Reading "India: The Story You Never Wanted to Hear”, an article by a UChicago student on her nightmarish experiences in India dealing with sexual violence and harassment, I’m at a loss about where to begin. This story is too fucking familiar. But the dynamics of structural and gendered violence in India are not why I’m writing this post.
Rape culture and sexual violence have been covered extensively this past year (finally) and this is a conversation that I’m usually willing to have but…. as an Indian woman who often reads about foreign (usually white) women’s accounts of sexual violence in India, I’m tired of feeling like I should feel shame or responsibility or gratefulness that someone has chosen to blow the lid off of some “secret” part of my culture/nationality/identity.
Let me be clear, I am not addressing the author/survivor. These voices need to be heard. This is directed wholly at the reactions and public discourse surrounding these stories, specifically the comments sections where nuance goes to die. For example:
Biology2010 says: ”I’ve traveled to other parts of the world that are poor, and you can’t blame this behavior on poverty - it has to do with values. In a country that has a history of cremating the live widow with her dead husband - can we expect women to be valued? ”
aardman: By western standards, India is a misogynistic, sexually repressed society, which doesn’t make it unique, but nevertheless, as a South Asian Studies major it’s surprising that you didn’t know enough to conduct yourself accordingly. Really, dancing in public in the middle of a festival? Did you think you were in Rio or New Orleans? Sheesh.
stupendified: Being an Indian I apologize to you regarding the ordeal you had to go through. Yes we continue to have such incidents on a regular basis, and believe me it is just not foreigners that have to go through this plight but even Indian women have to go through the same ordeal everyday.
Racism, slut shaming and an apology.
Let’s tackle the first comment….
Much to the Indian tourist board’s dismay, sexual violence is going to outstrip spirituality as the main discourse surrounding travel to the country. Earlier this year, regarding the Delhi rape case, a bunch of publications blamed Indian culture for what happened. Again; gang rape, street harassment and sexual violence are not uniquely Indian. I’m irritated having to deal with white men who come up to me and talk about how horrible Indian men are. As a survivor (the perpetrators where all Indian), I hate being put in a position where I have to defend the actions and integrity of the “Indian male”. The flipside to that is my experience of survival is proof of my victimhood, that I am somehow uniquely oppressed.
Slut shaming: Fuck you. This is too fucking basic.
And the apology: I do not feel any shared national responsibility for acts of violence. I feel anger, empathy, frustration and fatigue but I don’t like being pressured to apologise for the existence of the Indian patriarchy. Help me tear it down but don’t fucking expect me to assume responsibility for deep seated structural and historical inequalities.
Finally, to the author, I hope you are surrounded by understanding people and a strong support system. I’m not going to tell you what to think about India now or any of that, do what you have to. Self care above all else, even nuance.