Newtown, India

[My response] was anger. It was anger at what our society has become. It was anger at what kind of monsters we are actually raising in our society. […] What is extremely shocking is how a human being can do this to another person. That was in fact my first, initial reaction. And then we started thinking about where are we going wrong, from a social and a legal point of view? And why are incidents like this repeating again and again?

That’s Prabhsahay Kaur, Delhi-based rights lawyer, talking about the brutal gang rape of a 23-year-old woman earlier this week, on CBC’s As It Happens (the first in this podcast). But it didn’t have to be about what happened in New Delhi. It could have been about what happened in Newtown.

Believe me, I really don’t want to write about gang rape. When this story came out, I groaned: Please, God, no, anything but more rape. But I knew I would have to deal with it. I knew that, like the Sandy Hook tragedy, this wasn’t some isolated incident, just the most horrific one in recent history. Because Kaur went on:

These are people who’ve clearly never been taught how to respect a woman. And where women are coming out, and they’re working, and they are now earning, somewhere down the line, it seems that men haven’t accepted it as easily. They view a liberated woman as an easy object. […]

We have come to accept molestation and subtle forms of sexual harassment as a norm of life. A lot of us are blaming ourselves, because we’ve been putting up with molestation and sexual harassment for such a long time – it’s actual giving these men the strength to go and rape a woman in such a brutal manner.

Kaur is not alone in blaming her culture, at least in part, for what happened. Another young analyst, HuffPo’s Riddi Shah, blames an overall culture that values men more than women. She points out that female fetuses are routinely aborted and menstruating women are banned from participation in religious services. They are  both unwilling to let society at large – including the women in it – distance itself from responsibility for what happened. It’s easier to demonize criminals, to act like they were somehow destined to do evil, than to take responsibility for what they felt they could get away with.

Every time I try to write about women of privilege having it all, I get smacked down by my own analysis. Sure, there are some nice things our employers could do for us, like provide child care, but we are all affected by broader social realities. None of us can seal ourselves off from the broader culture. Not even Newtown – a “community of the wealthy,” where hedge fund managers build their quiet suburban homes, far from the grit and gristle of The City that feeds it, supposedly safe.

I wish there was a neat explanation for why these things happen, and easy answers like just take away the guns or outlaw buses with tinted windows. I don’t know. I do know that these two horrible cases are bringing many, many other cases to light and causing us all to reflect on our societies and their values.

I don’t think any of us would do what that shooter or these rapists did – I’m not trying to say that. But I think we are smart to look inward, as Kaur suggests, at our own cultures, and ask whether we weren’t the ones boiling this frog all along.

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