Monday, March 18, 2013

Some Notes on Gender Politics in India

In economic terms, and keeping aside exceptional circumstances, sexual affection and intimacy is a female resource which males compete for. (cf Baumeister, Vos, 2004)

Competition is a fact of life, and cannot be wished away.

Rape, being non-consensual by definition, is therefore a looting of this resource.

Females, as is well-known by ethologists and sociobiologists, bestow this resource on worthy males.  (Worthiness being defined by various parameters.)

Females are the decision makers when it comes to decisions of sexual pairings.  Males compete, females choose.

Female consent to sexual interaction is an affirmation of the male's value.  In the prolonged absence of female consent, a male will feel his self-esteem eroding.

In India, vast sections of population are still to embrace an open sexual market.  In those sections, decisions about sexual pairings are made by the community or the family.  It is not necessary that the decision is only made by the father.  Usually senior women are also involved.  In fact, matchmaking, and the related gossip, is normally attributed to women in many North Indian societies.

Even in these "arranged" marriages, there is obvious competition for a "worthy/powerful" male and for a "beautiful" female.

Beauty is mostly genetic, but power is a social construct, especially in modern human societies where raw physical power is not of much consequence.

Economics and politics is a struggle for gaining more power at the expense of other competitors.

If this struggle is severely rigged, what can we speculate about the state of mind of the weaker competitors?

Here we must distinguish between competition, and fairness.  A fair competition is where two men run a race, and the faster man wins.  An unfair competition is where two men race, and one of them is given a head-start.

I posit that a healthy society needs a preponderance of instances of "fair competition".  If a society has too many instances of unfairness, then it will naturally lead to the losers losing all respect for the "system", for "law", and so on.

The females need not worry about the fairness of the sexual competition, as long as they (or their families) are allowed to freely choose the winner.

However, the vast majority of males are intensely interested in the process of this competition and its fairness.  Because their self-esteem, their access to sexual resources, and their status in society depends on it.

The females need to start getting worried, when instead of the winners, the losers start laying hands on them. Then some draconian laws are called for. (!)


I posit that India has good competition within the classes, but there is an alarming lack of mobility between the classes.  If the classes are broadly considered: the poor (blue collar), the salaried (white collar), and the capitalist/politicians (silver spoon), then it is quite obvious that inter-class mobility is a rare event in India.  So much so that it is considered newsworthy (an autowallah's daughter clearing the Chartered Accountancy exam, or a salaried man entering politics (Mr Kejriwal), etc.).

The poor don't know how to get a salaried job (salaried desk jobs in the government or in the MNCs, are available only to those who have had a certain upbringing and educational opportunities and coaching, etc.).

The salaried don't know how to get into capitalism/real-estate/politics (it is clear that this arena is available only to those with family ties, history of granting favors, or a ruthless lack of ethics which the middle class folks find hard to digest/internalize).

Coupled with this economic class division is the existence of various other class divisions: racial, caste, religious, ...

(As an aside, an elopement in India (except in cases where the union is banned due to the couple being close cousins or from different religions etc.) necessarily happens between a man of lower status and a woman of higher status.  If the man is higher status, he can just marry the woman.  The elopement can be elaborated as: the man being able to convince the woman of his worthiness, while being unable to convince the larger community, and the community regarding the woman as an emotional fool.  In a more individualistic society where individual decisions trump community thinking, the woman will marry the man, and probably live to regret.  In India, not so.)

Keeping aside child abuse, and looking at adult behavior only, I further posit that rapes within classes (intra-class-rapes) are rare.  Most rapes are inter-class.  A laborer raping a middle-class housewife or a student, a politician raping a journalist or a schoolteacher, a middle-rung actor raping his maidservant, and so on are plausible.  A politician raping a businesswoman?  Unheard of.  A salaried man raping his colleague?  Similarly unheard of.  (Let's not consider the "rape because he promised to marry and now doesn't" kind of nonsense).

The higher-male-lower-female rape is an assertion of one's so-called right to have sex with every woman of the lower class.  "How dare she deny?"  The lower classes don't usually resist, but every once in a while they do, when the violation becomes too egregious, or the insult too demeaning.

The lower-male-higher-female rape is the current focus of Indian educated classes and the intelligentsia.  Rapes of Dalits and poor villagers by Zamindars and suchlike have been happening for hundreds of years in India, but it hasn't ever raised many eyebrows.  The rape of a middle class woman by a low class male is considered a fit case for swift retribution and violent justice.

Now, consider the notion that these low-class males live highly subjugated and moreover, in a hopeless and fatalistic state of mind, born of a pervasive sense of unfairness in the society.  No matter how hard they work, they can never imagine eating at a fancy restaurant, they can never anticipate watching a film in a multiplex while eating popcorn, their children will never go to IITs or medical schools, their parents will never get good healthcare, and so on.

If there is a great number of these frustrated, psychologically-impotent, unfairly-treated, resentful males in a city, then that is a powder keg waiting to explode.  That is the real danger.

They beat up bar-going women because they themselves can't afford to go to such bars, they beat up Romeos giving valentine's day cards because they themselves can't afford those cards and rose-bunches and because even if they do, the women will reject them summarily, they molest women on buses because they stand no earthly chance of ever touching their breasts in a consensual way.

The lasting solution to the problem of looting, social unrest and sexual assault is to ensure that the economic system is not unfair, that it does not make hundreds of millions feel like suckers and having no chance at a better life.  Draconian punishments will not deter these men, because the roots of their acts of violation run deeper.

An unfair society is an unsafe society.

The capitalist/political class can use state-provided Z-Plus security and appoint private guards, but the middle class will continue to live in fear.

The lasting remedy for an unsafe society is fairness and enforcement of existing laws on all citizens equally.  Not more, and more draconian, laws which will again be selectively enforced on the weak.

An atmosphere of pervasive unfairness compels an otherwise normal man to act violently and dishonestly towards his fellow humans.  We can hang that man, but we can also choose to look a little deeper at the atmosphere.