In Kolkata, a 25-year-old student was in for a rude shock, when she stepped out to buy some supplies and ended up getting told by a woman that she should be raped. The Jadavpur University student has alleged that a middle-aged woman said that she should be raped, since she was wearing shorts. When the altercation intensified, the woman slapped the student twice, before fleeing from the scene. A few months ago, another woman was caught on camera, inciting men to rape a girl wearing shorts. This dress policing that women face from other women is the result of internalisation of patriarchy, which leads them to believe that women are accountable for their own safety and that men have every right to lay their hands on a woman who dares to dress ‘provocatively’.
- A Kolkata based student has alleged that a middle-aged woman said that she should be raped since she was wearing shorts.
- This isn’t the first incident of women instigating rape of women who wear short clothes.
- A lot of women internalise patriarchy due to orthodox conditioning.
- While what this woman did was wrong, should we judge women for their beliefs, or try and establish a dialogue with it.
This dress policing that women face from other women is the result of internalisation of patriarchy, which leads them to believe that women are accountable for their own safety.
One would think that women can understand the struggles of other women, and thus root for their agency. Women have the right to wear what they want to, and yet we often face intense scrutiny from our female peers who have a conservative mindset. Don’t we all know that one woman who brands skirts above a certain length vulgar? Who steadfastly believes that girls who wear shorts are ‘loose’ or ‘fast’? Who wouldn’t approve of a prospective bride simply because she wears crop tops or ganjis?
Such women have spent a lifetime living by patriarchal rules, wearing, speaking, behaving and even eating in order to appease men in their family. That is the cost of survival, or a stable marriage or even humane treatment numerous women have to pay and thus we shouldn’t be judging them. Eventually women who have to sustain themselves and their daughters in patriarchal setups, end up passing down the very values which have led to their oppression, generation after generation. With rise of polarisation in our society, the orthodox set up has now developed a zero tolerance policy for any deviance from social norms, and sadly some women have ended up becoming their flag bearers.
How do we get through to women and men who believe patriarchal convictions so deeply? How do we tell women and men to stop seeing rape as a consequence, but rather as a crime?
Just like there are men championing women’s rights, we have women advocating patriarchal norms, and this shows that it isn’t about men versus women, it about oppressive beliefs and conditioning. Women are as susceptible to it, as are men. What this woman has allegedly done is unforgivable and she deserves to face legal consequences for her actions. She was in no place to police another woman, or to feel entitled enough to slap her. But that’s how moral righteousness works.
How do we get through to women and men who believe in patriarchal convictions so deeply? How do we tell them to stop seeing rape as a consequence but rather as a crime? Is normalisation of rape threats and violence against women on social media and on our streets to be blamed? Or does the blame lie with the deepening rift between modern and orthodox India, which has led to a massive communication gap? These are questions we need to ask ourselves and those around us, if we truly intend to find a solution.
The most obvious place to start with is to talk. Speak to women around you. Instead of judging them for their orthodox views, try and understand the rationale behind them. Look at the lives they have led empathetically. This will help you engage in a positive dialogue and hopefully prevent other women from harbouring the belief that women who wear short clothes are asking to be raped and that it is natural for men to have an objectifying gaze.
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.