Summary: It is often the case that when incisive critiques are leveled against an oppressive system, such as patriarchy, there will be efforts to derail or decenter that conversation. For example, one might critique patriarchy in India by pointing out that there is a marked tendency to blame the victim in cases of harassment. Defying all probability, time and again the original critique of power slips from the conversation, and those who were instrumental in exposing the problem suddenly find themselves defending whether their critique is in fact proof of their own prejudice against men. Or, even more befuddling, the focus of the conversation shifts from the problem of sexual harassment to the hurt feelings of a few men who claim they have never harassed women. As explored elsewhere on The Sociological Cinema, YouTube videos can be understood as social activism, and in that context, any single clip can be seen as a discrete contribution to an unfolding public conversation about a particular social issue. In the above video, one finds a young man catching a ride on a not-so-crowded Delhi bus. In the course of the ride the driver abruptly presses on the brake, and the young man accidentally falls on the woman standing next to him. On the mistaken assumption that the man was attempting to physically harass her, the woman slaps him across the face (a perfect Indian response!), and the woman's friend chides the man for “not having any manners.” Later in the ride, the driver again abruptly presses the brake, but in this instance, it is the woman who falls on the man, and it is now his turn to slap her. The video encourages the viewer to see the man's response as entirely valid and even legally justified (The video's caption references Article 15 of the Indian constitution, which prohibits gender based discrimination). It is a cautionary tale, which promotes the absurd idea that men must frequently bear the burden of being unjustly accused of street harassment, or what is euphemistically referred to as eve teasing in India. The conversation no longer contemplates the tendency to blame the victim, and it no longer dwells on why violence against women is now the fastest-growing crime in India. Instead, this video and others like it attempt to reorient the discussion so that people must now contemplate the indignity suffered by a minority of men who have been unjustly accused.
Submitted By: Manjistha Banerji
Image by Blank Noise