Sumanti Sen is an English Literature graduate who believes "there's just one kind of folks. Folks.".
“Aren’t you ashamed to be showing your thighs? Women get raped because of women like you.”
The woman in the Delhi restaurant, who has been all over the internet for a couple of days now, is not the only individual to judge a woman based on what she wears. That day at Delhi’s Nukkadwala restaurant, this woman stood tall representing the mindset of thousands of people in society. She represented all those men who pass lewd comments at women passing by, and all those men & women who firmly believe that ‘women ask for it’. She represents the mindset of Nirbhaya’s rapists and that of the lawyer who had attempted to defend them. She represents all those men and women who believe that the length of a woman’s skirt determines her character. She is a glaring example of exactly what is wrong with society.
What had happened that day at the restaurant is still the talk of the town. Shivani Gupta and a few other women were at the restaurant when this woman, who was in no way acquainted with her, decided to shame her for wearing short clothes and ‘showing her thighs’. Allegedly, she did not stop there, but went on to ask the men in the restaurant to rape Shivani. What was Shivani’s fault? She was wearing clothes of her own choice.
The video of the woman, Soma Chakrabarty, remained viral on the internet long enough to take netizens by storm. In the video, which has now been taken down, she could be heard asking mothers to ‘control their daughters’.
What Chakrabarty said was eerily similar to what one of the accused in the Nirbhaya case had said in a documentary that was later banned in India. Women from good households do not roam around the streets at night wearing wrong clothes, he had said. Women are far more responsible for rape than men are. While these cringe-worthy remarks boiled our blood, in one corner of the country, this woman supported him.
This is a vicious cycle. An incident of victim-shaming or abuse makes rounds on social media. We react, we protest, we talk about it, but all of it gradually die down until another such incident comes to the fore. The only thing that continues to live on forever is the regressive mindset.
There is not a speck of doubt that everything that Chakrabarty said was outrageous and wrong. We have good reasons to be enraged. But is stooping to her level to shame her a solution to the problem?
Clearly, the problem is the mindset and not the woman. Ever since the video circulated, several angry netizens shamed Chakrabarty, talked badly of her family and even went on to call her son(s) ‘rapists’.
Her sons, who were in no way involved in the incident, are being targeted because people believe that a woman like her could only raise a rapist. So does a man rape because his parents teach him to rape? This way, are we not helping men get away with the crimes they commit? Bullying the accused may force her to apologise, but will it really solve the problem from the grassroots level?
After all the outrage on social media, Chakrabarty took to Facebook to apologise for what she said. But thinking logically, is it possible that her mindset changed in these few hours? It is extremely unlikely.
I extend an unconditional apology to all the girls. In hind sight, I realise, I was harsh and incorrect in my statement….
What the girls at the restaurant did was right. They took their stand and called the woman out. They tried their best to make her apologise and tell her that she was wrong. But they could not make her budge from her opinion.
Abusing her will not change the mindset that scores of people are living with. Let us protest against those who are wrong, without becoming one of them.
On the flip side, the incident also highlights our collective failure in dealing with such enormous and complex issues. Sharing the video, denigrating the lady, naming and shaming her is all but redundant if it solves nothing. It may force an apology out of the person, but it doesn’t educate them or enlighten them.
Further, the barrage of abuses and threats that the lady has been meted with is, in turn, a signal of our inability to deal with societal menace without reducing ourselves to their level of perversity. We may bully one woman to apologise, does that change the mindset of her ilk? If the answer to that is no, then our approach to the issue needs amend.
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