Wednesday, March 04, 2015
When outrage overrides rationality, and Manichaean feminists who are a curse for womankind, create mayhem in the debate
There is something moral about outrage when it is in response to something that is revolting to human sensibility. It would be churlish to remain cool and rational in the face of a repulsive crime. The rape of and brutal assault on Jyoti Singh and her friend on December 16, 2012, which resulted in her death was an occasion for anger and anguish. Ordinary people, especially the young, and even cynical politicians were genuinely moved and by the incident. When some of the politicians visited her home and saw the utter poverty in which Jyoti and her family lived, they could not remain indifferent.It was a poor family that lived in hope and dignity. In many ways, she became the anchor for this family, a woman who was pursuing her studies, her career and she had also found her way in the world. She fought the way she did, it appears in retrospect, because she was upright and dignified.
There was no doubt that the men who committed and abetted the rape of Jyoti and murderous assault on her and her boyfriend, should get the most stringent punishment. When the five men who were accused of the crime were given death sentence, it seemed a just verdict. Some of the lawyers were a little worried about what they thought was peremptory conclusion, and they were uneasy that the processes were not scrupulously followed.
The issue of Jyoti receded into the background until news came of Leslee Udwin's documentary, India's Daughter,to be telecast on BBC. What caused public anger this time around was the interview of Mukesh Singh, one of the five convicted in the Jyoti Singh rape and assault case which led to her death, and who is on death row, with the appeal pending in the Supreme Court.
Mukesh Singh told Udwin that Jyoti Singh would not have been killed had she not resisted, and he also mouthed the generalisations that women should not move out and they should not wear provocative dresses and that this would lead to rapes. There was a sense of disgust that the man who was involved in a heinous crime should talk in this tone which was reflective of a male-dominated society. This was the reaction of the ordinary people.
The feminists and other ultra-liberals interpreted this to mean that Mukesh Singh had given voice to what every man thinks. They are not willing to consider the fact that Mukesh Singh is a convict and that by mouthing the generalities identified with a patriarchal society he does not become the voice of "ëveryman". The demi-radicals further inferred that every man is a potential rapist and this is proved by the common beliefs expressed by Mukesh Singh. Men who share the prejudices and biases of a patriarchal society are sure to say that women should be careful, should not go out, should not dress provocatively (whatever that means) and should not stay out late. But all those men who utter these patriarchal blasphemies do not rape a woman when she does any of these things. It is to be assumed that all men do not rape women. If that be the case, then then there would be no society.
We do not know what Udwin wanted to make of Mukesh Singh's interview. Did she want to understand the psyche peculiar to a rapist, or did she want to understand the more general question as to why men rape women? It could be the case that she wanted to get answers to both questions. But we do not know whether she would draw the further conclusion that all men are potential rapists. And that unless patriarchy is overthrown through gender sensitisation, crimes against women would continue. She has every right arrive at that general conclusion, and so would it be right on the part of all feminists and women who are not particularly fond of feminism, to come to the same conclusions. But this does not close the argument.
There will be men and women who will disagree with the whole argument and the debate should continue.
People who are not feminists are convinced that crimes against women are not to be tolerated and they are looking for ways to combat it. It can be said that the fight against gender crimes is not good enough, effective enough. But there is a sense that crimes against women pose a threat to the well being of society. This is not based on any ideological conviction.
The second question is whether the government is right in banning the telecast of the documentary in India? It has not right whatsoever to curb freedom of speech, and this pertains to principles of constitutional liberalism. But this does not also mean that Udwin has done a great job or her approach is impeccable. There is need for a critique of her documentary, and those who disagree with her are not potential rapists.
This perception that patriarchy is evil has strong overtones of an ancient Christian cult called Manichaeism, which perceived the world to be irremediably evil. The Manichaeans even went to the extent of arguing that Jesus did not come into this world because he was Good, and there was no way that Good can enter this inherently evil world. The feminist demonology of patriarchy goes into realm of mystic irrationalism. Something like the classical Marxists' view of capitalism as inherently self-destructive. Drawing a parallel between feminists and Marxists has its own dangers because both sides denounce each other as well as those who draw the comparison.
It is morally wrong for any one to suggest that either feminists or Marxists should change their views. But it is necessary to point out that there are many who do not agree with them, and that this disagreement does not make them either potential rapists or capitalist blood-suckers.
The ideological din is natural in a democracy. And it would not be polite to protest against the meaningless debates that are going on in the media.
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