Friday, July 24, 2009

How is it the victim’s fault?

This morning I read a horrific story about an eight-year-old girl. She was brutally raped, by four boys in Arizona, for ten to fifteen minutes! The boys, ages 9, 10, 13 and 14, lured the girl to a vacant shed by offering her chewing gum. And the rest, as mature readers, I am sure you can infer.

But the girl’s parents, West African immigrants, accused her of bringing shame to their family. They alluded that the eight-year-old was responsible for the reprehensible act. And now the girl’s family doesn’t want anything to do with this child. Yes, child. She is a child for god sakes! It’s her age to play with Barbie and nurse-doctor and read fun books; not sit shunned in some governmental facility because of being ostracized by her own people! Because her culture believes that rape is the victim’s fault!  I wonder if this baby will ever heal fully.

According to statistics, disgustingly, India isn’t lagging behind—just behind America and South Africa! The National Crime Records Bureau shows that almost 2.37 rapes happen every hour in India! And even in South Asian culture, rape is considered the sufferer’s liability. ‘She dresses like that,’ or ‘She is a fast girl,’ or ‘Why did she hang out with boys?’ Forget supporting, victims are treated as damaged goods and often asked to end their lives or leave their families and fend for themselves. Why? Because we are a pretentious and shame-conscious culture.  It also seems like the perpetrator’s manhood is celebrated when he commits the unforgiveable act. But shouldn’t the doer be ashamed of their gruesome thoughts and acts? Made to feel responsible? Why should the injured party apologize? Does a victim of theft or robbery act contrite after being robbed? As Freda Atler said, “Rape is the only crime in which the victim becomes the accused.”

It bothers me when people quote culture to suit their convenience. I mean, how can any culture hold the victim responsible but not the rapist? And women mutely accept inhumane verdict from their so-called dear ones because they don’t know any different. They haven’t been empowered.

In the third world, at least, the one emotion women are taught to constantly feel is guilt. If you are of marriageable age but can’t find an alliance, you are made to feel culpable; if you can’t bear sons, you are held responsible even thought the Y chromosome comes from the man; if you don’t want to get tied down to being a wife and a mother, you are made to feel negligent; if you are assaulted, you are accused of bringing it upon yourself.  

Often, rape cases aren’t reported in developing and under-developed countries because women fear the repercussions. The attitudes need to change, and it has to come from families. If parents focused on humanizing their sons instead of blaming their daughters and holding them to ridiculous standards, the world would be a lot saner!

More until next time.



Copyright © 07.24.2009

"Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one's definition of your life, but define yourself." Harvey S. Firestone

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Are they bitchier?

Let me cut to the point and add a disclaimer, if I may, before you begin to read this post. I am not trying to be a feminist, a human rights activist, or a gender-equality opportunist; a humorist, yes maybe that. That's what I am trying to be.

Incessant channel flipping the other night made me pause on one television show - Desperate Housewives. I used to watch the show at one point, but like most other shows that get stretched over seasons (Grey's Anatomy-another example), Desperate Housewives got tedious, at least for me. But watching the rerun of one of the episodes got me thinking about the preconceived notions attached to housewives or women in general. Here is the deal: Society is harsher on women. Period. Again, read my disclaimer before you ascertain the direction of this post. So, where was I? As a woman, if you aspire to have a career, you're derided for being an ambitious, self-centered home wrecker; but, if you decide to be a homemaker, you're ridiculed, misrepresented and called an unconfident dimwit. Hell, you have quite a few reality shows too based on housewives (Real Housewives of Orange County, New York, New Jersey, and so forth). It’s a lose-lose situation.

See, my mantra is equality, so I don’t think it’s fair to deprive men of microscopic surveillance when we take an unreasonable amount of time to categorize women. Right? According to one of the radio stations, the number of men staying at home and taking care of the family is twice than the number from two years ago. I say kudos to them but how come there is no television show on them? I have always wondered what it would be like to see househusbands on the idiot box. I mean, media represents the stereotypes best.

If working women are portrayed as aggressive hounds when they try to prove themselves equal to their male counterparts by choosing the path of intellectuality over sexuality in their workplace, then shouldn’t househusbands be typecast as a bitchier version of their female equivalents? Homemakers with testosterone and aprons? After all, they are trying to fit in a female dominated world, right? Traditionally, men didn’t belong in the nurturing world, so to prove their competence, will they do whatever it takes to succeed? Will they be folks who can nag, bicker, and complain more than five emotional women put together? Throw tantrums and turn the house upside down for reasons unknown? Will they be categorized and chastised, like housewives, and asked to prove their mettle, over and over again, like working women? I don't know why, but even without statistical data and facts, I have a sense of how it'll all pan out.

More until next time.

Copyright © 07.23.2009

"An ideal wife is any woman who has an ideal husband"- Booth Tarkington

Sunday, July 19, 2009

When can you do it?

Apologies, I have been a tad irregular with my posts off late. I am working on a big deadline, and I just haven’t had the time or energy to pen my thoughts in the ‘Pandora’s section.’ One fine day, I recognized my over-commitment, and decided to give myself a pamper-session -- in a girlie sort of way. I decided to go to a nail salon and indulge in an invigorating manicure/pedicure. Ironically, I was editing some material while getting a pedicure. Talk about tragedies.

Anyways, enough about me. At the salon, I saw a mother-daughter duo waiting their turn. From the conversations, I found out that the girl was about eight years old, and the mother was a business executive. I assumed the kid was accompanying her mom and updating her on stuff at school. But apparently that wasn’t it. The mother had brought her daughter, to the salon, for a manicure and pedicure. The hoity-toity daughter picked out nail polishes for herself – a different color for her feet and hands. It didn’t end there. I almost died when the mom told the manicurist that she’d like to pay for a thirty-minute massage session for her daughter. I told myself that the aforementioned case was probably an aberration and not the norm.  But I was wrong. The salon owner shared that she has several female clients, who prefer to spend their Saturdays, with their young daughters, getting a French manicure and massages. What? What? What? What stress does an eight-year old have? What muscles could she have injured? What toxins does a kid, on three-month summer break, need to release?

I have heard of spas for children. But then I have seen spas for dogs near my office. I always figured degenerates with too much time and unaccountable wealth use such facilities. Not regular people. I remember watching this documentary once that delved into how in some parts of bucolic America, moms celebrate their pre-teen daughter's’ birthdays at child friendly spas. They take their own kid and the daughters’ friends for a session of manicure and pedicure. And maybe throw in few extra frills with special massages or chocolate covered pedicure etc. etc. I saw a kid lick the gooey decadence from her own face once. Ummm. What else do you expect from someone who hasn’t even hit biology books at school yet?

What happened to good ol’ baking and reading a book together to strengthen the maternal bond? Or throwing a theme-based birthday party or taking your kid’s friends to the movies? I understand mothers today are busier than my mother’s generation (given most women from my generation work and lead an individual life and manage homes and don’t stop being a person etc. etc.), but that’s no reason to compromise on how you spend time with your family. It’s like taking your six-year old to an adult Saturday night party and giving her a beer because you are drinking wine and trying to make the most of your time—with friends and family. How bizarre is that?

At eight, I was a chubby kid, who wore a frock my Mom had picked out for me. I had food and extra curricular activities on my mind and not boys. And part of the reason was that I wasn’t ever introduced to mantras like ‘beauty’ and ‘pretty.’ I appreciated my ignorance. Why should a child feel conscious of their looks? Having a say in what they wear is one thing; but I feel what’s happening now, is scary. It boggles my mind that parents think it’s okay to familiarize their daughters with vanity at such a young age. These pre-teens have their entire lives to beautify themselves and look attractive, but isn’t eight a little too soon? But then again, what is the apt age? Are we taking Oscar Wilde’s words too seriously: “To me, Beauty is the wonder of wonders...It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances.”

More until next time.


Copyright © 07.19.2009

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Can a legend ever die?

I was introduced to Michael Jackson's music by my brother. I can’t exactly remember how old I was, but I do remember that he and I were in school then. See, we both went to boarding schools, 28 kilometers away from each other, in the northern part of India. His was in a valley; mine was stuffed inside a hill station. My brother's really close friend, who lived in South Africa then, would download/ record the latest music releases on cassettes for my brother and bring them to school after vacation. Of course, I would listen to them on our next vacation when my brother brought those cassettes home. I pretty much lagged behind by a year. When people were dancing to George Michael’s FAITH, I was shaking it up to WHAM. Hey don't judge. India wasn't all that global then, and I was on a boarder’s budget. Plus, we went to Libya for our vacations since our parents lived there. In Libya, we got one TV channel—RAI TV, from Italy. I grew up watching Italian shows that I didn’t comprehend. I learnt *interesting* Italian gestures at a very young age. It wasn’t until I went to visit my brother in Milan (He was doing his MBA from SDA Boconi) that I realized how many “uh-oh” gestures I had learnt. So, unless there was an American concert happening in Italy, RAI TV didn’t think much about showing newly released American music videos. Or at least I don’t remember seeing it. Maybe my parents sneaked in “subtle-censorship?” Come to think of it, no country can play soccer 365 days of the year, and we always had soccer on that beloved channel.:-)

Anyhoo. Like most kids from my generation, I swooned over MJ. His music and posters were crazy popular in India towards the end of 80s and beginning 90s. Everyone who was cool knew the words to BAD. I remember a cousin of mine had this huge wall-size poster of MJ, from BAD, in his bedroom. The way the poster was positioned was a bit scary. That was the first thing you saw at the threshold of his room. The first time you entered his room, your heart would skip a beat. My aunt would always call MJ, “daraavna” (scary). I think it was one of the American publications that said, “It’s only in America that a poor, black man can turn into a rich, white woman.”

The music from BAD echoed with my generations’ heartbeat. He cried, we cried. He danced; we all tried making a fool of ourselves with decrepit steps. But we were all MJized the way my parents generation was ABBAized. I am still jealous of my husband because he got to watch MJ perform live in Bombay. How cool is that!

Until recently, I didn’t realize the impact MJ had on the generation after us. About ten days ago when I was talking to my ten-year old niece in Singapore, she brought up MJ. She genuinely sounded low when she said, “Bua, you know, Michael Jackson is dead.” She truly sounded devastated -- in a 10-year old sort of way. It’s not like she is into his music, but she knew him in a legendary sort of way. The way I know about bands that cater to her age (Jonas Brothers?) That was the moment when I truly accepted the aura of Michael Jackson.

My sentiments echo with Diddy - “Michael Jackson showed me that you can actually see the beat. He made the music come to life!! He made me believe in magic. I will miss him!”

More until next time.

Copyright © 07.09.2009