How yuh jammin so?
Like yuh feelin hot or what?
Mr, why grinin so
You come out to jump or not
Every time yuh swing yuh hand
Yuh bounce mih tot tot or mih butt
You behaving just like if you want to eat me
Right here on the spot
How Yuh Jammin so, Mighty Sparrow
The roar of anguish coming from the women of India echoes and ripples around the world. It took the death of a 23-year-old for some members of Indian society to sit up and begin to confront a situation that is tacitly accepted around the world, even by those of us who think we are all modern and progressive and cool about sex.
It is a double-edged sword that the filmi fantasies of the purity of love between Indian men and women that some of us in the West hold have been shattered by the savagery of the five rapists’ act. But it doesn’t mean that we are any closer to confronting the fact that rape culture is as pervasive as capitalism.
We will happily sign a petition demanding that they do something about rape in India. Meanwhile the broadcasting of the sexual abuse of an Ohio girl is not as much of a news item as Kim Kardashian’s pregnancy. It’s time for us to put away another myth about Indian women: that of the submissive, shrinking violet who accepts her fate meekly and quietly.
I see the images of women raising sticks against the police trying to stop their peaceful protests. I read the stories of Phoolan Devi the Bandit Queen. About the Pink Sari gang defending the environment. About the hundreds of women of Koondakoolam who have stood up to the Government and international corporations trying to build a nuclear reactor in their backyards and I don’t need any more convincing that Indian women are anything but passive.
The women who have taken to the streets are demanding not just justice for the late Damini but also a change in the perception of what it is to be a woman. The extreme positions of goddess or whore. Because women are not supposed to either enjoy sex or choose who they want their sexual partners to be or, heaven forbid, defy the demands of the man to whom she “belongs.”
To those of us who watch on from the West, all smug in our post-modern liberation, what are we going to do about rape culture in our own backyards? How have we sought to question the way that our own bodies are treated?
Who wants to have a conversation about dismantling patriarchy? Who wants to confront the fact that whether or not you think the Prime Minister is good at her job or not, the criticism of her is always bordering on disturbingly sexist and overbearingly sexual? Who wants to talk to their young people about sex? Who wants to change the warning issued by generations of parents: “when ah leggo mih cock yuh better tie up yuh hen”?
Who wants to take on the thinking behind the bizarre comments of the Deputy Commissioner of Police blaming teenage girls for the increase in sexual offences. I’m no longer willing to accept that rape culture is part of the burden women have to bear and surely somebody with a little bit of sense needs to tell Mervyn Richardson that the way to address sexual offences is not to start by blaming girls for filing reports.
I thought we’d come a long way from denying that young people are being abused. I thought we would be at the point where we would be trying to deconstruct the psychology of why young women are only able to value their sexuality as a commodity that they can trade to get the material possessions that this society says they need to have to matter.
Every Carnival we get a slew of advertisements and articles admonishing women about what to do to avoid being raped or attacked on the streets. Don’t go off by yourself, they say. Don’t accept drinks from strangers. Women are always expected to take responsibility for their actions. Where are the campaigns addressed to the men?
Where are the campaigns challenging backward notions of masculinity? Where are the boofs for men to man up and stop raping women? Why are we raising women to be victims and men to be aggressors? The idea of ownership of your body is perhaps one of the most radical ideas that a woman could ever have. And I don’t mean choosing to wear a wire bra to play mas.
Maybe one day we’ll stop seeing rape culture as somebody else’s problem. Maybe one day we too will take to the streets for all the Daminis in our communities who are too terrified to report their own sexual offences for the fear of being blamed by a society that is still to scared to talk honestly about sex.