How many times has a story about one person gained top headlines for a month? Not often, unless that person has activated a powerful movement and demand for change within one of the world’s largest and oldest cultures. I am not going to repeat the details of the Delhi rape case again, it is described in nearly every news article about the event and even in a Wikipedia page. I think we are all familiar with what happened and how the movement is still alive while the woman who inspired it is not.
And unlike Faiz Jamil’s article Can India’s anti-rape moment change a culture? and the BBCWorld’s article The Rapes that India forgot (which strangely has no author), I believe this is no passing movement to be forgotten when the headlines are no longer interesting. I can’t remember when a news story has held my attention more, and this one, although having a tragic beginning, is telling us how the candour to the discussion around dignity and rights is unfolding in places with long held taboos on many sexual topics. With all that is currently happening in the world, knowing the people of India are on the streets yelling and singing that it is no longer acceptable to rape, molest or beat a woman while also stating these crimes were the fault of women is heartening. Yet, in my opinion, it is not an example of 4th wave feminism to say that women have been the victims and men the perpetrators of such acts. I think that simplifies a very complex history that has lead to a certain way of life for many millions of people, not just in India, but in places like Egypt and Africa where similar types of sexual abuse are also rampant and not addressed by laws or social morals. Watch the Egyptian film, 678 by Mohamed Diab, that is based on a true story which happened just before the Arab Spring erupted. You can start to see how many different views are held when it comes to abuse of women and how each plays a part in a violent circle. In any society that devalues women, there is also a cost to men.
In a well known 2002 study by Valerie M. Hudson and Andrea den Boer “A Surplus of Men, a Deficit of Peace,” it is clear that a gender imbalance caused by a shortage of marriageable women results in higher rates of crime committed by young unmarried men including rape. As of the 2011 census data, there are about 17 million excess men in India in the age group that commits most of these types of crimes, up from 7 million in 1991.
In a marriage market where women are scarce and thus able to “marry up,” certain characteristics of young surplus males are easily and accurately predicted. They are liable to come from the lowest socioeconomic class, be un- or underemployed, live a fairly nomadic or transient lifestyle with few ties to the communities in which they are working, and generally live and socialize with other bachelors. In sum, these young surplus males may be considered, relatively speaking, losers in societal competition.
[ ] ..the behavior of men in groups — most particularly young, single, low-status males — will not rise above the behavior of the worst-behaved individual. Together, they will take larger risks and be more violent than they otherwise would individually.
We are stating how 1 in 4 women will be abused in her lifetime, yet how often do we say that 1 in 20 men in India will be losers since even if they wanted to marry a woman, there will be no chance for them to find an eligible wife. The most companionship they might have is a gang of male friends in the same situation as themselves. It is also important to ask what the effect of rape and molestation has on men with wives and girlfriends. One of the women in the film 678 can no longer stand to have her husband touch her after years of being molested while taking the bus to work since a cab was too expensive for her family. Another woman leaves her husband because he can’t handle the fact that she was abused by men in a crowd after a soccer match. For myself, I am beginning to see how a tolerance of abuse against women starts seeping into the lives of everyone. Even more disturbing is the how the same police and military forces that do not protect women in India are now treating the men who committed these crimes. There are photos of the men accused of the Delhi rape being lead to court with black bags over their heads reminiscent of the men accused of terrorism and detained during the American wars on Terrorism during the last decade. And a chilling demand from some of the people of the world that the solution to this problem would be to install the death penalty for rape in India and to definitely hang these six accused men. Again, I am not seeing how this fits with modern values or needs and the 4th wave.
Dr. Gabor Maté, a brilliant and unconventional doctor and researcher, has written about how early experiences have a key role in shaping a person’s perceptions of the world and others. In When the Body Says No: Understanding the Stress-Disease Connection he says that emotional patterns ingrained in childhood live in the memory of cells and the brain and appear in interpersonal interactions later on. He describes the impact of ‘adverse childhood experiences’ such as a child being abused, violence in the family, a jailed parent, extreme stress of poverty, a rancorous divorce, or an addicted parent can have on how people live their lives and on their risk of addiction and mental and physical illnesses. He argues that people need to explore their childhoods and the impact it may have on adult behaviors. Overall, he argues people benefit by taking a holistic approach to their own health and seriously considering their “mind-body unity” and “spiritual unity.” Is it too much of a reach to see how this same advice for the individual could apply to a whole society and in fact all of us living on the planet. The time for seeing ourselves as little empires tucked away on various continents is really past us now. To abuse a woman is not acceptable, yet neither should punishment and further criminal acts, even as they seem to rest within the law, be what we teach our children.
We can all remember and take lessons from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa begun in 1995. The mandate of the commission was to bear witness to, record and in some cases grant amnesty to the perpetrators of crimes relating to human rights violations, as well as for reparation and rehabilitation to be practiced. In the same way the First Nations cultures have circles in which healing can occur between people.
In virtually all Aboriginal communities, the concept of health centers around balance and harmony within and between the mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical aspects of individuals. Human health is also seen as interdependent with the natural and spiritual world. The acknowledgement of this interconnection between human, natural, and spiritual worlds is fundamental to an understanding all of the aspects of Aboriginal cultures. More over, all the expression of culture such as language, art, and healing is not in and of themselves distinct practices within community life but different expressions of a holistic way of living in community and culture. For example, transformation masks seen in Northwest Coastal Cultures used in various ceremonies illustrate the interdependence of artist, spiritual, and healing practice.
That is what it means to be living in the 4th wave, that we are all in the same boat together, and what happens to your sister, happens to me, and what happens to your father, happens to mine. And although there are not 100% of the people expressing this concept 100% of the time, this is what I see happening in the global tipping points of the past year, a real concern for justice, equality and peace. Check out these brave souls in India! They are ‘holding’ hands with the men in North America who donned high heels recently in support of security and rights for women. So very 4th wave…