(Trigger warning: rape, murder, talking about violent images though not using them.)
One of the things so powerful to me about the #YesAllWomen conversation that has been taking place in the weeks since the Isla Vista killings, is the ways that there seems to be a wider acknowledgement growing about the layers and levels of misogyny that are operating in US culture, as well as around the world.
The international nature of the problem has been very much on my mind since I saw the shocking image of two Dalit girls, aged 14 and 16, hanging from nooses, after having been (allegedly) gang-raped and (definitively) murdered.
You won’t be seeing that image here, nor will I be knowingly linking to any articles that use it. Manasi Gopalakrishnan reports:
The girls’ family alleged that the two teenagers were raped and tortured before finally being hanged from a mango tree in a nearby orchard. Incensed by alleged police inaction, the families refused to take down the bodies from the tree for several hours. Finally the local police registered a case of rape only after several members of the girls’ community protested in front of the police station. [Emphasis added.]
In that sense, the parents’ initial gesture reminds me very much of Mamie Till’s choice to have an open-casket funeral for her son, Emmet, and her subsequent decision to allow funereal photos of her son to be published in Jet magazine. “I wanted the world to see what they did to my baby,” Mrs. Till is reported to have said. And yet in this day and age when images can travel the globe so quickly, I am not at all clear as to whether these parents in Uttar Pradesh would want their daughters’ postmortem image propagated in so widespread a fashion, and so I will not be aiding in that process. (Quite frankly, I even wonder if Mamie Till might have made a different choice in the Internet age. Or maybe her courage would have found identical expression. I simply don’t know.)
As with Eliot Rodger’s actions and their intersections with US issues such as (definitely) gun control and (allegedly) mental illness, there are multiple factors at stake in this horrifying crime. The caste system. Lack of toilets in poverty-affected regions. There’s even a new report that a state official investigating the case has stated one of the two murder victims may not have been raped.
(I don’t know enough yet to suss out if I think this last one is the first step of a government cover-up — at least two of the arrested suspects are policemen — or the first step at bringing careful investigative work to uncover the truth what the official has suggested might have been an honor killing or one motivated by a property dispute.)
Even with those other factors, it is undeniable that misogyny is a huge part of the cultural foundation for these crimes to occur. Mallika Dutt reports in Time that “In the context of past rapes, Mulayam Singh Yadav, head of Uttar Pradesh’s governing party, the Samajwadi Party, has said, ‘Boys will be boys. They make mistakes.’” A different Indian State Minister, Babulal Gaur, has recently said “Sometimes [rape] is right, sometimes it is wrong.”
All of which is to remind us that “#YesAllWoman isn’t just an American thing.”
As we continue to examine the negative effects of misogyny and cultures that impose toxic definitions of masculinity, it’s important not to be blind to privileges of race, sexual orientation, gender identity, classism, or cultural myopia. A lot of feminist discourse I see on the web is very stuck in these blinders, and in the same way that cultural evolution will require men to become aware to the privileges they carry in a misogynist society, it also requires those of us carrying privilege on other nexuses to wake up to that.
As Shannon Barber writes in luna luna,
Hear in your head every mansplaining nice guy or even every well intentioned usually great dude you know starting a statement with these words-“but not all men…”Now stop.Okay White ladies let me explain you a thing. I’m gonna blow your mind.That anger and frustration giving you bubble guts right now is how I feel when White women won’t listen to me.Sit with that for a minute. Understand that how you feel when the response to your pain, your words, your experiences in regard to sexism and misogyny is not all men, but I’m a nice guy etc is the same feeling I have when White women run to interrupt, or otherwise stomp over my experiences, pain and words.