Many months ago, we published an article that investigated the myth of the impoverished rapist. Penned by the co-founder of No Country For Women, Shreena Thakore, we promised to continue the conversation in a series of articles that broke down the current rape narrative of our country and all the many things that need to change about it. Next up was a longer piece on the issue of gendered navigations of public space. However, before we got to that, we thought it would be interesting to bridge the two with NCFW’s Break The Silence campaign, which showcases a chilling visual narrative sourced from anonymously submitted real-life stories of gender-based discrimination in the country. This is the story we chose to re-explore today because of its continued relevance and its ability to hit us where it hurts whenever we’re brave enough to scroll through it again.
In the smallest of ways and the subtlest of manifestations, gender stereotypes carve their biased niche into the fabric of society, and consequently, our lives. The imbalance of power between the genders and the notions of how a man or woman is ‘supposed to be’ or ‘supposed to react’ contribute to a rigid structure that this series attempts to elicit a real conversation about. What is often overlooked is the fact that all of this gender-based oppression falls into the larger spectrum of the rape narrative in the country, feeding a beast that has been festering in the country for far too many years already.
“The problem of rape is not limited to the act of rape; it is situated within a larger social discourse on imbalances of gender, class, caste, religious and political identity. Everyday manifestations of these imbalances are often overlooked, misunderstood and trivialized, leading to a culture of silence that sanctions injustice.”
This extract from ‘The Myth Of The Impoverished Rapist’, Shreena Thakore’s first article in a series analysing the existing rape culture prevalent in the country hits the nail on its head. Gender-biased oppression is rooted in gender stereotypes that haven’t evolved with time, and manifests itself in a largely subconscious manner, a sorry result of social conditioning over the years.
A lot of these incidents are probably like snippets of conversations you, yourself, have overheard somewhere in your life – and it’s remarkable that these situations are recurrences and parallels that have been trivialised or dismissed for so long, allowing the culture of silence to germinate. The Break the Silence campaign is about letting you know that every conversation like this you heard or perhaps were a part of, sanctions gender-based oppression and contributes to the overarching rape culture in the country. It explains that it is important to voice your concerns when something strikes a chord with you, and not brush it off or deem it irrelevant. It is okay to ‘make a big deal’ about it, because perhaps it’s high time that someone does.
[No Country For Women (NCFW) asks you to share your experiences and make it known that it is not okay to continue sanctioning gender-based oppression. You can email your submission to firstname.lastname@example.org with SUBMISSION as the subject.]
Words: Aditi Dharmadhikari