If you can’t join ‘em, beat ‘em: Ayesha Kidwai

AYESHA KIDWAI on FeministsIndia

Ayesha Kidwai on the need for Left-Secular people to take sexual harassment seriously when it comes home to “us”.

The burning question is why Mustafa and Joseph have done this? Are they misogynistic ‘supporters’ of Tejpal or fearless worshippers of fact and intrepid journalism? While the latter question may be good for an author’s self-image, and the former one can be dismissed as presupposing too tidy a critique, the real issue is a general failure amongst the professionals to come up with an adequate response to what the changed mood in the middle class demands. Mustafa and Joseph’s failures are just repeats of ones that we have witnessed over and over again, and each profession has plunged into a crisis when a colleague has been accused: How does a ‘senior’ professional approach the fact that some young woman has gone and complained about something that wasn’t even a grievance just a few years ago? After all, it is ”her’ word against ‘his’ and we know him; and while he may have his faults, he has done so many good things, and he is above all, secular. In any case, why are these outsiders, this “bunch of feminists” getting so involved in these matters (which are always so stippled with grey when seen from our side)?

For an outsider feminist like me, the answer is obvious: no one but this bunch knows what to do when a complaint is made from within one’s own kind. When the complaints have been made from within academia or within the judiciary, it is this bunch that has fought for them to be addressed, protested and thwarted the misuse of hierarchical power and its machinery of slander and intimidation, and reminded their professions that the ideal of equality must first be expressed in the creation of conditions conducive to its access. In doing so, they have imbued the phrase “let the law  take its own course” with substantive meaning.


One thought on “If you can’t join ‘em, beat ‘em: Ayesha Kidwai”

  1. Reblogged this on crossingfrontieres and commented:

    “It is clear that for Joseph, there is only one set of victims here — Tejpal and his family. It is he who has been “destroyed” and it is his family who has been “evicted” from their home, as his wife suffers the “indignity” of defending her husband’s “consensual” relationship”.

    and why is it that the complainant has not suffered in the same way: though she has had to move as well, it is only to a “new home on the outskirts of Delhi”. why is there no mention of her mother at all? why no mention of the fact that her father cannot be told that Tejpal raped her because of his ill-health? why no grieving kin or friends?

    why no mention of her state of mind, not because of the assault she was subjected to, but because she is “consumed by the intense fear” that her character will soon be put on trial.

    as the article says “details of her past are already in the air” i.e. she has a past that needs some worrying about!”

    these reporting words are severely disturbing but completely natural in a land where it is the rapist’s family’s feeling on trial. not the victim’s family who suffer all sorts of losses: loss of honor in a society that predicates honor on women’s chastity and silence; loss of freedom to do one’s job; loss of a life in some cases or at any rate loss of self.

    recently, the new York times had an article about the three men sentenced to death for the rape of the Mumbai flour mills journalist. in the court the mother of one of the rapists burst out: “My son is being hanged because he made the wrong friends. It is also the woman’s fault. Who asked her to go to an abandoned area? Why don’t you hang her, too?”

    she was gang raped and the mother is asking for her neck, too!

    comments like these show the extent to which women have been socially and culturally conditioned to look at other women thru men’s eyes, thru patriarchal eyes, and not as women or sisters in need of solidarity.

    but the lawyer Nikam said it well when he said:
    “This offense leaves a permanent scar not only on the body of the victim but also on her mind, self-honor and chastity. We have to send out the right signal to society. It is necessary that the lives of the accused come to an end. They must die.”


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