Tyohaar nahi yeh hinsa hai, rape culture ka hissa hai!
Khel nahi yeh hinsa hai, pittrisatta ka jalsa hai!
Hollika dahan nahi sahenge, tumhari hollika nahi banenge!
NO WOMEN ON STREETS, NO HARASSMENT: SECURITY AS SELF-POLICING
It’s the same time of the year, when women are suggested to stay indoors. Sometimes, this friendly suggestion and concern takes shape of the law. The lines between the ‘parental advice’ and corporeal control gets blurred very quickly when women across the city are physically stopped from stepping out of their houses, hostels and rented accommodations. There lies an attempt to ‘solve’ the ‘problem’ of tackling with ‘perverts’ on the streets, through womens’ self erasure from the streets- “No women on the streets, no street harassment”- seems to be the logic at work.
On the other hand, when women take the charge of reporting incidents of harassment, expecting that the law enforcement bodies will not perpetuate rape culture by doubting the credibility of their narrative. They are often encountered with questions seeking a ‘reason’ to be seen out in the streets despite being aware of their own precarity in public spaces. The burden to ‘protect oneself’ is displaced on the woman. They are often met with similar arguments of being given unsolicited advice of ‘keeping indoors, till the mischief dies down. Security after all is also a matter of self-policing.’
APPROPRIATING WOMEN’S VOICES OF ANGER AND RESISTANCE FOR INCREASING SECURITISATION AND SURVEILLANCE
Sometimes, some instances of harassment are taken well by the police, the state and the media, alike. Call it a success of ‘gender sensitisation’ or what have you. The framing effect of rhetoric too has the power to shape our worldview, certain narratives are privileged over others. Certain frames of reporting are privileged over others and are related to one another dialogically: They build on one another by transposing old rhetorical frames into new contexts. the transposing of ‘womens’ empowerment’ onto the already existing patriarchal frameworks. It is entirely possible to be talking about women in a very regimented, statist way such that it fundamentally fails to rupture the patriarchal logic underpinning ‘womens’ empowerment’ discourse even as it is able to lend space to voice the experiences of women, where the limits of the space are already pre-determined.
It’s still important to ask oneself, who are these women that are exceptions to the norm of easy dismissals? Why do some women get advised to go home and others get heard? This is not coincidental. The women of LSR with their collective strength and support were able to decide on taking the matter before the police, which not many women have the ‘luxury’ to afford in a deeply stratified University space- which thrives on exclusionary and exclusive kinship and friendships. The ‘liberal’ women of LSR are heard because they wield the social power of stirring the system from within. The news channels, of course, are willing to carry a piece on harassment from a ‘top’ Delhi college because it benefits their image of being proactive in taking up the ’cause of women.’
There is nothing more dismaying than knowing that it took the women of LSR much courage and thought to collectivise and decide how to tread the path of reporting sexual harassment and yet, it is their own word which will be used to fuel an argument in favour of heightened securitisation of campuses. Not paying heed to the repercussions of such a measure. The last time that there was an incident of a momo vendor being reported for masturbating outside the LSR gates, the police acted in a way to ‘cleanse’ the space by physically removing all momo vendors and ‘drivers.’ Clearly the men who were spotted masturbating in their SUVs zipped passed, without the danger of getting ‘gentrified.’
So despite the fight being put by these women, who refused to be silenced by an overwhelming imposition of silence perpetuated by rape culture, they again find themselves stuck in a double bind.
SEXUAL HARASSMENT IS STRUCTURAL, NOT AN ‘ABERRATION’ OR ‘PERVERSION’ MARKED ON WORKING CLASS LIVES
While its necessary to shout aloud against a normalised culture of sexual harassment, it is also incredibly important to refuse to accept that sexual harrassment is isolated from the systemic inequalities that determine it. To look at incidents as isolated ‘criminal’ activities, relegates them to being a socio-cultural ‘deficit in civilising’ and/or a ‘gap in modernisation’ as opposed to being structural problem.
Women find themselves being stuck in yet another double bind. On the one hand, the cost of silence is too high and they will not unsee the systemic rape culture as the norm. On the other hand, there is nothing more disturbing than knowing that one’s testimony will be used to strengthen the state’s security apparatus in the University. The burden of silence and speech is to be carried by women while articulating a politics of feminist resistance, the slippages can be many. More importantly, silence and speech aren’t mutually exclusive from one another. They aren’t two ‘ways’ of responding to the same situation. Rather, neither silence, nor speech in and by itself can ‘guarantee’ resolution. In fact, it will be an ongoing negotiating, which carries within the dialogue a world of multiple possibilities.
Out of the many possibilities, there are two prominent tendencies which can be traced when the police is approached by women complainants on accotunt of sexual harassment. The following ways in which, police resorts to taking ‘action.’ One, by dismissal and by offering casually sexist sermons to women on how to live a ‘protected’ life. Two, by seeing ‘certain men’ as the ‘problem,’ and seeking to weed out the ‘problem’ through harsher security.
In the media too, there operates a particular gaze that always already imagines the ‘problem’ as the working class person, those occupying and inhabiting the ‘street.’ Even if the imagination is broadened to include the ‘educated’ middle and upper class as perpetrators of violence and harassment, there is little that the law enforcing body can do when the class difference between the police personnel and the perpetrator is so visibly stark. The only people the police is able to police is foreclosed by the social categories of class, caste, etc.
SECURITISATION, POLICING AND SURVEILLANCE IS NOT THE ANSWER TO WOMEN’S ‘SAFETY’ BUT A MECHANISM OF CONTROL AND MARGINALISATION
That perverts and criminals are an anomaly to the otherwise happy world is a rather convenient cop out of addressing the structural-cultural inequalities.Take a look at what is perceived as an effective way of ‘eliminating perverts,’ and by association, solving the ‘nuisance of street harassment:’
A report reads, “In order to avoid such incidences during Holi, the LSR Student Union has formally requested the authorities to increase the police patrolling around the college campus areas in order to safeguard the girls studying in the college. The matter of perverts throwing sperm balloons at girl students was highlighted after the official Facebook page of the LSR student Union stated that they have requested police officers and college Principal to increase the security inside and outside the LSR college campus.”
The media too in its reporting resorts to sensationalising the ‘problem’ demanding immediate ‘action.’ Ready to jump in with their suggestion of using violence against women as a legitimate excuse to increase secrutisation in institutions of higher education. Not giving a thought to how the regularisation and policing actually manifests in the everyday lives and workings. That how surveillance cannot undo the power relations that already exist in social relations but can only sharpen it by being another tool to ‘manage’ those that are already marginalised.
Similar to how Trump administration is responding to the ‘problem’ of school shooting by not showing willingness to rethink the NRA and take action against the arms industry- rather by suggesting to equip class teachers with guns to offload against students, who are ‘mentally sick.’ No matter the bigotry, be systematically engendered by the same President and his party on an everyday basis. Its a rather convenient way to turn blind to the dynamics of race, color, class that are work sociologically and socially- handing over arms to the teachers without impairing the arms industry and without taking into account how many of those teachers belong to the majoritarian communities.
The internal logic of security works in a way that it necessitates the need for securitisation. Leaving women with the option of either vigilantism or policing. Which is what is being suggested in this news piece. The dominant discourse ends up getting reified even as it gets resisted. The State is more than happy to visibly tighten security and spread the arms of the ever expanding and already invisible deep state at the back of an (en)gendered insecurity.
One must take action involving the police, law, etc. Not denying the need to engage with the bodies that feminist discourses seek to challenge and their subversive capacities but not without also articulating the problems with the blind dependence on this ‘surveillance/ police state as the answer’ approach. Even as the state and its bodies, paradoxically and severely distorts important ethical and emancipatory impulses of feminism.
Jhuti suraksha ka khol de pol, bol saheli halla bol
Chalo mahilayon ki svatantrata keh aur, bol saheli halla bol!
saare pinjra to todenge, itithas ki dhara modenge