There is no other way to put it but bluntly, Asian misogyny is a cultural cesspit. Asian misogyny has been a blight on the lives of Asian females and is still a practice that is condoned and passed down from generation to generation as if it were a piece of priceless heritage to be honoured but veiled with secrecy. It is not to be questioned.
This would have carried on if not for the documentary called ‘India’s Daughters’ which was screened by BBC 4. The documentary is about the cruel and violent rape of a woman on a bus in India in 2012 which led to her death. It made the headlines around the world and saw street protests by feminists and Indian men in support of women’s rights. The whole episode was thought to be a game changer in the way women were viewed but it has not proven to be so, according to women who live in India.
However, statistics and cases bear witness to the fact that women are still being raped and killed almost on a daily basis. So deep seated is the problem in the cultural psyche that even the deaths of thousands more women may still be excused on a cultural pedestal which allows men ‘to do what they want because they are men’. Is this problem only confined to Indian men who live in India? NO.
I have not used the word ‘Indian’ in my headline because if this documentary is to to prove to be a pivotal moment then the concept of Indian misogyny needs to be widened to acknowledge a deep seated hatred of women that exists among Asian men all over the world. This cesspit of misogyny-there is no better way of describing it-is a dominant feature of Asian life and is not confined to the boundaries of the Asian countries either. Asian men can be misogynists no matter where in the world they live.
It is a big cultural problem and those naysayer who constantly deflect any attempts to state the problem as it by insisting that ‘not all Asian men are like that and it is wrong to say that about Asian men’ should change their narrative to consider what the actions of the majority are rather than concentrating on the minority. I for one have lived with Asian misogyny all my life and I have lived in the UK for 38 years now.
The manifestation of misogynistic behaviour ranks from the sideways comment as I pass an Asian man on the street to, a number of times, being followed. I am in my 50s now but I remember moments in my much younger life when I was told not to laugh too loudly if boys were around because I was in danger of giving the impression that I was a ‘loose girl’. At dinner gathering the men were served first and the women ate the left-overs afterwards. These are the seedlings of misogyny that are sown and which then grow into a deeper concept about how Asian women should behave. The extreme result of which can be seen in the documentary when the one of the rapists declares that the victim should have put up with the rape because she was out at night and the lawyer who pours scorn on the victim in equally distressing terms.
When Patricia Arquette, at the Oscar ceremony, called for feminists of colour to help in the fight for equal pay I wondered what situation would call for a reverse i.e what could feminists of other colours do for brown women? Now is the moment. There are many Western NGOs working in India who are doing sterling work to raise awareness of women’s rights and who need our support. Inter-racial relationships is another example, if you are in a relationship with an Asian man and see things that disturb you challenge it. Misogyny is a structural problem, much like racism. Any feminist in a position to challenge Asian misogyny should do it. There are many possibilities but a limited amount of time in which to work together to ensure that another ‘Delhi rape’ does not occur anywhere in the world.
I dedicate this post to the memory of Jyoti Singh, a sister to all women who care about women’s rights.