By Taylor Marvin
The Wall Street Journal has a thought-provoking profile of the six men accused of killing a young woman in the horrific Delhi rape case. What’s striking is, as Jason Burke notes, how ordinary these men appear to be: all were poor, and two heavy drinkers and migrants. It’s this ordinariness that hints at one of the worst aspects of social misogyny and rape culture: when rape is routine, so are the people who commit it. We like to dismiss rapists and other violent criminals as an alien other that, of course, has nothing to do with us. In the overblown hyperbole of recent NRA rhetoric in the US, crimes are committed by the bad guys, not the good guys — and there’s no question which group we belong to. Of course, these lines aren’t so simple. Social norms that tolerate rape and other forms of violence make everyone their potential instrument.
This extends beyond the rapists — unfortunately, in the Delhi case murderers is the correct term — to social leaders. It took Prime Minister Manmohan Singh over a week to respond to the case, and his call for a “dispassionate debate and inquiry into the critical changes that are required in societal attitudes” does not appear indicative of a top-down drive for social change. It’s not only that politicians and other social leaders appear to completely dismiss that rape and other forms of violence against women; endemic victim-blaming allows them to — as in the US — absolve themselves of responsibility to fix the problem. As Anuradha Roy writes in her brutal take on the routine violence against women in Indian society (via the Browser), this victim-blaming is truly sickening:
“Meanwhile, with reassuring predictability, another man from the ruling party wagged a paternal finger at the raped woman: she should never have been out at that hour. Just because India became free at midnight did not mean she should have been out at midnight.”
Read the whole thing.