The Porcelain Doll

10 rapes in 10 days in Haryana
8-year old girl raped in a temple, tortured and murdered.
In Unnao, a woman was allegedly gang-raped by an MLA and his goons and her father was tortured to death by the police.
Women in the Telugu film industry often raise casting couch issues, stirring major scandal
Two more girls from Jharkhand and Surat raped and murdered

The past four months have been nothing short of traumatizing. Much is being debated on all these issues. One cannot pick one incident to be more horrifying than the other as they are all crimes against humanity. Rape, sexual harassment at the workplace, home and even places of worship, casting couch, sex trafficking, slut shaming — the list is painful and endless. Most women, in the present day especially, fall prey to at least one of the above mentioned criminal acts. A common knee-jerk reaction would be to tarnish all men with the same brush. Tempting as it is, it might not be that simplistic.
India is a strange country. We worship Lakshmi as the goddess of wealth in the same breath as not allowing our daughters and daughters-in-law to go to work. We judge character of a woman by the amount of clothing that is covering her body. While we are all uniformly outraged by these acts of horror, how many of us realize that we are to blame too?
I heard my tuition teacher once scold my friend saying he should be ashamed of scoring lesser marks than his sister. My teachers would hit me with a wooden ruler to reprimand me, but let a girl go, because “it would hurt her”. Women often retort saying, “How can you shout at a woman?” Growing up, we were always told, ‘boys don’t cry’. One of my male friends would be teased for his feminine walk.

None of these would sound out of the ordinary to you, would they? Perhaps therein lies a problem. We never see how these seemingly harmless codes of conduct sends out the message that “women are fragile”. So, when she decides to take her studies seriously and build a career of her own, you go like, wow, she’s taking it like a man! And then she is partying like a man or getting a tattoo like a man. And when it comes to her femininity, something as biological as periods, is seen as “dirty”, for which they should be shunned. The same family that celebrates the first time she bleeds, shuns her when the cycle repeats a month later.

But, despite the shunning, make no mistake that she NEEDS to be protected. And what are we protecting here? Her virginity. Who would have thought that an entire family’s pride is relying on the existence of a thin membrane? I had once heard a guy who was first interested in a woman, and later rejected her when he learnt that she was divorced. His words were “Oh I didn’t know you were used”. Let that sink in.

If you think I’m exaggerating here, you can go online where you will encounter thousands of comments from real people who believe that a woman’s character is directly proportional to the existence of her hymen. Many Indian films made in the 80s or 90s would have this character, either the hero or heroine’s sister whose only purpose in the plot was to get raped. In the aftermath, we’d see the society outcast her. I remember my 12-year-old brain being confused. Even at that age I could see that she was the victim, then, why was she being punished? What followed would take things a notch above (or below?) Justice would be served by forcing her to marry her assaulter. Imagine getting robbed and then being forced to do a road trip with the robber.

I wondered and wondered why people would be okay with this. Why should justice for a rape victim be marrying her attacker? And then it hit me why.

Because we see a woman as an object to either be owned or damaged. A doll in a china store that’s valuable as long as it’s untouched. The one who “breaks” her, is the one who should now “own” her, read, marries her. Also, like how the store would make someone who broke the doll pay for it, here, in some cases, the rapist is similarly “punished”. Again, if this sounds like a flight of fancy to you, you’d be surprised to know that there are religions that advocate this in their “holy” books, in their often roundabout manner.

Nobody wants a broken doll. She is hated for the same reason that broke her in the first place. Question is, why break at all? Why treat women as breakable in the first place? Not to take away from misogynist forces, but, this I ask women as well, who are as much a part of the machinery propagating themselves as the weaker sex. And, should there be a breakage, why can’t we spare a thought to fix things, rather than dump them in darkness?

Let’s go back to where we started. Don’t bring up your daughter like she’s fragile, and your son like he is not. Let women be. Don’t try to own her or shun her. At the same time we shouldn’t label women better than men, like Margaret thatcher or meryl steep did. Because the assumption that one gender is better than the other is the sole reason we got into this situation and reversing the power dynamics will not fix it.

The point of this write up is an appeal to everyone to stop treating women as a fragile object that needs protection or somehow exempt from harsh realities because she is delicate. To stop treating the modern female as a porcelain doll.


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