"If People Knew This Girl Was You, They Wouldn't Be Nice To You"
The molestation in Guwahati happened. The sickening video of a young, fragile girl manhandled by a mob, clothes torn. We felt the anger, the frustration. The helpless rage. The usual suggestions happened. Castration, death penalty, life sentence, prevention. The CM of Assam chimed in with the normal bogus response - monitor pubs. It all happened, like it has happened many times ago. As usual, we have a video from the popcorn gallery.
I want to talk about another thing that happens often, that no one wants to talk about. That blurred face of the victim. That thoughtful, protective touch by some unknown news editor. We nod and approve. Protect the identity.
I want to look at this protection. Who are we protecting? Why?
We are protecting the girl, so that her identity is not known, so that she doesn't have to be humiliated publicly by what was done to her. Most normal people think of this as a caring thing. I disagree. It is the same thinking that hides the woman's body in prescribed quantities of clothes to prevent rape. Here we are hiding her face to prevent shame. Either case, we are putting the responsibility of the crime on the victim. Even though we are raging at the attackers.
What she went through was on her face. It has been sterilized into a blur. To "protect her identity" we wipe it out. Was she angry, scared, desperate, in pain? no one knows. Because rather than we expose her to some vague shame that did not result from her actions, we will choose to omit her experience that is the biggest thing on her mind at that time. She loses that acknowledgment that comes from her suffering a wrong being recognized, as opposed to "it could be anyone". She will be the one hurting, though, not "anyone". No one will look into her face. Whether they avert eyes to avoid her or not, it has been done for them.
But worst of all, she loses that right to be proud, defiant and unashamed because she did no wrong. The decision that she cannot be open about what happened to her has been made for her "for her own good". She is forever that blurred girl, struggling instead of the one who went through that experience and lived to tell the tale.
There is a part of us, which when wronged needs the world to acknowledge that what was done to us was wrong. That we did not deserve it. We need the world to know us for who we are, what the action was, and the action to be denounced as wrong. It is a part of healing. Not showing the video would protect her identity, but showing it with her face blurred is saying that "if people knew this girl was you, they wouldn't be nice to you". In other words, it is saying that if people are rude to you because of this incident, they can't be challenged or stopped, so we'd better hide you. And absolutely every victim in the world would want to know why they are pretending she is not at fault if it is so certain no one in the world will prevent her being attacked for it that it doesn't even need debated.
A mental experiment. Someone harms you. You are scared, devastated, hurt and furious. What brings healing? That people pretend someone got insulted but they don't know who it was? Or that people acknowledge that the insult to you happened and it was wrong?
Get this straight. It isn't her shame. Now repeat after me. She has done nothing to be ashamed of. Her face is her identity. She lost her autonomy, now we take away her identity. We stop short of accepting that a grave wrong was done to her. This automatic allocation of an ugly situation's shame on the woman is so ingrained, we don't even realize we do it. Even now, many of you are automatically thinking, "but we can't control what the world will think. What she will have to go through"
People who know her, won't need the video to know it was her. If she is to face taunts, she will face them anyway. No one watches TV with so much attention that they will recognize a victim in the middle of an attack if they ever meet her in other circumstances and go "hey, aren't you the one that got molested that day? I watched you on TV" The news that she was molested will haunt her for a long time. Always through carefully constructed gossip that pretends to tell people to be careful for her, because poor thing, you know what happened to her? No one will ever need the video for that.
Maybe the victim too buys the shame theory and would prefer to be blurred, but this must be asked. Whether the victim wants her face blurred or not should be her choice. It should be clear that she can opt out of any hassles that may arise from her face being seen - if she wants, but that we as people have absolutely no problem seeing her and still feeling only compassion and support. She needs to know this.
| Previous Post|
The Emperor of Education Has No Clothes!
| Next Post|
Fight Bullies in 12 Steps Or Less