You’ve probably seen the video in question. It’s everywhere.
A group of young women confronted a middle-aged woman on camera because she allegedly told male diners at a restaurant that they should rape the young women since one of them was wearing a “revealing” dress. There are many parts to it: The older woman’s obnoxiousness, the young women refusing to back down without an apology from her, the store manager refusing to participate but asking the women to leave, and another woman – a mediator in a black dress – who stepped in to tell the older woman off, one mother to another.
The first question always is – ‘But what were you wearing?’ ‘What did you do to attract his attention?’
It’s a scene all women relate to. We feel the young women’s rage because we’ve all been told to ‘cover up’ at some point – by parents, partners, even teachers.
Worse, this is exactly what we’re told if we gather the courage to confide in someone about an incident of harassment or rape. The first question always is – ‘But what were you wearing?’ ‘What did you do to attract his attention?’
Her hideous words embody rape culture by putting the onus of rape on women and engaging in victim blaming.
The middle-aged woman in question was horribly wrong. There’s no caveat to it. Not only did she harass the young women while they were minding their own business and enjoying a meal, she doubled down on camera to insist that they were wearing short dresses to ‘excite men’. Toward the end of the video, she also implied that it would be okay if they were raped.
Her hideous words embody rape culture by putting the onus of rape on women and engaging in victim blaming. The young women were heroic in standing up to her, in reminding her that we live in a country where girls aged two and three years have been raped, and that it cannot be anybody’s fault except the rapist’s.
However, restricted character counts and the ability to instantly publish on social media leaves little space to predict its consequences.
After the Instagram video went viral last night, a couple of the young women found the middle-aged woman on Facebook. They posted her name and photo online, commenting on the hypocrisy of her posing in a knee-length dress, leaving her vulnerable to idiots and internet mobs.
#AuntyjiApologise is now a hashtag, the middle-aged woman’s photos have become memes.
As of this morning, her Facebook profile seems to have been deleted and Instagram has taken down the video. The young women exhorted others in their Instagram Stories not to fight the older woman’s hate with hate, but this may have come a bit too late. A copy of the video is now available on Youtube and if you scroll down to the hellfire that is the comments section, you will see people casually asking for the older woman to be killed, her face to be blackened and (oh the irony) for her to be raped.
So many of these things are said in the heat of the moment. And we can hardly put body shaming and rape culture in the same weighing scale.
At the end of the day, if these ‘call outs’ are an attempt to change mindsets, we need to ask ourselves if shaming people online really helps. What this woman said is despicable, but the reason it makes us doubly mad is because it’s not all that different from what we hear in our own households. When we allow our loved ones the space and time to learn, grow and adapt with the times, shouldn’t strangers on the internet be free to do so outside the glare of media?
In the video, there is another woman in a black dress who mediates. She, too, is heroic in the way she stands up to the older woman, tells her to apologize and reminds her it’s none of her business what the young women wear. She passionately announces that she is a mother of two, and would never let anyone talk to her own daughter that way, no matter what she wore.
However, she appears to body shame the older woman when she says, ‘She has a body to flaunt. You don’t.’ So many of these things are said in the heat of the moment. And we can hardly put body shaming and rape culture in the same weighing scale.
But when men argue, it becomes an incident. When women argue, it becomes a world-wide case study for ‘feminism’ and fodder for trolls. And I still think it’s good for women hold other women to a higher standard of conduct.
We have experienced some forms of oppression. We don’t want to become the perpetrators of it.
Views are the author’s own. By Invite – Nikita Deshpande, who loves her short dresses. She is the author of It Must’ve Been Something He Wrote. Her writing has been published in anthologies like Magical Women and Grandpa Tales as well as platforms like Buzzfeed, The Rumpus, Grazia, Scroll, Daily O and Indiatimes, among others.