Pre­pare for the Apoca­lypse

India Today - - COVER STORY - NISHA SU­SAN Nisha Su­san is founder-ed­i­tor of the web­site

When the po­lar ice caps melt, we will be ex­posed to long-dor­mant killer viruses and bac­te­ria, I read last year. I was think­ing of that hor­ror movie sce­nario this week as a fresh wave of #MeToo shook the me­dia and en­ter­tain­ment es­tab­lish­ment, just as #LoSHA had shaken the aca­demic world last year. Sto­ries from decades ago, sto­ries from last week. Sto­ries in the of­fice, on the field, at par­ties and in­side of­fices were all break­ing out from un­der the tun­dra of The Show Must Go On.

If you have been on Twit­ter at all this week, you would have found a mil­lion points of in­ter­est. I want to point to just two.

One. If it’s a sign of in­tel­li­gence to be­lieve in two con­tra­dic­tory things at the same time, then we are a highly in­tel­li­gent cul­ture. I tripped and fell on the foot­path this week. I looked up and a man had reached out his hand to help me up. I smiled to in­di­cate that I was okay but be­fore I could open my mouth, an­other man was push­ing the first one away with a gi­ant frown, ‘pro­tect­ing’ me from a pos­si­ble as­sault on my sen­si­bil­i­ties. This sec­ond man is a hu­man avatar of my en­tire up­bring­ing—where women are con­tin­u­ously taught that there be dan­ger from men, and mys­te­ri­ously, safety from men in other men. (Or as they say in Malay­alam, kaduva-ey pidikyan kiduva. A tig­ger to catch a tiger. Or some­thing. #AskAMalay­ali.)

But why do I say we are a highly in­tel­li­gent cul­ture? All week, as woman af­ter woman put forth ex­tremely cred­i­ble al­le­ga­tions of as­sault and ha­rass­ment, they were met of­ten with won­der­ment and doubts. This dis­be­lief would have seemed more nat­u­ral in a so­ci­ety where no­body is think­ing of rape as an ev­ery­day oc­cur­rence. Where even this week, a group of school­girls, some as young as 10, in Bi­har were beaten with sticks and iron rods by adults for re­sist­ing the sex­ual ha­rass­ment of boys. Even this week when the Catholic church in Ker­ala is try­ing to ren­der home­less a group of nuns who have sup­ported a fel­low nun, who says the for­mer bishop of Ja­land­har dio­cese raped her. So in this rape-friendly, rape-aware world that we live in, these re­sponses of shock and dis­be­lief sound very much like, ‘What’s that? Your boss at­tacked you with a strain of bubonic plague from be­low the Tun­dra? You must be ly­ing/ ex­ag­ger­at­ing/ mis­taken/ want­ing to be on tele­vi­sion.’ Re­ally?

And here is the sec­ond thing that in­ter­ests me. It even makes me smile. In this vast and un­savoury buf­fet of al­le­ga­tions, you can find ev­ery­thing from well-doc­u­mented in­stances of sex­ual as­sault to sex­ual ad­vances on What­sApp from men in po­si­tions of power. Now some peo­ple don’t like their chut­ney to touch their samb­har. When an

erot­ica writer com­plained with screen­shots of a con­ver­sa­tion with a big-name writer, lots of peo­ple jumped on her to say this wasn’t ha­rass­ment. What they were miss­ing is that her rage (ev­i­dent even in the texts) came from re­al­is­ing that she thought she was hav­ing a warm con­ver­sa­tion with a peer, but the male writer was try­ing at ev­ery turn to push her into sex­ting. She was ob­vi­ously not a prude, but she was clearly fu­ri­ous that he thought her lit­er­ary in­ter­ests meant that she would au­to­mat­i­cally want to ser­vice his sex­ual fan­tasies. Other women talked about boyfriends and for­mer boyfriends who have be­haved badly dur­ing and af­ter re­la­tion­ships. These women, like the erot­ica writer, have of­ten got the ‘Don’t make #MeToo im­pure. Real women file FIRs. Don’t bring your per­sonal is­sues here’ treat­ment.

I want to hug all these peo­ple and say: pre­pare for the apoca­lypse, broth­ers and sis­ters. Women (of a par­tic­u­lar class-caste back­ground) have got an op­por­tu­nity to air the con­nec­tions be­tween var­i­ous male be­hav­iour—men who rape, men who be­lit­tle their col­leagues, men who make the work of women in­vis­i­ble, men who treat their lovers and wives like prop­erty, men who write books to have ac­cess to women. Now the ice caps have bro­ken and there is no go­ing back to a place where Only Real Women Re­port Rape, and Only Rape. These other com­plaints about pa­tri­archy are not leav­ing the build­ing. They can and will de­mand a re­ceipt.

As the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s En­vi­ron­ment Pro­tec­tion Agency re­cently said, a lit­tle ra­di­a­tion is good for you. The Ladies Fin­ger

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