For better or for worse, women have always generated a lot of angst and debate in society. Wars have been fought. Cities have been burnt. Philosophies have emerged. Policies have been abolished . Policies have been framed.
Recently, the news has been ridden with stuff like:
MLA blames women for eve-teasing
Women should dress carefully…
Women should dress ‘carefully’: NCW chief
Misogyny in popular culture: Indian cinema is equally culpable
Rajasthan: MLA calls for ban on skirts, gets one
Of course, where there are ‘regressives and conservatives’ there are bound to be ‘progressives and liberals’. I will paraphrase some of the clichés and platitudes most favored by liberals.
Wearing revealing clothes isn’t a license to rape a woman
It is my body and I’ll wear whatever I like
The problem in the society is due to the misogyny in movies
Movies featuring rapes and item songs are ruining the society
The SlutWalk thing, which is invariably supported tacitly by liberals, had plenty of posters like Stop Staring: This Is Not an Invitation to Rape Me
The point is, the liberals say moral policing of women’s way of dressing is wrong, and even misogynist in this rabidly patriarchal society, while censoring entertainment media for the moral good is necessary and recommended. I find this stance inherently contradictory. The statements boil down to these two questions:
- Does a woman who dresses in a certain way invite sexual harassment, or even assaults?
- Does a form of entertainment featuring women in a perceived negative light instill and propagate such morals in the society that lead to the negative consequences embodied in the first question?
There are, in general, two categories of people: those who generalize their answer with a “yes”, and those with a “no”. I find both stance stupid. So now I have to show two things – why is the liberal stance contradictory and why is the generalization stupid. Let’s analyze.
The two questions are specific instances of the general structure – Looking at provocative things leads to bad action. Actually, the question can be reduced further, by leaving out such subjective and loaded words like “provocative” and “bad”, but this is the form that interests us (also, we would eventually arrive at this specific case from the general case, so let us start from here directly).
When we apply this structure as a rule to the above questions, how can one produce a TRUE and another FALSE? This is why I find the liberal stance contradictory. Does it mean there are different kinds of provocations, kind of weighted by their evil? No. How provocative is a provocation depends on a particular person. It is a conditional thing and cannot be generalized. Causality in society is conditional. I’ll show how. To answer “why?” one would have to go into a proper social psychology study. But instead, let us do a simple thought experiment.
Imagine an open roofed room separated by a wall making two rooms. Let’s call the left side the “wrong side” and the right side, well, the “right side”. Let the whole population be divided into three groups, not necessarily equally. The first one belongs to left and the second one to right. People are free to jump across the wall. The third group stands on the wall. Walking up to the wall and climbing it is a necessary step to stand on it. The actions moving up to the wall, climbing it and jumping across are caused by a provocative thing. Jumping shows committing to the action. Thus the left side has people who have finished the action as provoked completely.
Let there be a series of provocative things exposed to the right side population emanating from the left side. It shouldn’t difficult to see that not everyone not already on the other side would jump across. Neither do everyone who walks up to the wall climbs it, and nor do all wall standers. Some jump across and remain there. Some stand on the wall forever. Some wall standers almost jump. Some wall standers fall. Some never budge from their position, wherever they might be. Some keep jumping across. Some stand close to the wall. There are endless scenarios.
Let’s see how this room metaphor works with the provocations cited in the two questions. If the left side room is filled by rapists and the right side room is exposed to a woman wearing ‘sexually provocative’ clothing, what would happen? The truly pure might avert their eyes (I we stop and think, we can see that probably these are the most vulnerable and unsure of themselves, so have to resort to forceful aversion by closing their eyes). Many might ogle. Many of the oglers might fantasize. Some might molest. Some might attempt to rape. Some might succeed in raping. Similar thing will be observed in case of the left room being filled by murderers and rapists and the right room exposed to sleazy and violent movies. Because it is a conditional thing, generalization is stupid (In fact, all generalization is stupid :p). Not only stupid but lies, misleading and dangerous.
PS: I have said “jump across”, which implies people from “wrong side” could come over to “right side”. Does it mean people reform? Well, that’s another story for another time.