Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Boys will be boys

Posted as part of the Blank Noise Blog-a-thon

The point of a blog-a-thon, of course, is not what you say, but that you say it. Just as the point of running in a marathon (for must of us, at least) is not to set a new World Record, but simply to put on a T-shirt for your chosen cause, slip into the sneakers you bought six months ago (as part of a New Year's resolution) and have never worn, and just have a go at it.

So theoretically, I could say pretty much anything in this post. I could quote Shakespeare "I will be angry: what hast thou to do? / Father, be quiet, he shall stay my leisure". I could find some obscurely apt poem and quote that. I could wax eloquent about socio-cultural conditions and the embeddedness of sexual harassment in patriarchal institutions. I could come up with my own two-bit analysis on how the problem could be 'solved', ignoring, with my usual blitheness, my complete lack of factual information.

Thinking about it, though, I can't shake the feeling that anything meaningful I tried to say on the topic would be mere impostor. Never having experienced street harassment first-hand, or having studied it in any way (academics, of course, are not governed by the rule of knowing what they're talking about), it's hard to think of a piece I could write for this blog-a-thon that couldn't be written better by others, and wouldn't therefore, constitute a presumption.

So here's what I'm going to do. I'm not going to try to be analytical or insightful. I'm going to fall back on my old safeguard - poetry. I'm going to break (for the third time in some 300+ posts) my self-imposed rule on not posting poems on this blog, and post one written for the blog-a-thon. It's the best I can do.

Boys will be boys

“Boys will be boys”, you shrug and say,
“You should have said no and not allowed it.”
No. I’m sorry. It’s not okay.

“Next time, come to me. I’ll find a way.
I’m strong, I can help you out. It’s
Just boys being boys. That’s all”, you say.

“It’s not like they hurt you anyway.
Now the neighbours will have to hear about it –
You know, you know that’s not okay”.

“It’s your own fault for being on display,
The sway of your hips, your breasts, your pout. It
Makes the boys want to be boys”, you say.

“They didn’t mean you any harm.” Didn’t they?
The anger rises to my mouth. It
Says: No. No. It’s not okay.

If someone gets hurt it isn’t play.
It isn’t fun if someone cries out, it
Isn’t ‘boys being boys’, as you always say.

Oh, I’m sure you’d rather that I stay
At home; that you make the rule and I don’t flout it.
But no, I’m sorry, that’s not okay.

I’ll not be quiet till it goes away
I’m going to scream it, I’m going to shout it.
Let your boys say what they want to say.

I’ll not put this off for some other day
We fix this now – no two ways about it.
No, I’m sorry, it’s not okay.

And it’s not up to you what I may or may
Not do. You’ve got your view and you’re free to spout it.
“Boys will be boys”. I will have my say.

If they’re boys they must be taught to obey;
If they’re men they can learn to do without it.
No, I’m sorry, it’s not okay.

It’s time we made these perverts pay.
It’s time we did something about it.
‘Boys will be boys’ is all you can say.
How about asking if I’m okay.

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Anonymous said...

This is so sad...and lemme tell you something thats even worse, by the end of the day people actually blame the girl for dressing "provocatively"(this is strictly in the Indian context)..which girl in her right mind would enjoy being violated???

The ramblings of a shoe fiend said...

ah the boys will be boys argument. i've heard that one time too many. good one.

‘Boys will be boys’ is all you can say.
How about asking if I’m okay.

loved the last line

DK said...

I agree with Shoe Fiend above, the last line was really good.

I also agree with anonymous above. I have seen people (even girls) who keep saying that the people who dressed like that got it coming. It is an argument, that makes me wanna throw up all over them. And maybe I could tell them "You look so horrible, so I had to puke all over you". Hey It's not my fault after all is it ?

However, most people miss the big picture. Where do you stop when you go through the argument that she got it coming. Slowly tight shirts and jeans would be frowned upon, then sleevless clothes would be banned as well. Going further, any dress that makes you look good is a definite NO-NO. So what do we end up with, a colorless dress that covers you from head to toe. Now where have I heard that before ??

What is happening currently is the whole "society" (for lack of a better word) saying that YOU ARE NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR ACTIONS. That, to me, is positively scary.

P.S : I am an Indian, and so I am primarily talking about the Indian view. I m not sure how the Western society is regarding rapes and what the general refrains are.. Anybody care to enlighten me ?

Falstaff said...

Anon: Yes. That was actually what I was trying to capture in the 4th stanza of the poem. But I think you underestimate the subtlety of the argument, its perverse genius. The reason the argument works is because it starts with a practical choice that women can make, so that's it hard to argue that women shouldn't be dressing soberly or that it's not logical for any given individual to not try to make herself look unattractive as possible. From there to the point of view that it's a woman's responsibility to dress soberly is a short step. Plus, the dressing soberly argument works because it divides women into two camps - those who do the practical thing and dress soberly and those who wear what they want, and to the extent that the two groups end up opposing each other it works to the advantage of those interested in harassing women.

Shoe-fiend: Thanks. The thing that always struck me about the outrage I heard from other guys on campus when female friends of ours were subjected to this kind of shit was the, well, territorial nature of it. It was amazing to me how, even when they were genuinely angry, it was still about them, about how their friend couldn't be treated that way, about how they would find those guys and fix them. It was always about finding a SOLUTION, almost never about being supportive. And implicit in that was the idea that women were in fact weaker and more vulnerable and therefore needed to be protected from the bad guys. I think that kind of protectiveness is as degrading as the harassment it tries to stop, because the pathology of the logic is the same. Unfortunately, it's a logic many (if not most) women I know buy into as well. I see no reason, for instance, why we should assume that a guy can fight back and a woman can't. I personally, couldn't handle a physical altercation with a wet towel, and most of my women friends could probably beat me black and blue if they wanted to, so I don't see why they're somehow natural victims. It's a long held belief of mine that chivalry and chauvinism are the same thing.

dk: thanks. See my comment above

Veena said...

Falstaff: Dead on. Chivalry and chauvinism are exactly the same. Both treat women as objects that require protection rather than as fellow humans.

Now if only one could make the world understand that!

Falstaff said...

Veena: Glad to know you agree. I think what we need to do is turn these stupid chivalrous stereotypes on their head. You know, by having women drive men around for instance. Or getting them to pay for dinner. :-).

The ramblings of a shoe fiend said...

Good point. I never thought of it that way before. Fancy a fist fight? :D

Falstaff said...

Shoe-fiend: :-). I don't think so. Not when you have those stilleto heels.

Veena said...

Falstaff: Absolutely. Drive them around, buy them dinner and then lock them up in apartments with view of frozen lake. Works.

Falstaff said...

Veena: Ha! that's what you think. I'll have you know it's not just a view of the frozen lake - you can see the Hancock building as well. So there.

Extempore said...

Very well written - touched something within because of the number of times I've fought the "Boys will be boys" arguments.

I am not sure why you don't post poetry more often - you write it well.


Sony Pony said...

lovely post as always.

I did want to add though, that (while I generally agree with your point) there has to be some distintion made between chivalry and chauvinism. It's an important distinction, and I'd rather not let the chauvinists off that easy. It's a bit like saying racism and having prejudices are the same. We all have prejudices, but they don't necessarily have the bite of hatred that is the hallmark of racists.

Falstaff said...

sony pony: just to clarify - I wasn't letting the chauvinists off easy - the comparison b/w chauvinism and chivalry was entirely a statement against people who are chivalrous - it wasn't a defense of chauvinism in any way. I still maintain that there's no difference between the two, but that's reason not to be chivalrous, not reason to allow people to be chauvinistic.

blah_blah_blogger said...

exactly...what I put down in prose, you put down in poetry...

LightRain said...

My first visit to your blog. Will keep dropping by. Excellent point that, regarding Chivalry and Chauvinism. I've never been able to understand why women should not pay for themselves or why men should want to play the provider/protector role towards women. It works itself in weird ways. Women end up wearing the victim garb to get to what they want, often. And men massage their own egos with the idea that the 'restraints' they are applying are for the womens' own good. It's all SO rid with contradictions, it becomes hard to draw the line between these two things!!

GettingThere said...

My first visit. I like it. Will visit again. Nice poem. Not in a chatty mood today.

Kusum Rohra said...

Of all the posts i read upon this, yours is the best i must say.

About time the old ways where girls are always asked to be cute and meak are shunned