they wish to; they will want to know
why you are assuming
that only Indian men rape
and why only men rape
and why women rapists are
being ignored and how 98%
of all rape reports are false,
you fucking feminazi.

eight
if you call your project
Why Indian Men Rape,
like my boss did, men will
immediately tell you some random
fact about rape they heard
“that one time”
because obviously they have two
paisa to give to you in exchange
for your emotional labor;
they probably earn more than you.

besides, even if you have shattered
the glass ceiling, you will be forced
to walk over the shards of glass
to the other side. violence arrives
at your body in so many forms
when you are a woman.

nine
if you call your project
Why Indian Men Rape,
like my boss did, the survivors
will find you, seek you, tell you
their stories. you will learn empathy.
and relearn it. and relearn it,
until you realize that there is no
universal empathy manifesting itself
through you; there is just you
redefining it in a flux of existence.
the survivors will teach you about living
in that flux, moment by moment
by moment of awareness,
a lesson more powerful
than you will ever receive from
anywhere else.

ten
this is the final number
on this list, because there aren't
enough fingers on my hands
to count the number of things I am
learning about this culture
which is so deeply, painfully,
terrifyingly rooted in a singular,
objective notion of body as un-being,
enough to be treated
as not even non-being should.

I am learning how to
gather my fear into bouquets of anger;
I distribute them wherever I go.
each bouquet is studded with those
who have feared, those who have risen,
those have feared and then risen -
there is not a voice or an opinion
that can alter this rage at knowing
that I am growing
into a world like this.

epilogue
this so you know
that the end of this poem
is not the end of our fight -
this will not be our graveyard.
you will not bury us here.
the holes you have dug as traps
for our bodies will be the ones
you fall into as you chase us
as dusk settles on the horizon.

in the morning,
we will engrave your tombstones
with the words you hurled at us.
whether you are rapist
or bystander, your bones will
rattle in your graves,
a warning
to all those
who ever
participate.

 

Know an ally working actively to make a difference? Witness to a heroic act that deserves recognition? Send us a lead at contact@whyindianmenrape.com.

To show your support for what we do, please CONTRIBUTE and/or PRE-ORDER the books here.

Everyday Inspiration | Nameless Rickshaw Driver

Alice Kaushal tells Priyanka Sutaria about an autorickshaw driver who stood up for her in the ‘80s.

Representational Image

Representational Image

On a winter morning in Delhi, the fog yet settled on the streets, 17-year-old Alice was taking an auto rickshaw to her guardians’ home. It was an ordinary ride across town, until the vehicle stopped at a traffic signal. In the few minutes it took for the signal to turn from red to green, she noticed a man in a Fiat who kept accelerating his car in its place. Trying to catch her attention, he was staring at her and making lewd gestures with his hands.

Alice was worried that he would follow the rickshaw to her guardians’ house, which was in a lonely lane off the road. Her fears were realized when his car trailed behind the rickshaw after the signal turned green, yet she kept hoping it was a coincidence and that he simply happened to be taking the same road. As they turned into the lonely street and he continued to follow them, Alice mustered up the courage to tell the driver of the rickshaw, who until then had no idea this was happening. The moment she alerted him, the rickshaw driver stopped the vehicle and stepped out.

Alice thought that he too was in league with the man in the Fiat, but the rickshaw driver—a young, skinny Sikh man—whipped out his kirpan, and rushed towards the man in the car, brandishing the weapon and yelling what Alice remembers to be the choicest words of abuse. She watched in wonder as the driver of the Fiat panicked, reversing his car is great hurry, even banging it against a wall, as he tried to get out the small lane. He made a quick exit, and the Sardar man returned to his rickshaw. In chaste Punjabi, he told the relieved Alice, “Nobody hurts our girls; if they do, we kill them.”

Years later, Alice chuckles as she recalls the event fondly, saying she can never forget the look of determination on the face of that rickshaw driver, willing to fight for a girl he did not know to protect her from an act of sexual violence.

 

Know an ally working actively to make a difference? Witness to a heroic act that deserves recognition? Send us a lead at contact@whyindianmenrape.com.

To show your support for what we do, please CONTRIBUTE and/or PRE-ORDER the books here.

Everyday Inspiration | Virender Kundu

One of the more positive outcomes of the Varnika Kundu stalking case has been her amazing father, Virender Kundu's immediate and persistent support for his daughter. Like an absolute boss, he has refused to back down in the face of pressure from Haryana's BJP chief, Subhash Barala, whose son is one of the accused in the case. Not only has Kundu refused to withdraw the case, he has shut down every insinuation that his daughter was at fault for the incident that took place.

Virender Kundu, father of Chandigarh stalking victim Varnika Picture courtesy Indian Express

Virender Kundu, father of Chandigarh stalking victim Varnika
Picture courtesy Indian Express

Here are five quotes by him that prove he is an awesome Everyday Inspiration for fathers in India, and around the world.

If you're a parent reading this, here's our message for you. This, right here, is what fatherhood is about. Be like Virender.

 

1. "After 70 years of independence, we should be able to expect that the police, prosecution and judiciary will do the right thing. I am testing the system to see if it can deliver justice."

(Indian Express, August 2017)

2. "There is a saying in Haryanvi that beti sabki saanjhi hoti hai (taking care of daughters is everyone's responsibility). But if [Subhash Barala] feels like he is her father, he ought to behave like her father as well."

(Indian Express, August 2017)

3. "I saw they were covering their faces, and here's my daughter who is without a cover on national television. This is the spirit, and this is the reversal."

(NDTV, August 2017)

4. "In a cut and dried case like this, where there is nothing hazy or unclear in terms of actions or identities, if the system fails to deliver justice, then there is something deeply rotten in our society, our government and our country."

(NDTV, August 2017)

5. "The shame sought to be heaped upon a lone woman got reflected back, magnified, on to her offenders."

(In a Facebook status, August 2017)

Know an ally working actively to make a difference? Witness to a heroic act that deserves recognition? Send us a lead at contact@whyindianmenrape.com.

To show your support for what we do, please CONTRIBUTE and/or PRE-ORDER the books here.

United Against Sexual Violence

At United Against Sexual Violence, we introduce you to those who are allied against gender-based violence, in big and small ways.

You don’t need to have encountered or experienced it to stand with its victims and against the patriarchy that perpetuates it. Feminism, like all movements fighting systemic, structural oppression, needs allies who use their privileged positions to help create a fair, free world.

Hear our superstars—whose empathy for the cause leads them to actively champion and work against gender violence—share their understanding of allyship. Meet some not-so-ordinary individuals who have stood up to the patriarchy, one small act at a time.

Because we need better heroes.

Know an ally working actively to make a difference? Witness to a heroic act that deserves recognition? Send us a lead at contact@whyindianmenrape.com.

To show your support for what we do, please CONTRIBUTE and/or PRE-ORDER the books here.