Bad guys don’t harm good girls. #myth

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Among the many ridiculous theories patriarchy spins as a disguise for its sanction of male entitlement and violence, is the idea that if girls are good, or in Mr. Kamalahaasan’s words ‘dignified’ and ‘confident,’ men will not harm them. The more old-fashioned version of this is the judgment expressed by luminaries in the aftermath of the 2012 Delhi gang-rape that had the victim prayed or had she addressed the assailants as brother, they would have spared her. There are more things wrong with this thinking than I can digress to point out this morning.

What brings on this observation (and blogpost)? These two tweets: one by @angrybirdu with an old video clip featuring Mr. Kamalahaasan’s views and one by the man himself, as recently as last Saturday.

When celebrities say stupid things about sundry topics, it does not matter. But when their utterances trivialise a deep-rooted systemic problem that has horrendous consequences for people’s lives, it matters because people pay attention to their words and in societies with strong fan cultures, they take those words as gospel. When such a celebrity has also entered the public, political domain, claiming to want to make a change, one must ask: What sort of change? Ending corruption alone is a superficial, even cosmetic, change in a society rife with inequality and discrimination. Just quoting Periyar and Ambedkar without understanding that equality must mean gender equality is, in fact, an actor spouting lines written for a role.

With State Assembly elections imminent, and Mr. Kamalahaasan’s party making a serious bid to contest, we must consider his impact on the election discourse and on the election results. If politicians do not care about gender equality and are happy to wear their misogyny on their sleeve as a marker of masculinity, remember they are a subset of the electorate which does not care and is happy to vote for them regardless.

When and how do we change this? Can we seek a commitment from political parties–understanding that it will be expedient and insincere–to at least make a token endorsement of the recommendations in the Prajnya Gender Equality Election Checklist?

As for voters: Change begins with us. Let us quickly mount the pressure on political parties as they start to prepare nomination lists and manifestos for upcoming elections. Show that you care, and signing this petition is one way to do that.

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