An Off the Cuff Remark
On the 17th of December, a senior Congress MLA remarked the Karnataka state assembly, “There is a saying — when rape is inevitable, lie down and enjoy it.” To put it in perspective, a senior male, Member of the Karnataka State Legislative Assembly made this statement on the grounds of the house. A statement like this made anywhere causes immense harm, but coming from a person of this statute, and where it was said goes on to question the very nature of a culture that breathes lavishly every day.
It wasn’t something that was said in isolation, nor was it a discussion about rape. But in some discussion of some subject, the man thought it was appropriate to reiterate this statement. It is not so difficult to even notice that his statement was immediately condoned by other men with laughs that echoed the halls of the constitutional house. He of course later apologized for his “indifferent and negligent comment” that might have offended people.
What struck me with a jolt was how he ended his apology. He almost explained how rape and rapists are never met with accountability. He said his intention “was not to trivialize or make light of the heinous crime, but an off the cuff remark”.
An off the cuff remark. That phrase kept me awake for the entire night. Off the cuff remark! That is exactly how we nourish and keep the culture alive. An off the cuff remark. Simply put, the idea that something like rape, especially something that validates the culture of rape is an off the cuff remark. It’s not just that one Minister, nor one man, but its the entire system, the entire culture that gives birth and empowers this nonchalant attitude towards rape. When a man or for that matter anyone of any gender representation makes such statements, we get to see how rape is addressed in our homes. It is a crime quite different from any other. It does not stem from hate or anger or greed, like most crimes. But it is a crime that is a result of a systematic progression in place that upholds privilege of authority. Authority over bodies, over agency and consent. When it is inevitable, lie down and enjoy it.
Enjoy it. When a person is stripped of their agency, when they are pushed and shoved into corners, their authority over their bodies do not matter, and some other person thinks that they have the ultimate power to make this choice of yes or no, just enjoy it. His remarks didn’t anger me, they didn’t hurt me. Because what he said and how he reacted was an actual representation of the culture that allows such statements to go without a check. Rapes happen because rapists are allowed to rape. They are empowered to rape. They are made to believe that they can choose for someone that comes below the power they hold. The power of their gender identity, the power of their office, the power of their finance, the power of their privilege that is historically granted to them.
This is the culture of rape that we are speaking about. It is omnipresent, It lives in me, and you. It just depends on what spectrum of it we lie on. When push comes to shove, no one realizes what part we had to play in this culture that has done so much damage to the human body and identity that it is reeking of something that just isn’t right. Today, social media is raging. It is questioning and holding the minister accountable for his off the cuff remark, and rightly so. It is no more a question to even just be a spectator: you either fight this culture or you reserve it. The safe ground upon which this entire arena rests is no longer safer. Every day, the fight goes on. Patriarchy is being shattered, by one rock at a time. It is we who get to decide if our names are inscribed on those rocks, or are we the ones that defend this systematic glass wall that will shatter anyways.