Reflections on the rape protests and their significance

Reflections on the rape protests and their significance

By TANUSHREE BHASIN | | 19 January, 2013
The audience at the Yodakin bookstore

The past month has witnessed a number of interesting discussions around gender issues, particularly violence against women. Public outrage against the recent gang rape in a bus in Delhi has allowed for an honest engagement with the question of being a woman in a city like Delhi like never before. At a fascinating open discussion titled 'Aggressive Masculinities'organised by Yodakin, the popular protests at India Gate and Jantar Mantar over the last few weeks as well as an in depth look at masculinity was undertaken.

Deepak Mehta, professor of Sociology at the Delhi School of Economics, kicked off the discussion with a look at the intersections between the crowd, camera and cops at protest venues. "A circularity between the crowd, camera and cops propelled the movement forward. There was a sense of fury that the protesting people felt towards an apathetic administration and the camera focussing on furious crowds transferred the anger from the streets to dining rooms" he said. He also stressed the need to not draw parallels with the Anna Hazare movement since the crowd here was not lead by a leader. "If there was any 'leader' at all it was the police because the crowd's anger that directed the movement was essentially directed at the police and their actions" he added.

Prof. Deepak Mehta also stressed the need to not draw parallels with the Anna Hazare movement since the crowd here was not lead by a leader.

Shuddhabrata Sengupta, writer with the Raqs Media Collective, looked at ancient and divine texts of all kinds to argue that women have been written into history in a language of abjection. "Women are always treated as property to be controlled by men, which is why the views of Yo Yo Honey Singh and Asaram Bapu will seem to echo. They both sing the same song and rap the same c**p" he said. He also spoke about self-willed and independent women through history who do not conform to patriarchal notions of feminity. "Whether she is an abhisarika or a jugni, public women have always been looked down upon but it is always they who fight to take back the night, like we are seeing these days" he added.

The question of the girl's anonymity was also an interesting one for those present. Nivedita Menon highlighted the fact that this mobilisation was an amazing one because at the end of the day nobody knew who she was. "Nobody knew which caste or class she belonged to. She could have been anyone. And yet countless number of people turned up in her support" she said. She also spoke about the need to look at language critically particularly sexist abuses: "The feminist response to being called whores should not be to protest fruitlessly – 'We are not whores!' – but to turn the insult around; what if all women were to say we are 'loose', we are not tightly controlled, and if that makes us whores, then we are all whores."

The evening also had poetry readings by writers such as Rafiul Alom Rahman and screen clips from films on masculinity.

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