Sexual predators and the ‘man box’ mindset

Written By Unknown on Minggu, 08 Desember 2013 | 22.23

When feminist publishing house Zubaan's founder, Uravashi Butalia, activist Eve Ensler, journalist Shereen El Feki and theatre director Kaizaad Kotwal took the stage at a session titled 'The Sexual Predator', the issues discussed ranged from marital rape and sexual assault at the workplace to the role organised religion played in the suppression of women's voices.

"It appears (as though) the violation of women is justified in certain spaces, and not in others," said El Feki on the issue of marital rape. "I want to know, what are these men thinking when they overstep those boundaries?" She drew on her research and observation in the Arab world, saying that it stemmed from how a boy was raised. The building of a stereotypical view of women, agreed the speakers, started from how he was taught to interact with them as a child. "Education must begin not in the classroom, but in the living room," said El Feki. Also essential is the role of the father as that is where boys draw their ideas of what masculinity is supposed to be.

Most are sceptical about breaking out of the "man box", Ensler said, and letting go of preconceived notions. A dichotomy existed in their interactions with women across personal and professional spaces. "There is a split between what they think, and what their actions are," she explained.

Sex is one of the subjects that needs to be taught, added Ensler. "We can teach mathematics, we can teach science, so why not sex?" The idea of intimacy and pleasure as being reciprocal was something she had found lacking in numerous discussions with women across the world. Also, in over 80% of the gender mutilation cases she had researched across the world, the pressure to conform to the hideous ritual, curiously, came from mothers and grandmothers.

But when it came to women speaking out against violence and injustice, Butalia felt we are living in "an extraordinary period". Responding to a question by the moderator, she said there were more making their voices heard, both in urban and rural settings. It was true, though, she admitted, that the urban instances were still far more visible.

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