Munna Badnaam Hua

WARNING: This piece is written by angry feminists. Proceed only if you can deal with them. (SUCH A SISYPHEAN TOIL FOR ALL OF YOU)

Dear NLU Delhi,

I apologize. I am extremely sorry for my behaviour thus far. Really. How dare I do what I did. How dare I complain. I was dancing in my hostel at night (one with glass windows at that) and some honourable men sexually harassed me. How dare I bitch about it. It wasn’t a big deal, was it? I should have just shut up about it and stayed in my room and never danced again. Wasn’t that the natural solution? What a dumb bitch I was.

My supreme concern should have been to think about the victimization of these honourable men when I decided to complain. Such social stigma manhood carries, tauba tauba. Never gave the plight of men a single thought. And as a lot of victims are often asked- did I not even think about the career prospects of the men whom I complained against? WHAT ABOUT THEIR AMARCHAND JOBS?! What about the impression of the college on the ICICI recruiters who had come that day? It was my underlying duty to specify the number of men, their batches, their appearances – god forbid that I cast a shadow on the morals of any other man.

How dare I complain of facing harassment and raise a tamasha about it? Really, what good are any of these candle marches and poster protests? It’s not cool. What about the comfort of the men who would be forced to look at the tamasha ridden sight, full of ugly posters about my rights? Some men were forced to defend their innocence as they stood in the protest with a placard saying- I’m a third year boy, and I have morals. Why did we do this to all the boys? Why boycott elections defaming our entire batch? WHY?

Seriously, I should have known better than to dance to sexist music after a couple of weeks of bitching about harassment. Dancing to music with sexist lyrics just discredits everything you do or say before it. Dancing to sexist music makes harassment okay. It’s the same thing, isn’t it? And of course, even though I exist in the same social context as everyone else, I must let go of all patriarchal notions of what entertainment is, the moment I decide to complain against a violation of my rights. I must carry this extra burden to prove my loyalty to my rights. I must apologise publicly the moment I do so. I mean, if I complained about harassment and ‘preach’ about it, it is my responsibility to apologise to everyone. Trying to engage people in a discussion puts me on a higher moral ground after all, I’m holier-than-thou, DUH GUYS. The moment Honey Singh objectified a woman’s body I should have stood frozen on the dance floor with all the joy dropping out of me and I should have ran to the DJ and shut everything off. All this, I should have pulled off skillfully so as to not invite the ire of the men (some honourable men) and women who would brand me a feminazi. It should be done, it’s not easy – we’re trying, but it takes time. No one said internalised sexism is easy to combat. The onus to fight this rests on all of us. And as the article raising concerns about Honey Singh screams- Feminism is for everyone. Yes it is. And that is exactly why you shouldn’t place a special burden on victims and those who stand by them.

I deserve all the ire directed at me by the officials, by the teachers, by my peers, by everyone. No one must question the acts of the men. My methods must be questioned. I should not have sabotaged your peaceful lives. I deserved to be shouted at by the VC, the Registrar and everyone else who called it a ‘small incident’. Of course, all of this neatly played out while a member of the College’s Internal Complaints Committee stood and watched silently. I should have undertaken a fact finding mission in the boys’ hostel as to who the perpetrators were, before complaining that I was harassed. And while I’m at it, I should take the accusation of sending in ‘spies’. I should be forced to listen to more canteen conversations about how I should have ‘handled this better’. Of course, none of this can be directed at the men, lest they feel too victimized. (Because obviously men’s lives, men’s morals, men’s stakes are always graded higher than the victims’ – how dare we, how dare anyone of us complain?!)

“Yes, you were sexually harassed and that was wrong. BUT HOW DARE YOU ACCUSE ALL MEN OF HAVING NO MORALS, ITS NOT OUR FAULT!!!”

“Not all men.” Fine. But pointing out individual exceptions doesn’t help us understand or combat behaviors that really are mainly committed by men, from small things like interruptions up to domestic violence and rape. Not all men beat their partners, but people who beat their partners are mostly men. Pointing out that you’re not one of them doesn’t help us figure out how to understand and deal with that problem.

I apologize further, for being a third year girl. I have often been told that all the girls in my batch are hypersensitive and that is why all complaints of harassment are from third year girls. It’s true, Sometimes, at night I sit and conspire with my friends about what new complaint of harassment I should file against some totally random person. It’s how I pass my time when I am not planning to dress ‘provocatively’ the next day. I could not possibly wear the clothes I want to wear with no motive in mind. Far too many people have told me my clothes are provocative. I am told- “Ye third year girls ki problem kya hai? Kitna provocatively dress karte hain”. It’s true, my every act is for you, honourable man. Everything I do, I do it for you. My skirt is for you, so are my shirts, so is my body. My body stopped being mine the moment I was born with a vagina.

And let us all remember how-yes, we are allowed to complain against sexual harassment and fight for equal rights, but never-ever-ever-make a generalisation lest you tarnish the reputation of honourable men and they’re forced to write articles and comments to prove their worth and innocence.

Yaar, now even this rant too much ho gaya – when will this feminist brigade (wonder who they are) ever stop? Itna kyun soch rahe hai. Chhodo na. Actually no, kal poster lag jaayega. Ain’t nobody got the time for that.

Cause actual sexual harassment isn’t going down in this college. We have the bast-of-the-bast everything. These feminists with their posters have to make a big deal out of everything. Why don’t they just chill out.

Yours faithfully,

Shweta, Aarushi, Kavya and Pearlita

Wish you’d engage.

(Please note that the content of this rant represents the views of only these people as individuals and not those of the groups/ committees they represent or of all the people who faced the harassment.)

PS: These articles and comments in response to which this rant has been written, may make the generalisations and shaming stop, but it has made our campus an even more hostile place for victims who want to raise their voice against harassment. Cause sexual harassment is bad, but generalisations- HELL NO. (This backlash was created even though no generalization was made by us. Only statements of facts were made. We were harassed. That was it.) Instead of telling women that it’s not all men, show them. Show them by listening and supporting.

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15 thoughts on “Munna Badnaam Hua

  1. I appreciate the problem. I do. But then you have to realize that as much as you hate the fact, all men AREN’T assholes. There are 3rd year boys, like myself who really wanted to stand up for the cause, and I DO agree that stuff like this should not be happening. I get it. But then you need people on YOUR side. Not alienate them. When I open an article which has basically said that well, all 3rd year boys are accomplice(to put it shortly), you’re really taking away my support, cause I’m now sitting, thinking – I didn’t do anything. WHY ME? Cause also have to realize that is DOES affect me. A section of the college thinks – 3rd year boy? Creep saala. And this is exactly opposite to what I felt and supported. I WANT to stand with you in protests. I do. But while standing, everyone there is judging me for being a 3rd year guy since I am an ACCOMPLICE, i get swayed away from the notion of doing so. I really do get your stand, but I hope you’re a bit receptive here.

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    • Yes, because it is so hard for you to prove that you’re not an accomplice without being sarcastic or snide. Yes, because of course, any support extended from any 3rd year boy was rejected and thrown away.
      Why is there a burden to not alienate people on victims as opposed to the burden to clearly establish support on the others.
      If an article is enough to take away your support and make you think about how you’re being framed and shamed, and affect your decision to take part in any protest- the perhaps the issue wasn’t as important to you.

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      • Hi Aarushi,

        Any support that any third year boy extended to this cause was accepted by the girls, as far as my knowledge goes. I extended my support too, and I wasn’t “thrown out”, to be fair. You’re right.

        But I think the notice and the article before it are trying to drive home a very different point. The point is not that men’s privileges slash rights are more important than the victims’ rights. The question is simply this – even assuming that men’s rights are less important, was it reasonable to turn hostile against all the boys of the batch, claiming that all of them “obviously” knew who the culprit was? The answer being suggested is a no, mainly for two reasons:

        1. It wouldn’t achieve anything. Except some (or slightly more) reciprocated hostility, of course. And some (or slightly more?) shaming for all of them boys.
        2. Maybe, just maybe, some of them didn’t know. Maybe half of them didn’t know. Or maybe most of them didn’t know? (I wouldn’t really mind exploring the “none of them knew” possibility, since most of the people posting here, including you and me, were part of the conversation where it was agreed that a good possibility existed that the culprit wasn’t anyone from the third year at all.)

        Of course, the fact that you did blame all the third year boys doesn’t take away the fact that harassment happened and that it needs to be dealt with. And it doesn’t mean that the boys should stop supporting the cause. The boys were with you then and they’re with you now. All it means is that some of the girls’ actions were unreasonable and that they ought to realize that. That just because men’s privileges don’t deserve as much care and attention, they ought not to be treated like “it’s okay if your image got tarnished. After all you’re men, you can take it. And because you can take it, we will make you take it, even if there’s no reason for it, even if we won’t gain anything out of it.”

        [My argument is clearly based on a cumulative of those two points. So if either falls, I’m off. Please show me either how the actions could achieve anything, or that most of the third year boys “obviously” knew.]

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      • Shrutanjaya,
        I agree that the point is not that men’s privileges slash rights are more important than the victims’ rights. The point of the article was that, yes, generalisations are bad and have affected some boys, but, we personally felt that it an attempt to reduce the contempt our batch boys’ have been receiving from everyone, actual attention from the main issue got diverted.
        We did not turn hostile against all the boys of the batch, and we did not want to shame every single boy present in our class. We were just shaken by the lack of a collective initial response to what happened, and continued silence from the majority of boys in public.
        I agree that there is a huge possibility that barely anyone knew. We didn’t specify third year boys, we mentioned the third floor. Unfortunately, a generalisation followed which did affect alot of my batch boys. I acknowledge that and don’t think it can be done away with. I get that in a small college like ours, it does look bad and creates a horrible image for some boys which is hard to erase easily. My main point would be that, our attempt to raise attention to our problem did lead to some negative results for some boys, for sure. But is it that big a problem, that it can take away from the issue of harassment?
        By saying that not all boys were involved (and it may be factually true, and some may feel the need for everyone to know it) in the form of that fake notice, it somehow takes away from what we did.
        I’m not saying that it was any boy’s intention to trivialise the harassment. A public platform was needed to clarify that all boys weren’t involved, I get that. But somehow, the four of us felt, that the sarcasm behind it made it seem like it was due to our ‘unreasonable’ response to our sexual harassment that reputations were ruined.
        Even if someone may feel that the ten of us could have brought this entire issue up differently, talking about it again and again implies some sort of responsibility on the victims to act in a certain way.
        That would somehow imply, that for me to be harassed and to be fully publicly supported from the very beginning, I would have to talk about the harassment in a particular manner, and if not, then of course, I would receive support, but I would also receive immense backlash that may make me regret doing anything in the first place.
        I get that it would have been better if we had been less hostile, or less accusatory, but continuing the discussion of ‘how we should have behaved then in order to avoid mud-slinging’ does make me feel that the process of raising up awareness was more important that the actual issue. That was what was so disconcerting and made us feel uncomfortable and write this caustic article.
        Again, it may be said that there was no point in being sarcastic in this article as this is only polarising boys and girls, but what we wanted to say just couldn’t be said simply and politely. We were literally writing an article asking some people to take our harassment seriously.
        (This isn’t a response to how you may have personally felt and supported us in your own capacity, but to the general boys v. girls thing going on)

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    • Yes, because I NEED your support, because oh my god, I WANT to stand by you girls but everyone looks at me dirty. I take up a CAUSE because it’s convenient. Because even though there is an anonymous notice out there pretty much belittling the issue of sexual harassment, I am going to sit in my room and feel wronged by all the girls in my class. How dare they? Those back stabbers, those bitches. They don’t DESERVE my support.
      I am going to sit there and nurse my wounds, for I have been gravely wronged. Because I cant raise my voice lest there is some criticism and everything doesn’t work out for me. Because that’s how it is right, I am not going to HELP if I don’t get anything out of this.
      Because it’s too much of an effort proving to the college that the CREEP SAALA fraternity in my batch is not the dominant one. How DARE you question my morals?
      Because my reputation as the STUD matters more to me than maybe something bigger. Like you know, equality and shiz. Didnt we achieve that the day we got universal adult suffrage? Those females also naah, going on and on. All that naare baazi, there is a way batter way of dealing with this. Arre, DIALOGUE baazi. Look just HOW well the UN functions. Everything gets resolved.
      Because yes, feminism is a dirty word which is exclusively for women who need attention. The males need to be INVITED to join us and give us legitimacy, in trying to fight privilege, we further strengthen it. Don’t be mean and sarcastic, because men feel offended and feel the need to withdraw the PROTECTION they awarded to us.

      Do we once stop and think that in this battle, there are women who were victimized? That in this war to prove one side’s superiority, you’re not slinging mud on anyone but still manage to drag their name and their rights through the mud?
      We really need to question ourselves here. Are the victims’ rights paramount or the rights of the people who have, gasp, been caught in the web of generalisation?

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  2. If a movement is defined or characterized primarily by its open disdain for any group, especially a group that the movement itself is seeking to change, it is doomed to fail. The message is important, and it cannot be doubted that the message the ‘angry feminists’ here want to convey is even more important and urgent given recent happenings, it must be recognized that the medium is important as well.

    Perhaps instead of a scathingly sarcastic rant (as you have characterised it yourself) you could try and present your arguments (which are inherently grounded in rationality and decency and therefore not necessarily dependent on rhetoric or dramatics) in a more reasoned manner. I like to believe a campus like ours will be slightly more receptive to such a medium than one that is so adversarial. It’s almost as if you’ve bought into the horrible mischaracterization of ‘angry feminists’ and ‘feminazis’ (a term that is abhorrent to my personal judgement) and have become caricatures of what you started out as or what you intended to be, and that often becomes the biggest impediment in your own way.

    You say you are happy to engage. However, most of us who wish to engage don’t feel so. Because your idea of engagement seems to be combat rather than conversation, to shame anyone who, out of ignorance or conditioning, dares to voice an opinion or argument contrary to yours. You antagonize and wound, as seen by the above comment, and fail to win people over. Remember, as anticlimactic as that might sound to ideas of a struggle against the Man (no pun intended), at the end of the day, that is your goal. To have more and more people on your side, to enlighten those ignorant enough to give in to conditioning and perpetuate norms that you seek to fight against. Condescension is not the solution. Combat is not the solution. Conversation is. Instead of responding to the allegations of hypocrisy for enjoying Honey Singh’s music with a coherent argument, you fumble around and sarcastically answer ‘right so this makes harassment okay’ That was never the point. The author of that last post never seemed to imply or assert that conclusion. Don’t let your first reaction be to bristle with anger, snarl, and shoot off a sarcastic, caustic article. It will do nothing but symbolically register your displeasure, at the cost of alienating people who might even agree with you.

    As a male feminist who lives on this campus, I appeal to you. For the sake of your movement, OUR movement, please, try and live up to your oft repeated motto. Engage. We are not your enemies.

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    • Dear Male Feminist,
      Would you prefer that the arguments of an oppressed group be couched in the politics of respectability? Would you rather see those arguments shaped by language that is stripped of the frustration and anger that the victims have every right to experience? It seems that you would disregard the arguments presented in the piece merely on account of their being presented in a manner that makes you uncomfortable. Being a male feminist is not merely about proclaiming that you are an ally to the feminist cause, but is also about acknowledging your own position of privilege and identifying the various social, economic and political benefits that accrue to you by virtue of your position in a gendered society. It is about listening to arguments that make you uncomfortable- your discomfort could arise from the arguments themselves, or from the tone in which those arguments are made, but your discomfort cannot make us blunt the edges of our arguments or sheath our arguments in language that is tailored to appease, not to express. You accuse the authors of this article of doing nothing more that ‘symbolically’ registering their ‘displeasure’- there is an enormous amount of significance attached to expressing the (what you so dispassionately dismiss as symbolic) frustration that arises out of merely existing in a society governed by patriarchal norms. As someone who does not occupy a position of privilege (with respect to this particular system of oppression) I am sorry if my righteous indignation, anger or frustration cannot be aired without being told that I am alienating ‘allies’. One is not an ally merely by proclaiming that one is so- one must learn not to be dismissive of arguments impelled by anger arising from a form of oppression that one will never experience.
      I have a rather crudely constructed analogy for you, that I hope will better help you understand the point I’m making:
      If a black woman were to write an angry piece/ rant about the discrimination she faces on a daily basis, would you ask her to present her arguments in a less combative manner because by expressing her arguments in this way she is alienating potential white allies?

      While I fully agree that dialogue and engagement are crucial to securing more allies, please don’t ask that our arguments or feelings be tailored to please you (or other potential allies). Being a male feminist is not about wearing a T-shirt that proclaims to the world that you are so- it is about listening to things that make you uncomfortable, understanding both that our anger is legitimate and that our arguments are not rendered invalid because they are made in anger, learning that there is power in expression, and that even if our arguments are not couched in the discourse of respectability, you must LISTEN.

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  3. Hi, Male Feminist.
    I don;t know how better to engage with anyone. As part of the ASHC, we debated with people on a a poster on a random wall, we organized GDGs (which no one ever turned up for), we put posters, we have organized sessions, the members of the Committee are open to talk to just about anyone who walks up to them. The Committee email ID is with everyone and till date only 1 person has written to us. We happily engaged. with no one. If all we get every time we try to engage, is an empty classroom, it’s REALLY not our fault. We don’t know what better engagement methods exist. we’re open to suggestions. No one thinks you’re our enemy. Male feminist allies are always valuable and it would genuinely be a great loss if one of them decides to spurn an ideology because of a rant on glasnost. However, I am not sure how well you have read this rant. The point we are trying to drive home is that patriarchy as a system benefits men. No one can deny that. If you do, you shouldn’t call yourself a feminist. Now given that premise, I think that pointing out that fact cannot and should not amount to disdain for a group.
    When I say white men are privileged, I am not saying we should kill/ slay/ burn them. I am simply saying that they are privileged and mere realization of this fact on their part would go long way in trying to improve race relations. Similarly, when I say that the focus of the mainstream debates on this campus should be the victims and not how the poor men are being victimized, I mean exactly that. I don’t mean ‘I fucking hate all men’.
    Yes, this rant is scathingly sarcastic. It was meant to be. It is this sarcastic because I am angry for precisely the reasons mentioned there. I have received far too many suggestions about how i should have handled this better. Men weren’t subjected to something even close to that. You yourself are doing the exact same thing.

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  4. @Anonymous, Hi. I must tell you that you seem to have completely misunderstood the point of what it written. Nowhere throughout this piece is anything said about ALL third year boys being accomplice. Absolutely nowhere. We too believe that not all 3rd year boys were accomplice. That would be a stu[id thing for me to say. However, I would repeat what is written in the rant. I know you’re not one of them. I know it. Simply repeating it is not helping anyone. If you really want to help, instead of telling me you’re not one of them (even when i never said you are) offer constructive solutions or just stand by me. And if you have done either both or one of these things, I don’t see why you need to be offended by what’s written.

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    • @Anonymous:
      1) yes, men are victims too. No one denies that. Read again what was written. MOSTLY men. That qualifying term was put in there for a reason.
      2) That is not the point of anything that was written in the piece.
      3) However, to engage in a discussion irrelevant to the issue, I can tell you that I agree violence against men isn’t something entirely unheard of. Cases do exist and it is a reality. Several social factors exist which may lead to this, including some men being subjected violence because their performance of masculinity may not be seen as adequate by society. Even though this violence is not as rife as violence against women, I still think it needs to be recognised. Considering this, as well as several other reasons, I was one of the people who support a gender neutral anti sexual harassment code for this college. So, I agree with you. Does that demolish the point I made? No. Hence, your point was irrelevant.

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  5. No one is denying that men suffer from sexual harassment as well. No one has ever denied that.

    What is being talked about is how, we at least, felt no support at all in combating the actual issue of sexual harassment. Even now, we aren’t accusing everyone of it. But, instead of letting us protest freely against an issue like sexual harassment, when the predator or inflictor is unknown (where generalisations are bound to happen), we were told how to go about it.
    Saying that some men or women do it too, does not take us anywhere but backwards. Instead of helping us do anything, we are made helpless by social pressure from some people interrupting with their clarifications.
    How many times should we say that we aren’t blaming all boys, we don’t hate men and don’t think or want this to be a boy v. girls issue. Victims do not deserve this extra burden of clarifying themselves and refining and better defining their protests.

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  6. No one says violence is not inflicted upon men. It is real and it needs to be recognized. There can be several social causal factors of why the violence happens, including the fact that the gender performance of some men is seen as inadequate by society and the perceived effeminacy invites violence. Even though this is not as rife as violence against women, it is still needs recognition and that is why,along with several other reasons, in the Anti Sexual Harassment Committee, I personally supported a gender neutral Anti Sexual Harassment Code.
    There. I agree with you, Anonymous. Does that demolish the point I made about how victims deserve more focus than their methods or the alleged perpetrators? Nope. Ergo, your point was largely irrelevant to the current debate.

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    • Hi, Anonymous. I don’t think I understand what you mean. Could you clarify your comment? Do you mean that victims shouldn’t complain because it’s sucking the life force out of you, or do you mean that feminism sucks the life force out of you because it calls out on misogyny?
      It’ll be great if you could clarify.
      Thanks.

      Liked by 1 person

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