Guest post on an attempt to understand the gender war as a result of fear leading to hatred on the part of both sexes by Ananya Gambhir:

Have you ever been pepper-sprayed? I have. Your eyes burn like the fires of Mordor and you experience pain the likes of which you’ve probably never experienced in recent memory.

Humorously enough, the incident was the result of a complete misunderstanding. The girl, whom I knew quite well at the time, mistook me for a stranger in the darkness and fog of Delhi’s winter. I was the victim of an incredibly paranoid individual, a seasonal phenomenon and the unnerving, ambient creepiness of the inner lanes of East Delhi.

In retrospect, I couldn’t be happier she did it.

Here I am, writing for an initiative that does the wonderful job of teaching women how to defend themselves against potential attackers (and in India, attackers are a plenty), and yet I’ve often wondered to myself: “Are the sexes at war?”

On one hand, we have generations of men raised in a shamelessly patriarchal social setup where, and I can’t say this often enough, we are constantly patted-on-the-back for having a penis. We are brought up in an environment that tells us we have the upper hand, and what way better to exert your dominance over the other sex than by establishing complete sexual control?

On the other, we have generations of women that have gone from being raised to serve their men to being raised to be scared of them. That, I think, is the biggest reason I write about this issue. Women are scared. They are scared of being out in the street unaccompanied by a man, they are scared of wearing the clothes they like, they are scared of having a drink too many at a party. The influence of fear is painfully prevalent in the decisions women are forced to make every day.

And nothing breeds hate like fear does.

So now we have two sections of the world unmistakably at loggerheads with each other, completely antagonistic to their intended symbiotic existence.

Which is why two articles on the internet caught my eye out of the scores of articles about rape that I read every day.

The first one is about Amrita Mohan, a Kalaripayattu champion and Karate black-belt from Kerala who single-handedly beat black and blue her alleged attackers, a couple of men in a government Jeep.

As passers-by stopped, stared and did nothing, Amrita reportedly beat her attackers to the ground all by herself, securing her the honour of being a symbol of the end of women’s oppression in her state. Amrita was a hero for women in Kerala and all around the country. Amrita had realised the innermost desires of thousands of girls that are harassed on the streets of India every day. She was going to go down in local history as the one who fought back, a hero, a shining beacon of change.

Amrita and four others present at the scene, including her father, now face charges of obstructing the duty of government employees and brutally assaulting them. If convicted, they face up to seven years in jail.

This has, obviously, sparked an outburst of rage across the country. The thought of two sexual offenders being able to turn around and drag their potential victim to court after being warded off by her is, no doubt, a huge blow to the sense of security of women across the country whose faith in the justice system has already been damaged beyond repair given the recent happenings.

I can’t say I blame them. India has changed after the events of December, 2012. The protests at India Gate may have died down, the news channels may have stopped flashing the images of violent agitations on the screen and angry, outspoken news-anchors may have moved on to being angry and outspoken about other issues, but the revolution (yes, I said revolution) of 2012 taught a country of women that they didn’t have to take it lying down. There is a fresh wave of active feminism tearing it’s way through the hearts and souls of women who are beginning to realise they have a choice to fight back.

Amrita symbolised that change for the women of Kerala and every other woman who heard her story. To have that symbol tied down and torn apart isn’t something that will go down with the fairer sex. To grant the two scoundrels the ability to turn this heroic act of Amrita and put her and her family through legislative hell is a luxury we, perhaps, cannot afford to give the men of a country that has already spoiled them too much for their own good. “Fry the bastards” echo the voices of the internet.

I find myself praying to a god I don’t believe in anymore that Amrita comes out of this acquitted with the guilty, whoever they may be, behind bars. I find myself hoping that she was justified in her assault, that the two men in the jeep were, in fact, harassers who deserve the harshest punishment.

I hope for these things because, should the judgement rule against her, we would lose more than a woman, we would lose a symbol. There are enough things in the world telling women NOT to fight back; I don’t think we can afford to lose one that tells them otherwise.

Which brings me to the second article that caught my eye.

The University of Colorado recently devised a list of things women can do to ward off sexual offenders.

Among other things, the list also included telling the attacker you had a disease or were menstruating and, disturbingly, vomiting or urinating to disgust the attacker out of the act.

I’ve always upheld the belief that rape is more than a crime of lust. I’ve always felt that man-on-woman rape is the result of a fierce global patriarchy and, thus, is more a crime of control and power. The idea here is to degrade the other party and assert your sexual dominance over their body.

In that context, supposed deterrents like urinating will not be as effective as say, a kick to the groin.

Conversely, if disgusting the attacker allows the potential victim even a window to escape, then I am, with great shame and horror, all for it.

The list has faced its share of backlash on the internet, becoming the butt of a twitter-joke too many, but what interested me more than the article were the comments that followed. I’ve always found that the comments sections on articles are truly the best places to have a true sense of how the people feel, which is why some of the comments on this particular piece were extremely disturbing.

1

Here’s one that talks about “Real rape” versus “Date rape”

2

Here’s one that talks about “sticking a knife in the psycho”

The comments carry on in a fierce inter-sexual debate which eventually extends into an out-of-control agitation from both sides.

Fear, once again, comes into the picture.

The fear of being subjected to sexual violence helps the university and the readers to justify the degradation of the victim to disgust the attacker out of the act.

The fear of being physically overpowered breeds ideas of extremely violent measures to protect one-self like “sticking a knife” in the attacker.

The fear of being falsely accused of sexual harassment leads men to question the validity of rape accusations.

The fear of being shouted down by “Feminazis” turns men into misogynistic  war-mongers that believe a woman should keep her mouth shut.

Men and women are at War. This is a bigger war than any other in the history of mankind, because it pits one half of the global population against the other. There are no casual bystanders, there are no neutral parties. We’re facing an all-out, no holds barred, win-or-die-trying global battlefield here, and no one will come out of this one an unscathed survivor.

You want to change the world? Start by not being afraid. Then help drive the fear out of your brothers and sisters. The day we can eliminate this inter-gender fear we will have eliminated the root of the problem of sexual violence. It’s an easy road thereon.

But till then, the solution starts with accepting the war, realising that the actions taken by either party in defence is the consequence of this global conflict. That is how we get there, through understanding and realisation.

Which is why, in retrospect, I understand completely why the girl sprayed me in the face with that horrible pepper-spray. She’s just a foot-soldier in this war, ready to strike at the first sign of agitation.

Excellent shot, soldier. Stand at ease.

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