Bangalore on New Year’s Eve shocked the nation when a mob of drunken hooligans in the IT hub decided to attack, grope, leer at and sexually assault women celebrating the new year on the streets. Disturbing CCTV footage for other parts of Bangalore and Delhi from the same night only added to a notion that is existed in the minds of women for quite some time: India is not safe for them.
On one hand where politicians, who could have easily condemned these actions, chose to blame it on “western clothing” and the victims themselves, celebrities, actors, public figures and sportspersons from all over the country have called both, the incident and the politicians, out. The latest in a slew of famous faces, talking about India abysmal state-of-affairs in the areas of women’s safety, consent and sexual violence, is Indian cricketer Virat Kohli.
This country should be safe & equal for all. Women shouldn't be treated differently. Let's stand together & put an end to such pathetic acts pic.twitter.com/bD0vOV2I2P— Virat Kohli (@imVkohli) January 6, 2017
Change your thinking and the world will change around you. pic.twitter.com/FinDIYv2aV— Virat Kohli (@imVkohli) January 6, 2017
Kohli, through two short videos on his Twitter account dutifully called out the incident, declared his shame for being part of a society and spoke against victim blaming. But here’s the thing that Virat Kohli and hundreds of thousands of men do, that is just not acceptable, they go for the “ghar pe maa behen nahi hai kya” argument, which completely takes away the agency of independence from a woman.
“Guys what happened in Bangalore is really, really disturbing. To see something like that happen to those girls and for people to watch it and not do anything about it, I think it’s a cowardly act. Those people have no right to call themselves men. I have only one question. If something like that were to happen – god forbid – to someone in your family, would you stand and watch, or would you help?” said the cricketer in a short-ish rant on the micro-blogging website.
Admirable as his sentiments may be, there are a few big problems with his statement that reflect archaic gender roles and what ingrained patriarchy does to one’s views on the individuality of women. Let’s break it down.
One: He implies women need men to protect them
Rather than sticking to condemn those who actually assaulted women, Kohli chooses to criticise the “men” who did not attempt to help the women. He says “Those people have no right to call themselves men”, imply that it is the duty of men to protect the damsels in distress and that further implying that women need men to protect them. Equally problematic is the fact that Kohli chooses to apply his own macho worldview to the entire male gender.
Two: He infantilises victims by calling them girls
While Kolhi chooses to refer to the bystanders and molesters as "men", he refers to the victims as "girls". It may not sound like a very big deal, but really, it is. To quote Bonnie Greer, an American-British playwright, “A girl is someone who is not an adult, not a grown up, is not someone who takes responsibility for herself”. Calling a grown-up woman a girl is patronising, condescending and sexist. It also, for this incident, reduces the victims to a bunch of helpless and scared children. Not cool, boy-o.
Three: It's not about the family
And this is the most important one: “If something like that were to happen – god forbid – to someone in your family, would you stand and watch, or would you help?” Sorry Virat Kohli, but when you make that argument, you immediately reduce a woman down to the worth of her male relatives. When you call out people’s rapey, sexist behaviour with an argument like, would you do this/say this to you mother/daughter/sister etc, you strip down a woman of her individuality.
A woman does not have to be someone’s mother/daughter/sister/girlfriend/cousin/aunt/cousin to deserve respect. A woman does not have to qualify on those grounds to have us ask for consent. Then why, oh why, do the bystanders need to put themselves in the shoes of her family members before choosing to react? What happened to basic human decency?
Can't fight sexism with more sexism
When Virat Kohli says stuff, a horde of star-eyed fans will listen and try to understand what he is saying. The thing is, while he may be fighting the right fight, he’s doing it completely wrong. No hard feeling, but next time, let’s not fight sexism with more sexism, okay?