Reclaim Our Words, News, Space: Call out Double Standards

Gender Equality

So if this New Yorker humour piece teaches you anything, it is that journalists need to be asking a whole new host of questions to keep up with this new era we seem to be living in. There was a time I thought a WTH (if not WTF) series was in order — there is so much in the news that boggles the mind, so much that we do every single day in society that calls for the profanity-laced questions. Depending on your levels of decorum, though, we can also go with “Seriously? Like Are You Serious?” I’m not even talking about politics, geo-politics or the alternative fact scenario, which is of course is open season.

This week? This news:

Can you even begin to believe what kids are being taught in schools? Or that whoever thought of writing that, actually probably believes that?

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And then there was this horrific report on 21 year old Rashmi being burned alive in a library in Kerala…followed by her assailant succumbing to his own burn injuries. The trauma of the incident apart, it inevitably sparks off a barrage of reportage on “jilted” or “spurned” “love”  and certainly something that is that toxic deserves to see love in quotation marks as well. We tend to just passively absorb this sort of insidious commentary.

I’ve lost track of the number of horrific acid attacks, where — going by the reporters’ copy — the police matter-of-factly seem to narrate that the motive as jilted/ spurned / unrequited love, as if that seems to make sense. We collectively need to realise that that sort of approach almost justifies and certainly to a large extent normalises extreme violence against women.

So no, it’s not okay to use these sort of phrases or pepper our news reports and everyday conversation with them. Use the words you would if you didn’t have the titillating questions being asked about were they or weren’t they. The words you’d use if it was a man as victim. You know the ones — assault, battery, murder, harassment, stalking, violence. Crimes, all.

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At a recent panel I was moderating, a comment on how a young boy (again, rather matter-of-factly) narrated how boys can be “driven” to such violence, having absorbed more than their own share of violence (corporal punishment at school or beatings at home etc) … an anguished reaction from a girl in the audience was, but so do we!
Girls in India also go through that and worse but they don’t go around thinking of throwing acid in someone’s face because their relationship broke down? Though this may be the first incident recorded in Bengaluru, which belies that claim, by and large, it is not normalised or justified behaviour for women. And nor should it be.

Also Read: No Real Ban on Sale of Acid: Activist

This piece in The Newsminute hits the nail on the head. Stop Justifying Toxic Obsession as Romance, the headline implores.

When will we realise that toxic behavioural norms are not just aberrations but very much a part of our social make-up? Yes, you can look at the media for projecting very harmful and problematic statements and behaviours, and you can certainly look at this glorified version of stalking (by any other name) that has dominated the Hindi and other regional language film industries, and we must call all of these instances out. But when do we start looking at ourselves, our own families, and relationships? And the running commentary we often perpetuate: that ‘XYZ probably had it coming’ because she was a little too bold or too out there, or too social (read sexually active).

It’s more than time to reclaim our words, call out double standards, and reclaim our spaces.

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