24 June 2011

Slut Walk: Is India Ready?

Tomorrow - June 25 - Delhi will witness India's first-ever 'Slut Walk'. 

all started when in January this year, a Canadian police officer remarked that “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimised”. 

Expectedly, the seemingly derogatory remarks led to a massive outcry with women taking to streets in what are now called 'Slut Walks'. The first Slut Walk took place in Toronto. 

It would amuse you to know that the Delhi Slut Walk has a Hindi name too — Besharmi Morcha — which in transliteration would mean 'Shameless Walk'; in other words, Walk Without Shame.

Says Umang Sabarwal, a journalism student at Delhi University and the moving spirit behind the Delhi Slut Walk: 
“You cannot justify violence by saying that the woman was not appropriately dressed... Indian women are conditioned to behave in a certain way so as to “protect themselves”, while men are hardly ever told how to behave. Why am I told not to wear skimpy clothes at night or make eye contact with strangers who stare at me? Every section of society is putting pressure on [the woman] to feel ashamed.”
The fiesty young woman is right; Indian men, like men elsewhere, have double standards and are downright hypocrites. They would want 'other' women (read women outside one's family and friends) to be clad in skimpy clothes but not their own kind. 

As for this Indian version of Slut Walk, I do not support it. I can not accuse Indian feminists of being original; yes, in this case too, they are aping the West. Nothing wrong with that, actually. 
However, I wonder if they have got their priorities right. 

Writing in the Hindustan Times, Amrit Dhillon says,  

"[L]et the Indian SlutWalkers dare claim there is anything remotely serious about their caper. In a country where 10 million babies have been killed in the womb because they were girls, where women are burnt for dowry, murdered in honour killings, face domestic violence so frequent it’s as common as a power cut, where Dalit women fear sexual humiliation by upper caste men and where young girls are forced into prostitution, who needs the right to dress like a slut? And while we are listing women’s sorrows, a recent global survey by TrustLaw found India to be the fourth most dangerous place in the world for women.
Such a misguided protest only serves to mock Indian women and the real issues they face. I doubt if the women who roll beedis all day long for Rs30 are going to shout ‘hurrah’ when they hear about the SlutWalk. Indian women are still denied so many fundamental rights that this preposterous event, performed by women who are aping the antics of white, educated, middle-class females in the West (who appear to be short of genuine problems in their lives), can only be a bagatelle.
"[...] SlutWalkers inhabit a fantasy world if they think they can be invulnerable to the force of culture, history and social conditioning — and the fact that most of us take three seconds to form an opinion of someone based on their appearance or accent.
"It’s odd that the women who will be participating in SlutWalk have not been out on the streets denouncing female foeticide or dowry deaths. No doubt they will get their regulation 15 minutes but if they believe that Indian women lie awake at night wishing they could dress like a strumpet without attracting a glance, they are delusional." 
 I could have hardly put it better.


Bharadwaja said...

The disparity has been an issue since decades.The Outcry is really big about this issue.There are other real concerns pulling INDIA down since decades.Typical rural Indian women may not even understand the Meaning of a "Slut Walk".It's Good as far as speaking out about one's own right but aping western style doesn't do any good to this country.Western style never has strong ethics, Culture, Heritage India has been enjoying since centuries.So a dumb guy who made a comment in Canada (In western countries they is no rich culture)shouldn't be brought to India.We need not necessarily and strongly connect to it.Let's
understand the unique & Flawless identity India has.Women are much respected in our country.If you still find it correct to stage a protest do it religiously and let's not dilute it with publicity and perceptions.

gayathri said...

i think most men are indifferent to the dress a women wears. they don't care whether she is wearing a saree or a chudidar or jeans. all they want is to tease her. not even 100 such protests would make any difference to them. they'd enjoy it thinking its a free show for them rather than trying to understand the underlying meaning

Sumit said...

Why do we always manage to miss the fine print? Ok, India might be light years away from what this slutwalk aims to achieve, but how does that give us 'intellectuals' the right to put this 19 year old girl down? And what makes us think this is about the woman's right to dress any way she wants? Really?

There was some news recently about some gram panchayat making it mandatory for every girl in some villages/towns in the vicinity to not to wear jeans and not use mobile phones. And the article quoted a girl saying 'i'm ok with the jeans part, but i don't understand not being allowed to use the mobile part.'

And i don't see the govt do anything about it, i don't see any blogs on it, nor any suggestions from the self proclaimed intellectuals. No, we'll just sit tight until someone with balls does something, and then we'll vocally disalign ourselves with the movement.

This Walk won't change anything, i'll give you that. For there are people who wouldn't be able to relate to what's being said. But imagine the possibility of some girls getting inspired by this 19 year old, and then wanting to set things right. Is that not a good thing? Will that not have a cascading effect? Hope is better than a white flag, on any given day.

Who knows, this girl might just be getting started! Who're we to write her off? Why don't we do the same thing to our sisters and daughters?

I've tried maintaining neutrality to this issue, because i don't think its gonna be effective. But there's a lady journalist Seema Goswami who got me worked up. She's one of those journalists who're busy writing bullshit rather than educating the masses about the meaning and significance of this event.