Tuesday, October 23, 2012
An Eye for an Eye…
If you can’t laugh at yourself, please call me and I would be happy to do it for you said Groucho Marx once, a statement I once taped over my bedroom wall to remind me to laugh at myself daily before others do. I don’t have it anymore for with the passage of time I found more worthy things to tape up there, like posters of my favorite film stars and stuff like that. But I have never forgotten that message. I still enjoy a mighty chuckle at myself at every little opportunity. And I do enjoy the humor of being made fun of. My friends Raj and Sangy would say if asked on how they spent an entire train journey of two days, on a trip back from Mumbai, making fun of me, trying to provoke me, but unable to get a single negative reaction from me. They exhausted themselves trying to make fun of me as I laughed boisterously and enjoyed all their jokes with them, so much so they gave up when they realized the joke was on them and it was impossible to make me lose my temper. The point of all this, needless, self publicity is to first state categorically that the rest of this post was written in a pretty cool frame of mind and not out of any malice.
I have been a part of a few flame wars a few years ago, but not much recently. So it was a pretty pleasant surprise when I read a recent post by one of my blogger friends Gitanjali (here: http://rhapsodic-xana.blogspot.in/2012/10/circle-of-life.html ) poking fun at me for one my earlier posts where I had refused to hug a fellow male. It’s an honor first of all to be made the subject of an entire post on someone else’s blog. Especially someone whose blog post are one of my favorite reads. I really enjoyed the way she has portrayed my exaggeration of an ordinary event. Well, what can I say in my defense? Sometimes humor requires a little exaggeration of everyday events- that’s a category called “Farce”, something best exemplified by Charles Chaplin in his movies. But later on in her post she goes on to make the comparison between men and women on being harassed. Her point being that women go through a lot more on a daily basis and rarely complain while here I was blowing up a little incident. A perfectly valid comment from my point of view too.
But the point she makes about the comparison between men and women is where she loses me. Does being harassed have different meanings for men and women? Honestly? A man’s body is lesser sacred to him than a women’s body is to her? So because women go through a lot of harassment on a daily basis, men who are harassed too should keep mum about it? For it’s their turn now? I fail to see the logic in this kind of argument. Dispassionately viewed it smacks of a deliberate enjoyment of the “ah! men- now you are getting it back” kind of mentality. The Germans have a word for it (thanks dad, for all those German lessons at Goethe Institute) called Schadenfreude – meaning to take pleasure in others sufferings (source- wiki : http:/en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schadenfreude). An equivalent English word is Gloat : meaning a malicious satisfaction, gratification, delight over others misfortune.
Which is unfair to me for I have always been against harassment and supported a womens right to her own body – as I mention in my previous blog posts –
And I am not saying that just because I understand harassment from a woman’s point of view makes me an all-round good guy. No it doesn’t. Neither does the fact that just because I am a man, a member of the male species who routinely harass women, that makes me eligible for being groped or touched in-appropriately with no right to complain about harassment. Payback time is not for civilized people in civilized societies- an eye for an eye is a pretty archaic concept. And to condemn an entire half of the human race for the misdeeds of a few makes me wonder about the depths of hatred to which people go so willingly. And so I finally get what the Rwanda conflict is all about- the whole Hutu/Tutsi- you slaughtered my ancestors 500years ago- now it’s our turn to slaughter your children- mode of settling scores. I thought we are a civilized society and beyond all that. Are we not?
Saying a man can be harassed because, face it he is a man, what the heck is he complaining about?? Is as glib an argument as saying “Hey, she is not a virgin, she has known men before, so why not rape her?” The Supreme Court of our country has in several judgments’ pronounced that even a sex-worker had rights over her own body and she cannot be touched without her permission. Can you say men are any less? A lesser breed? That men don’t have any rights over their own bodies and can assaulted anytime by anyone and shouldn’t complain but take it easy. I would have laughed it off if this kind of opinion came from some male chauvinist but I am deeply saddened by the fact that this glib argument is made by a woman, who must know from firsthand experience how traumatic it is for anyone, male, female or child to be touched in-appropriately without their permission.
My point being that everyone has a right to the privacy of their body. Gender be damned. And contrary to what “some” women think, men don’t enjoy being assaulted too. Just like women. Two wrongs do not make a right. And enjoying the discomfiture of men does not help women in their fight against harassment.
I would like to put an end to this argument with this popular dialogue borrowed from Shah Rukh Khan – “My name is Ganesh And I am not a Harasser”. And I have a right to my own body. And to decide who gets to touch it and when. Over to you Gitanjali.