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July 6, 2007

Posted by K in Action, Bus rides, contemporary, Gender.

This happened a week ago, but I guess I’m still so kicked about it that I found it post-worthy ๐Ÿ™‚

I am a female, right? I am (by virtue of my gender, and the country I live in) a potential rape-victim, right? I should therefore Take Precautions, right? Meaning, take the lighted road, or better still…take NO road when the requirement for lights become inevitable…right? I ought to keep-to-public-places-not-meet-strange-men-not-go-alone-to-new-places-keep-my-phone-handy-etc etc…right?

Well, last Sunday, I took a bus with two friends at 9:30 PM at night. We became Night-Time commuters.

I felt a sense of liberation. I felt as if the tethers binding me to my gender were snapping.

Nothing had changed. I was still in Delhi. I was still a potential rape victim. But you know what? It felt good.
I was under no illusion…I am aware of the horror stories. But it was time to decide that my life couldn’t be one big Precaution.

I wish people spent less time trying to prevent rapes (and by this, I mean the many million conjunctions and restrictions put on the rape-able gender) and more time figuring out what to do post-rape.

AFTER somebody is raped you may well tell them it was not your fault, poor girl, etc etc, but the point is a) You’re probably crying your eyes out while you say all this, leading the person to wonder why exactly it is that you are crying (Lost virginity? Loss of face in society? Fear that *I* won’t recover? Shouldn’t that apprehension be left to *me*, the victim? Shouldn’t your job be to tell me that *I* will indeed recover?) and b)How is someone supposed to swallow that? All her life she has been cautioned, warned, and made afraid of an event that has finally come to pass. And now you expect her to believe that it is actually nothing, not her fault, move on ,child?

Why can’t rape be treated as a violent crime, and just that? Why must we create extra- hoo-haa about it? It rubs off on the victims, doesn’t it? We are ingrained to see it as Different. Hence our reaction becomes different.

Why can’t we, as a society, work at building a non-sexual image of it? It ISN”T sexual(and here I define sexual to mean anything to do with sexuality and sexual intercourse, and by my definition, both these things would be primarily about the individual in question)….the victim never had anything to do with it! The body is violated, just as it is when someone knifes your neck or breaks your jaw, only this could probably be treated as the most violent crime, second only to murder.

It is time to stop making a victim of the victim. Or a potential victim of a potential victim. Or is it?



1. anonymouse - July 6, 2007

Males are also taught that their womenfolk need to be protected (Note the specifics here, protect the women of the group, but not the outsiders. The women in the group are potential mates or at least genes similar to your own, the outside ones don’t. Genetic loyalty is strong.).

Hearing about someone being raped leads to an immediate sense of failure, and the apprehension that it may be one of the women in _their_ group. That triggers a flight or fight reaction.

Also, rape has usually been associated with war, violence and the overthrow of the dominant male. The woman isn’t the point, it’s the genetics of the potential child. Rape may not have anything to do with sexuality, but it sure has to do with reproduction.

Oh, and it isn’t my job to tell you you will recover. That is for you to figure out. It’s my duty to treat you are a perfectly normal person, just as I have done before.

Personally, in my opinion, murder is less violent than rape (or identity theft. The violation of privacy and security stays with the victim for a long time, but in the case of murder it ends.

Here’s the big question though: would you have done the bus ride alone? Will you do it alone? 9:30 pm isn’t particularly late either, what about 11:30? past midnight?

2. Hanedin - July 6, 2007

I don’t think that 11:30 or past mid-night really is the point.
The point is really not the time-frame in which one roams around in the streets of Delhi. Rapes have been known to take place in Broad Day light.
It seemed to me more the fact that one was engaging oneself in breaking the supposedly precautionary rules that are forced into women from the moment of their birth

I shall refrain myself from shedding incantations of immense praise on this praise, no. I shall do no such thing.
Instead, I shall only remember the lines of Marge Piercy in “Breaking Out” :- “This is not a tale of innocence lost, but power gained: I would not be Sisyphus. There are things I should learn to break.”

3. Hanedin - July 7, 2007

And as far as measuring the violence of say murder vs rape, and trying to figure out which is more violent. I think the entire idea is as warped as it is inane.
A woman who has been raped won’t really feel that her life is worth living. A rape might actually equal a rape when the woman might just kill herself…and it’s known to happen.
Society can make a violent act even more violent by impressing upon false and gross truths that aren’t really true at all.
Gnash. I shall stop now.

4. jnarin - July 7, 2007

Two things – Most people don’t report rapes, since they fear that socially, their status might become lower, and the penalty for rapists is not severe enough.

Rapists take see these as advantages, and continue to do what they have been doing. If at all, there was a front page story on how a rapist was charged with the crime, and executed, I don’t think there’d be as many as there are now.

5. KnotKeats - July 7, 2007

I agree completely with the spirit of your post, if not all of the details. Yes, it is a crime of violence. Men can be and are raped, too. I suspect male rape is far more under-reported than rape of women, at least in the U.S.

The spirit is the same. When a man is raped, he loses his sense of manhood. When a woman is raped, society tells her she is devalued, or she “asked for it.” I’m sure the specific responses are greatly different in different cultures, but as you pointed out, the victim is victimized twice.

But women also have to worry about getting pregnant from being raped. Triple jepoardy.

I should stop writing. The anger I feel towards men who would do such a violent and personal thing brings out a rage in me that is, itself, obscene.

So skipping to a different point, I think I understand some of the sense of freedom you felt by not being afraid. Living your life in fear of what might happen is not living.

Courting danger for its own sake, however, is not too bright – something I’ve certainly been guilty of most of my life. When I courted danger I think I was trying to prove that I am in control of my life, and if the danger strikes, it is because of my own actions. It’s an over-reaction to not wanting to live in fear.

As usual, it’s the razor’s edge. Living life well tends to be like that.

6. lostrealist - July 8, 2007

Perfect agreement with Greg =). Fear and Precaution have no connection. One should be careful without being fearful, which, I agree, is easier said than done. Fear is in our head, Precautions exist to save us from real extant dangers. Lose your fears, but be careful. Perfect balance. This is the razor’s edge greg talked about, I guess =).

7. KE@$SHAV - July 8, 2007

women *rolls eyes*

8. sporadicblogger - July 8, 2007

anonymouse- I wasn’t talking about you :p I was talking about family members. More specifically- immediate family members. I would indeed expect the rest of the world to go on as before, with a wee bit of difference. Not acknowledging the fact that rape has occurred can be quite distressing, I should imagine.
9:30PM is late. Everything is relative, this was the latest I’ve been out alone/with friends. And no, I probably would not do it alone at 11:30. Till 10:00 I will do it alone.

Hanedin-yay! You get what I mean ๐Ÿ™‚ I think,hehe. Yes, Marge Piercy is what I felt like. Feel like.

jnarin-true. I agree with that.

KnotKeats- Men get raped, I know. That is why I added, in brackets, my country. Raped men in India donโ€™t get as much attention as raped women. They use the term sodomyโ€ฆIโ€™m not sure if too many people know what that is. I used to believe sodomy meant mutilation of the genital area; it was only quite recently that I found out it is used to refer to intercourse between men.

I donโ€™t court danger for the sake of it. Atleast, not yet ๐Ÿ™‚ I suspect I shall descend to that the older I grow, but as of now, I keep to the blunter edge of the razor ๐Ÿ™‚
The reason I felt so good, was because that bus ride allowed me(us) to go see a brilliant film, which we otherwise would not have been able to. We did something ordinary, which is becoming more and more difficult these days. Thats why it felt so good ๐Ÿ™‚

9. sporadicblogger - July 8, 2007

lostrealist- hello ๐Ÿ™‚ I don’t think fear and precaution have no connection. One takes precautions only when one is afraid. If I weren’t afraid of being burnt by fire, would I take care to steer clear of nylons while cooking?

Keshav- (censored!) *biggrin*

10. Keshav - July 9, 2007


11. anonymouse - July 9, 2007

Hanedin, the problem for me is that all those are perfectly normal things (for either gender). So the whole “breaking the rules” thing doesn’t resonate with me. In fact, I see that behaviour as normal, and the restrictions as abnormal.

Celebrating normality isn’t what we do around here. We take the hit of abnormality and bounce back, without praise (that’s left to the outsiders and journalists who keep making noise about our “spirit”).

I find it abnormal that sporadicblogger needs to celebrate normality. My questions were merely intended to draw out how far from normality she lives.

12. sporadicblogger - July 9, 2007

anonymouse- well, the last comment wasn’t directed towards me, but…
By ‘all those things’ you mean what exactly?

Also, I don’t understand what you mean when you say that celebrating normality isn’t what we do around here. Who is ‘we’ and where is ‘here’? Because a lot of people I know, celebrate normality (yay, we got our three meals today…).

I celebrate ‘normality’ like this because it is so rare that a condition of ‘normality’ exists for things like this(for women especially)

13. anonymouse - July 10, 2007

Women travelling alone at night by public transport, for example. Here is Mumbai.

14. anonymouse - July 10, 2007

Minor disruptions like bomb blasts, riots, floods, ministers don’t really disturb our regular schedules. Things halt for some time (if at all), and then we continue to live normally again.

15. sporadicblogger - July 10, 2007

anonymouse- yes, it’s different in Mumbai. I guess it comes down to the definition of normailty.
But people do celebrate normailty, you know ๐Ÿ™‚ Sometimes, it is just so nice to be able to live a normal life ๐Ÿ™‚

16. anonymouse - July 10, 2007

Oh, I don’t know. I think that living in fear is WRONG ™.

17. sporadicblogger - July 11, 2007

Hehe. Ofcourse it is. Which is why it feels so great when a certain transition is made ๐Ÿ™‚

18. lostrealist - July 13, 2007

Hey there! This is in response to your comment in reply to mine. Fear and Precaution. Lets take the example you gave of fire. A pre-historic man would have been _afraid_ of fire, probably paralyzed by it and would stay away from it. Only the thinking man has lost his fear of fire, tamed it and used it. Why don’t you jump into a fire these days? Because you “know” it will burn you, not because you are afraid of it. That is the difference. Although the resulting action is the same, the motivation for that action in the first case is plain fear, the second is precaution devoid of fear. Living under fear kills the human mind. My point is: If you candidly accept the dangers around you, as they are, with a calm mind, and accept your fears for what they are, then you will automatically react in the best possible way to the situation. That is precaution. What knotkeats mentioned was something like a pre-historic man jumping into the fire to prove to himself that he didn’t fear fire. It is not necessary to conquer fears, that is impossible, they exist for a very good reason. It is only necessary to understand them. Once we do that, our emotions become our allies instead of paralyzing us.

Wow, this comment became so long. Sorry for pontificating. Bad habit =P.

19. sporadicblogger - July 14, 2007

lostrealist- I wouldn’t jump into the fire because I would be aware that it would burn me, and it would probably hurt, and I’d be afraid of the pain and the disfigurement ๐Ÿ™‚ Fear is fear, although paranoia is different. I think what you are talking about is paranoia. Is it?

20. KnotKeats - July 15, 2007

I’m amazed this thread is still going. Lostrealist and I are in complete agreement.

Going back to your original post – It’s sad that anyone, but in this case we’re talking about young women in Delhi, has to worry about violent crime just taking a bus ride at 9:30 PM.

But that’s the way it is in big cities. When I was in college, the bus was probably safe for a coed at that time of night, but the subways weren’t.

It’s good that you are able to do it anyway, and feel liberated by it. There are good reasons to be afraid because bad things do happen, but if we let that fear rule us, then we are not free to live our lives. We are not liberated.

We have to be aware of danger and not let it rule us. That means learning to develop defensive habits until you are not conscious of them – being aware of where you are, who’s around you, where the last safe haven was.

This isn’t limited to cities. City people freeze in their cars on the Great Plains every year because they don’t keep blankets and candles in their car, and they don’t pay attention to where the last exit, or house, or whatever was that they passed, so they know, for example, that there is a farmhouse a mile away. Instead they get caught in a blizzard and freeze to death.

I probably muddied the waters again with that least paragraph. The point is that regardless of your surroundings, there are potential dangers, and you should learn what they are when you venture out into them, be aware of what you are doing, but not be freaked out about the whole thing.

Paranoia is irrational fear. There are plenty of things that you can be rationally afraid of, because bad things do happen.

But fear paralizes, while a little awareness and common sense lets you be liberated.

21. sporadicblogger - July 15, 2007

Hm..I shall get back to this comment later…:)

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