No Country (or World) for Women, Old or Otherwise

While my wife was pregnant with our now-seven-day-old daughter, I was often asked, ‘Do know if it’s a boy or a girl?’ On hearing my confession of ignorance and confirmation of wanting to keep things that way i.e., declining a glance at the prenatal sonogram’s report, I was then asked, “Do you want a boy or a girl?’ On more than one occasion, after indicating my indifference to that choice and my desire for a healthy child, I gave voice to what always seemed to be an appalling sentiment, ‘I suppose a boy would be better because this is a bad world for women.’

I write these words a day after receiving news that the now-famous-for-all-the-wrong-reasons victim of a brutal gang-rape in India’s capital, New Delhi, had finally succumbed to her injuries in a Singapore hospital, two weeks after that horrific night. While protests still take place in India, and intemperate, misguided, calls for the death penalty continue to be made, and reams of perspicuous commentary indicting sexism, misogyny, patriarchy, Indian police, India’s judicial system, insensitive, tone-deaf  Indian politicians, have been written, I’d merely like to offer a few words written by the concerned parent of a tiny baby girl who has no idea she has been born into a world scarred by such ghastly acts of unspeakable violence.

What makes these acts truly frightening is that they are so commonplace. Rape is a mundane occurrence in most parts of the world; violence, in other forms, directed against women, is a ritual all over the world. With probability one, someone you know has been raped. They might not have told you, but the numbers indicate that fact, hidden though it might be. And what underwrites this relentless epidemic of subjugation is the seemingly congenital misogyny of men, one aided and abetted by the cultures that surround them, and one that  men facilitate at great peril to themselves. (On which more anon.) Bring a boy up to be a boy and there is a good chance you are bringing him up to be someone that will be disrespectful to women.  If the women he comes into contact with are lucky, he will merely deny them an equal share in this world’s spoils; if they are unlucky, they will suffer a far worse fate.

Perhaps the scariest part of the rape epidemic, and the greatest misunderstanding that might be perpetuated in the aftermath of the Delhi brutality is to imagine that that act was a singularity, one committed by outliers. Not at all. It took place in a culture, local and global, of sexual harassment, ogling, innuendo, of men who, when talking about sex, cannot drop the language of conquest and domination, of conflating sex and violence (‘Dude, I fucked the shit out of her’ or ‘I was banging her all night’), who imagine sex to be a variant of rough-and-tumble sport (‘scoring touchdowns’), who associate weakness with womanhood (‘Don’t be a pussy’ ‘Man up’ ‘Put your pants on’).

If you are a man, and you find yourself in the company of men who use language like that sampled above, consider speaking up. Otherwise, you are part of the problem.

13 comments on “No Country (or World) for Women, Old or Otherwise

  1. Tom Gething says:

    Well put, Samir. The gang rape in India is a horrible story but like Newtown it exposes an even more horrible story underlying it, the mainly male-induced violence that is perpetuated by cultural imprinting the world over.

    On a much more pleasant note, are you keeping us in suspense on the gender of your newborn child purposely? I hope baby and parents are doing well.

    Happy New Year.

  2. marcelo finger says:

    Only 7 days and you already sound like a father! That’s super express!

    Welcome!

    []s

    Marcelo

  3. Samir Chopra says:

    Marcelo,

    I know, I’ve been freaked out for a while and now it’s really happening…

  4. Yasmin says:

    Samir I aplaud your challenge to other men, but I hate to be pessimistic, men will be men (and I mean here the “men” who are like those you mentioned above). But the world also has men like you, who can see the wrong. Do not worry, our daughters will be ready for men like these, let them just try! India is one place where a girl does need a gun!

  5. […] I thought I had said everything I wanted to about the horrible gang-rape case in Delhi, but I feel compelled to put down a few additional observations. They center on what made this case notable, and what perhaps needs a little more attention. In no particular order, here they are. […]

  6. […] that I am the father of a girl, I worry far more about this world’s vicious sexism, its continued violent oppression of women, its day-in, day-out, active subjugation of women, the limited opportunities it offers […]

  7. […] It’s no country, or world, for women (old or otherwise). […]

  8. […] exactly the precise converse of another kind that men are inordinately fond of. As I wrote in a post last year commenting on a “culture, local and global, of sexual harassment, ogling, [and] […]

  9. […] inordinately fond of. As I wrote in a post last year commenting on a “culture, local and global, of sexual harassment, ogling, [and] […]

  10. […] frankly with my friends that I had done so. I am now a father and my anxieties have not diminished; if anything, they have increased. Perhaps I will seek help again. I won’t be shy about telling my friends I’ve done […]

  11. […] Indeed. Men talk like this about women all the time. Many conversations like this take place when men get together to talk about women, about sex, and about their sexual ‘conquests.’ The distinctions that many are seeking to draw between sexual assault and sexual ‘conquest’–which, supposedly, makes these conversations worse than normal ‘locker room banter’–is easily blurred precisely because for so many men this line is blurred in their ‘locker room banter’ about sex and their sexua…: […]

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