Being a Foreign Slut

I ‘get away’ with this in public:

1)      Smoking

2)      Drinking

3)      Showing Skin

4)      Being loud/aggressive

5)      Talking back

6)      Staring back

7)      Challenging so called ‘rip-offs’ strongly

8)      Engaging in open and honest discussion if I choose to initiate it

9)      Painting provocative slogans on a shirt when participating in a march

The issue is this: I do because I’m Western.  I look European, I sound ‘non-Indian’ (sure, its got massive economic reasons too but lemme finish)

Indian society, just as its entire society, is incredibly diverse. The slutwalk, people criticized, was too elitisit, started by a group of college students, that it didn’t speak to Indian women at large.

Without delving into a discussion of whether or not this was a valid argument (It was. Kind of. And it was also not!) the fact is that:

It tried… Very hard. What was often forgotten in this ‘controversy’ was the message of the problem of victim-blaming being universal. Applicable, I believe, to most cultural contexts around the world.

Most women who are sexually assaulted in Delhi do not ‘dress provocatively’. Very true. Not only because most of the female population doesn’t dress in –let’s call it- ‘Western style summer wear’. Most women who are sexually assaulted in Delhi are not the club-hoppin’, alcohol-consuming, partying, staying out late at night well-off Indian young woman. (If I had a better social life and was Indian that would be me, by the way)

But isn’t that what’s particularly scary? Is it not the economic instability in parts (walking alone down the road in the evening (Nope, no car, no tuk tuk), having to go to ‘the bathroom’ in the open late at night,  for example that makes it a particularly vicious crime to blame rape on the behavior of the victim? It is always wrong to say ‘She should not have done this/worn that/whatever’ after a woman has been abused like this. No matter whether there is value in taking precautions if one is actually able to do so. What are the choices these women have not to behave “shameless”? And yes, these are these are the reasons behind the “Shameless Front”. Newsflash!

It’s not a difficult notion to understand, this whole spiel. The complicated stuff comes afterwards. When people debate/disagree/fight about it, that’s when it gets twisted to a dangerous extent.

‘The message does not speak to most Indian women’s experiences in India’. I agree. To an extent, I do. It is not easy to get the message across, its origins and first framed in Canada, a country with a much more ‘liberal’ attitude to lots of things going on in people’s lives. The message everywhere (including in India) was clear; not always supported of course, but not easy to distort.

The biggest fight the Slutwalk Delhi organizers had to battle in the end can most easily described as “Wait, no no, you don’t get it!”

The most dangerous (and I do mean that wholeheartedly/ starting to feel frustrated with cynicism) of the Slutwalk aftermath was the condescending smirk of those who had loudly proclaimed:

‘This cannot be simply transferred to India! See! Nothing is gonna come of it. ”

A constant questioning (imagining a bored interviewer voice here) “Do you think it will bring changes to ‘the problem’”. What?! You mean after this walk will women not get raped in India? Do you think policy and decision makers, influential movers and shakers will wake up and listen and put policies and measures and education programmes and lots of other things in place? What exactly do you mean by that?

And that’s the question I, personally, didn’t ask back enough. I don’t think anyone thought this first Slutwalk was THE revolution that will help women’s position in Indian society for good. No shit. Sorry, but is that what people actually believe is why people get together to demonstrate/march for a cause?

One cannot predict what/if demonstrations and drawing attention to a problem that is perpetuated by society have an effect. That is obvious.

The question I would have wanted to answer was: Do you think there will finally be a proper examination of what I can only describe as laziness to address the massive problem of sexual assault in Delhi?  Laziness, compounded and supported by a global culture that blames a woman for her rape?

No such luck of course and No, Im not an expert on Law, Politics and/or women’s rights organizations in India.

What I have to remember when I start feeling outraged and indignant is that damn, I get away with stuff! Sure, it might be that as a Western woman I’m automatically ‘shameless’ (i.e. Slut- YES! Let me please reclaim the word! Thank you!), but I don’t really have to feel as powerless against assumptions of certain behavior as ‘inviting the male gaze/rape”.

 

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