When I was eleven years old, my uncle told me that girls who wear tiny clothes should be raped. Another uncle, when I asked why rapes happen, he ‘mansplained‘ with a reason I never forgot. I still clearly remember, he told me, “If you have a flower and you find it beautiful, you want to touch it. People can’t help themselves sometimes.” I did not know then how to react. Children aren’t supposed to respond back to adults, even when they are wrong, something I was taught since the beginning. But there was one thing I did not understand why this comparison made sense to him.

In my inference, for him, women were objects. But even then I knew that, unlike his theory, men can control their urge and they should. Later my belief in it strengthened when I grew up and realized that human civilization has always operated on the concept of ‘consent’- something that set them apart from animals. Yet my uncle had forgotten to talk to me about it that day, while sharing the example.

Girls are raised to be modest, shy, and properly dressed. Boys are not. They are given the freedom to make mistakes and not get reprimanded for them. When this happens, the dynamic shifts into boys believing they are better than girls

I have since then heard all his arguments and tried to make sense out of it. But I haven’t been able to. Like for instance, the girls who wear short-skirts long for attention and thus, if something happens to them, happens because they were ‘asking for it’. I figured that for him, short-skirts was a heinous sin. However, at the same time, he would be fine with girls wearing jeans. It was a few days later I heard a case in a village near Kolkata when a girl was raped because she went to college wearing jeans. So that means, wearing jeans is also not acceptable? I was perplexed because if we’re holding on to this argument, wearing short-skirts in western countries is acceptable, yet girls are raped there too. Would that mean that the style of clothing didn’t actually have any factor to play in men raping them?

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My father never discriminated between me and my sister. But that doesn’t mean the society didn’t. And that is when the petty argument of ‘Not all men’ comes to a halt. Even if there are some men who don’t believe in belittling their opposite sex into believing they are less than them, that doesn’t change the dynamics. Because that doesn’t change the way society perceives women. That doesn’t change why top actresses in Bollywood are paid far less than their male counterparts, even when Bollywood is supposed to be the most ‘liberal’ industry.

And there comes the third point I am trying to make. Liberalism or advancement in mindset has nothing to do with women being belittled. I have been fortunate to be a part of many big institutions around the world and unfortunate enough to see sexism and girls’ body parts being objectified. Guys talking about girls like they own them. Like they are something to be played with. Moreover, if liberalism was the reason, little girls wouldn’t be raped by priests in religious places around the world, nor would the casting couch would see so many tears. Using your power forcibly to get in bed with a girl, whether this influence is physical, monetary, or political, is rape.

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Misogyny is so deep-rooted in our minds that it has become so difficult to eradicate it from people within. What happened with the Instagram page and group chat, ‘Bois Locker Room’ is just an example of that. A large part of this problem is parenting and how children are raised. Although it’s not the only reason because the historical patriarchy and sexism do play a bigger role here. Girls are raised to be modest, shy, and properly dressed. Boys are not. They are given the freedom to make mistakes and not get reprimanded for them. When this happens, the dynamic shifts into boys believing they are better than girls. Maybe what my uncle told me was a result of all this, pushing down the female race to such an extent that they are not humans anymore. But for any boy or girl like me, who had to hear the words of an uncle like mine, I have something very different to tell you.

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Women get raped because men rape them. Not because of the length of their skirt. Not because of how tight their dress was. Not because they were out at midnight. And surely not because they ‘asked’ for it. Nobody ever asks you to do something with the word “No”. They ask you to not do it.

[Image Credit Favim]

Views expressed are the author’s own. The author is a Fellow of The Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, author of Midnight Sun and Supernova and studies at Ashoka University.

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