Does vengeance equal feminism?

Guest Post by wordssetmefreee

Warning – spoilers on ‘Gone Girl’ – book/movie review

Has anyone read the book, “Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn?  A NY Times bestseller that was made into a movie starring Rosamund Pike and Ben Affleck, the book/movie is disturbing on many fronts.

It is meant to be dark humor when intelligent, manipulative, psychopathic Amy gets revenge on her mediocre, selfish, entitled husband Nick, through an intricately planned out and meticulously executed series of chilling crimes.

On the surface, it seems like we’re finally seeing a complex woman character, a rarity in bestsellers and Hollywood.  Amy isn’t sweet, warm and compassionate.  She IS the bad guy.  And there are reasons given for the warping of her mind as well – the emotional manipulation of her parents.

However, as you progress through the novel, Amy goes on to concoct a false murder charge against her husband (using compellingly manufactured evidence), and when that begins to fail, uses her innocent ex boyfriend in her schemes, then murders him, then accuses him of rape and abuse, returns to her husband but continues to manipulate him with threats of turning the media and law enforcement against him.

I found the plot severely undermining the very real abuse that countless women face and it almost seems to match the thinking of men’s rights activists who constantly talk about “false rape charges” and “false abuse charges” as their reason for opposition to rape and abuse laws. In reality, the law enforcement in many countries shames and silences rape victims rather than taking their reports seriously; yet, what we have here is a twilight zone of a woman victimizing several men who slighted her as well as ensnaring the entire media and law enforcement.

Gillian Flynn considers herself a feminist and claims that her book is also feminist because of its “non-conformity to the traditional perception of women as innately good characters“. Somehow, her argument doesn’t quite fly.  So, Amy is not good and sweet and boring.  However, Amy’s character feels like a comic book evil temptress, complete with the perfect sexy body and dark, destructive mind.  She’s completely stereotypical in that she brings to life the worst nightmares of misogynists.

The book is bursting at the seams with other male/female stereotypes.  Nick is clumsy, reticent, somewhat clueless, a little selfish, a “little” unfaithful, but essentially good-hearted.  Amy is classy, privileged, articulate, intelligent, and if a woman is privileged/intelligent, then of course it follows that she must also be manipulative and evil.  Nick’s mediocrity makes him “innocent” and his selfishness is “mostly unconscious” and his unfaithfulness is overshadowed (and forgiven?) by Amy’s incredible capacity for vengeance.  The “evil media” takes advantage of his male inability to pretend grief, when what he’s actually feeling is relief. (makes you want to give him a hug, doesn’t it?) Amy’s intelligence however is used for a destructive purpose. Maybe another argument for men’s preference for “simple women”?   When asked to describe his wife, Nick actually says in frustration, “She’s complicated!”  (Sorry, Nick, a woman is a human and humans are complicated, what you should’ve got yourself is a toy if you wanted something simpler.)

Other charming women characters in the book include Amy’s emotionally manipulative mother who has used her daughter for her personal fame and riches, a media siren who is bent upon making Nick’s life hell, a 20 something voluptuous student who throws herself at Nick (home wrecker?) and crime groupies who want to use Nick and take selfies of themselves with him. The only real woman in the book is Nick’s rough-around-the-edges twin sister, Margo, who also co-owns the bar with her brother. She tries to help her immature brother despite her frustration with his mistakes. She tries to remain fair to Amy even though she dislikes her. But even Margo lets us down when she says “complicated (woman) means b***h”.

Here’s a quote from the book, which has been used to illustrate the underlying feminist tone of the book –

“Men always say that as the defining compliment, don’t they? She’s a cool girl. Being the Cool Girl means I am a hot woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer, loves threesomes and jams hot dogs into her mouth …. Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined manner and let their men do whatever they want. …. Men actually think this girl exists. ….. And the Cool Girls are even more pathetic: They’re not even pretending to be the woman they want to be, they’re pretending to be the woman a man wants them to be. …… Maybe he’s a vegetarian, so Cool Girl loves seitan and is great with dogs; or maybe he’s a hipster artist, so Cool Girl is a tattooed, bespectacled nerd who loves comics.”

In the above sense, the book does hint at the irony of it all – the real progress that women have made in the social and emotional realm of relationships is still minuscule.  We are leading nations, heading successful companies, but who are we at home, really?  A Nooyi who is ordered to go pick up the milk?  A Sandberg who suffers mommy guilt?

Here, I began to have hope.  I thought the author was portraying how women are forced into certain roles by society and in the process, let their whole lives revolve around selfish, uncaring men who want to see a sugar coated, simplified, corseted version of them.  And I hoped that Amy would eventually refuse to be straight jacketed, that she would emerge free from the selfish expectations of society.

However what does Amy DO ABOUT THIS?  What does she do to fight this cool girl burden and set herself free?  She becomes one!!!  How un-empowering is that!  She becomes this cool girl that Nick wants her to be. And Nick predictably falls head over heels for her.  But she’s mad at him for making her do this, so she takes revenge.  There is absolutely NOTHING feminist about this.

Another argument that Flynn put forth for feminism is that women are sick of being used and brushed aside, and when Amy finally begins to take back control in the relationship, when she starts calling the shots, it’s a win for the women’s cause. On some level, is Amy’s viciousness deeply satisfying to all of us women, who are familiar with some form of oppression or the other?  I thought about this but could not find a shred of fulfillment in the self-destructive nature of vengeance.  The argument that getting even feels good is faced with one problem – relationships are not held together with a gun to someone’s head. Freeing oneself from abuse doesn’t mean abusing the abuser.  You are no longer free when you inflict pain on someone, because you are taking on a burden. Taking back control of her own life is what Amy should’ve done, not taking control of Nick’s life. Ever heard of a thing called divorce, Amy? So, much more simpler that revenge.

Feminism is not about being a martyr, nor is it about taking revenge on men for the lost opportunities, but to demand equality in all spheres of life.  And this is what makes the book extremely disturbing – because it taps into the age-old fears of men – that women are irrational, nasty, manipulative creatures, sexually controlling and bordering on insanity, who if given the power (equality misconstrued as power), can easily destroy men to bits.  This mindset of fear is at the root of misogyny and the book does a great job of amplifying it.

Gone Girl is oddly reminiscent of the film noir movies of the 1940s, which possibly reflected men’s fears about women’s newly emerging post-war independence.  A series of films had at the center of the plot, a troubled, brooding male (Robert Mitchum, Fred MacMurray, or Humphrey Bogart) who succumbed to the evil charms of an intelligent, seductive woman.  The outcome of this interaction would be destructive for both of them. The men invariably were lead astray on to a twisted path of deception, murder, and mayhem under the influence of these femme fatales.

With this book/movie (Gone Girl), the virgin-whore dichotomy is still firmly in place.  Men continue to feel torn about choosing between the “simple, good, non-threatening, but boring woman” and the “interesting, sexy, intelligent but ultimately destructive woman”.  Neither kind of woman exists in reality.  The only place they exist is in the fear-ridden minds of misogynists, and the books and movies that flow from them.

If you read the book or watched the movie, please share your thoughts on it. If you didn’t, please share your thoughts on the concept of vengeance, getting even, and feminism, or on the distorted/appropriate portrayal of strong women characters in books and movies.

The rapists often don’t see their actions as crimes, the police said, and don’t expect the victims to report them.

Sometimes one crime and how it is reported tells so much about a society.

‘Five drunken young men from a nearby farming village accosted a couple…, beating the young man and gang-raping the woman. It was the latest in a series of brutal sexual assaults and gang rapes of women in India’s booming capital and its sprawling suburbs.’ (Thanks for the link RenKiss)

“The attackers often do not see their actions as crimes, the police said, and do not expect the women they attack to report them. “They have no doubt that they will get away with it,” said H. G. S. Dhaliwal, a deputy police commissioner in New Delhi who has investigated several such cases.”

We shall soon see where the attackers get so much confidence from.

Let’s believe the attackers really don’t see a gang rape as a crime, or at least not a serious crime.

How do they get this idea? This news report illustrates how. It’s a perfect example of how sexual crimes must NOT be reported.

One example,

“In each case there has been an explosive clash between the rapidly modernizing city and the embattled, conservative village culture upon which the capital increasingly encroaches.”

Why this effort to explain the rapists’ point of view?

And the facts are inaccurate. These rapes are a result of clashes of culture?
So rapists (some with previous criminal backgrounds) don’t rape women from their villages? (Click if you think they don’t.)

Going by the above logic a 6 month old or a 2 year old would be safe in these ‘sleepy villages’ with narrow lanes ‘redolent of cow dung’, since these babies are not ‘enjoying’ any unheard of freedoms, or romancing forbidden lovers?

What about when village girls looking for jobs in Delhi get raped by WagonR owners?

“India’s economy is expected to grow 9 percent this year, and its extended boom has brought sweeping social change. The number of women in the workforce has roughly doubled in the past 15 years.”

Can’t really blame the rapists, can we? How are they expected to adjust to ‘sweeping social changes’ and women doubling in workforce?

So women who stay inside their homes and whose lives signify no social changes are safer?

More facts.

A 60 year old, raped by her husband’s employer in her house (this rapist was earlier acquitted in a rape case), another 77 year old raped by a rikshaw puller, an 8 year old in her house, a 12 year old by her driver, 17 year old daughter of a Grade IV employee in Lady Hardinge Hospital, a 9 year old in Sarojini Nagar in her house, a 3 year old

[All examples are from Delhi]

The victims are almost invariably young, educated working women who are enjoying freedom unknown even a decade ago. The accused are almost always young high school dropouts from surrounding villages, where women who work outside the home are often seen as lacking in virtue and therefore deserving of harassment and even rape.”

Examples above show this is not true.

FACT.

Who gets raped?

Everyone. According to some statistics, only one in 69 rape cases in India are even reported. Only 20 % of those reported result in convictions for the rape accused.

Rapes happen across the social strata in India. In the Indian villages, it is the poor villager’s wife or sister or daughter who gets raped by another poor rowdy villager, and everyone from the local thanedar to the landlord. These rapes, unless the news becomes public due to unavoidable reasons, are never reported. It is reported in the newspapers or reaches the police only when a rape becomes part of a larger caste battle, family feud or political game. [Click to read and save the entire, very well written  article.]

“Seema Chowdhury, 20, the sister of one of the accused men, graduated from high school. But when she tried to enroll in college to become a teacher, her brothers refused to allow it. Young women who wander too far face many dangers, they argued.

“I wanted to do something in my life,” she said. “But they thought it was not a good idea.”

It’s so nice to see they are family men and want to see their sisters safe from men like themselves. Maybe such nice men can’t really be blamed for doing something they don’t see as a crime?

In comparison, the young woman who was raped here had unimaginable freedom. She had a job as an accountant at a garment factory and her own cellphone and e-mail account. Using those, she carried on a secret romance with a young man she met online despite the fact that her parents had arranged for her to be married to someone else, according to the police.”

Rape justification continues, so does victim blaming. The girl was asking for it by being in the wrong place, in wrong company, at a wrong time and doing the wrong thing – basically breaking all the rules these nice rapists lay down for their own nice and hence safe sister. Also note, the notorious cell phone and the internet being used to carry on a  ‘romance’ when her nice parents have arranged a nice match for her elsewhere. Maybe she asked for it?

If she was a Swiss Diplomat, working with full permission of her parents, not meeting her secret lover, she would have been safer?

When they picked up Tony …he was still drunk, Mr. Singh said.

“He was so shameless he narrated the whole thing without any sense of remorse,” he said. Tony later denied that he had raped the woman, according to the police report.

Tony had apparently assumed that the rape victim would not come forward because the shame would be too great.

Why don’t the victims feel more angry than ashamed?

This newly-wed’s rapists were also given a subtle benefit of rape justification’ because she probably opened the door and offered a glass of juice to her rapist and murderer. Did she know the rapist? That might justify the rape?

It has become a strategy to talk about a victim’s ‘shame’ instead of pointing out the rate of conviction, as reason for women not reporting.

If a victim was assured support instead of blame, do you think she would not have complained?

“on Feb. 5 a young man came into police station to report that his cellphone and laptop had been stolen. When the young man claimed they had been snatched near some isolated farmland at the edge of the city, Mr. Singh became suspicious: it was an unlikely place for a robbery.

He pressed for details, and eventually the young man admitted taking his girlfriend to the secluded area so they could be alone, and that five men had beaten him and raped her.”

Why didn’t the man want to say anything about the rape? He too had little faith in the police, and, he knew a couple being alone in a secluded spot would be seen as a bigger crime than a gang rape.

“I realized from the beginning that the girl would not help us,” the police said.

“The police will not be able to restore my honor.”

Is it really about honor?

Why don’t women report rapes to the police?

We all have heard about shame and honor etc. But there’s more.

Police. Police is the reason.

Have you ever taken a good look at the average Indian policeman? have you ever been to a police station?

A police station is an intimidating place. The cultural sophistication of the average policeman in India is pretty much that of the average roadside thug. Your average policeman hardly knows how to talk politely, is barely educated, is uncouth, brash and rude.

Is this the paragon of sensitivity a victim of rape will run to?

Add to this the rising number of custodial rapes which every one knows about. People will turn to a policeman only when they are desperate. Educated, rich people are abused by the police in India routinely and they have to call upon their networks and call upon little netas to get the policemen to treat them with some consideration.

Expect a policeman to humiliate a rape victim, turn her back, discourage her, be foul-mouthed or maybe rape her in turn.” [Click to read the article]

*

Such reporting tells a rapist that when his mother claims, “If these girls roam around openly like this, then the boys will make mistakes.” someone looking to justify rape will promptly quote her with some satisfaction.

What else do we say that gives rapists so much confidence?

Related posts:

The rapists are listening gratefully.

If he were a a woman he would have filed a case against a man everyday.

Updated:

Another example of Victim Blaming by New York Times:
Victim-blaming in the New York Times’ Cleveland gang rape article.

(Thank You Ankita Prasad)

Three Saudi youths were arrested for attempting to sexually assault a teenager…

Teenager escapes rape attempt (in Taif,  Saudi Arabia)

Did you find this news difficult to believe? I did.

Is the victim going to be stoned for attracting the molesters attention?

No.

“The victim told police, after  escaping from the youths, that while walking down the road a car with three men pulled up and invited the victim to join them. When the victim refused to get in, two of the men tried to drag the victim  into the vehicle, but the victim resisted and managed to run away. They had also taken the victim’s mobile phone.

With the help of a Bangladeshi worker, the victim called police and described the car the attackers were driving.

A police patrol detained a car matching the victim’s description when it passed through a checkpoint later in the night.

After being interrogated, the youths admitted to trying to sexually assault the victim. They also confessed that they had sold the victim’s mobile phone for SR300 in a nearby market.

They took the police to the shop where they sold the phone and officers interrogated the shopkeeper.” (News from here with minor changes, to make a point…)

Can you guess why this victim is not going to be blamed for this (attempted) crime?

Sexual Assault Prevention Tips Guaranteed to Work!

Thanks SR, for this link.

In thousands of ways, our culture has conditioned us to anticipate rape as a natural consequence of violating social norms. Rape myths serve to keep women out of the public sphere, and rape culture wants you to believe that the only safe place for a woman is her kitchen.

Don’t talk to strangers, wear revealing clothing,… take public transportation, travel alone, …because you will get raped… when you think about it, that’s a pretty effective way of maintaining social control over women and…

The list of don’ts goes on and on, each rule wildly impractical, blatantly inconsistent with actual statistics related to sexual assault

The myth is that rapists are strangers who attack because they are provoked and lose all control.

The fact is that in 70% of cases, the rapist is someone known to the victim, including young children and old people. Most attacks are planned. [Link]

Why do we have entire dossiers on How to Not Get Raped and no guidelines for How to Not Rape People? We need a cultural revolution. [click to read the article]

I agree.

Here’s a list of Sexual Assault Prevention Tips Guaranteed to Work.
“1. Don’t put drugs in people’s drinks in order to control their behavior.

2. When you see someone walking by themselves, leave them alone!

3. If you pull over to help someone with car problems, remember not to assault them!

4. NEVER open an unlocked door or window uninvited.

5. If you are in an elevator and someone else gets in, DON’T ASSAULT THEM!

6. Remember, people go to laundry to do their laundry, do not attempt to molest someone who is alone in a laundry room.

7. USE THE BUDDY SYSTEM! If you are not able to stop yourself from assaulting people, ask a friend to stay with you while you are in public.

8. Always be honest with people! Don’t pretend to be a caring friend in order to gain the trust of someone you want to assault. Consider telling them you plan to assault them. If you don’t communicate your intentions, the other person may take that as a sign that you do not plan to rape them.

9. Don’t forget: you can’t have sex with someone unless they are awake!

10. Carry a whistle! If you are worried you might assault someone “on accident”you can hand it to the person you are with, so they can blow it if you do.

Lack of sex education could mean that a rapist may not be sure of what rape is. A lot of Indians learn about sex from rape scenes in Indian movies or from pornography, both can be misleading.

I found this site useful.

1. Do not think you have the right to rape a woman.

2. Learn what rape is. Rape is forcing someone to have sex with you when they do not want to.

3. Most rapes are committed by men who know the women they are raping. If the woman you are forcing to have sex with you happens to be your girlfriend, your neighbor, your cousin, your sister, or your wife, it is still RAPE.

4. When someone says no to you, that means you have no right to force yourself on them.

5. When someone pushes you away, or otherwise inclinates, verbally or with physical movement that they do not want to have sex with you, and you force yourself on them, that is rape. [Click to read more]

And here are some more tips for prevention of sexual assaults.

1. While traveling by bus, don’t start moving towards people  to stand close to them. Don’t pinch, grope, stare at, fall on them or push them. Don’t stand in their way, in a way that they would be forced to touch you.

2. Don’t spend your free time standing on street corners staring at people going about their daily lives. Don’t whistle at them. Street sexual harassment is responsible for thousands of Indians not being allowed to study, travel, work or just hang out with friends.

3. Don’t start singing when you see them, don’t push your friends towards them, don’t try to get their attention by laughing, staring, mock-wrestling, falling etc.

3. Don’t assume they want you to approach them because they are smiling at each other.

4. If  people are out after dark, it is not because they want you to rape them. (Fact: Nobody wants to be raped).

5. They wear skinny jeans/tight skirts because they like to, not because they want your attention and not because they are asking to be raped.

6. Fact: When people say ‘No’, they do not mean ‘yes’.

7. Don’t throw acid on them if they turned down your frandship request. Don’t spread stories about how you rejected their offer of frandship.

8. If they ask you the time, help or directions, give them if you can, and then move away. Asking for help does not mean they want you to assault them.

9. If people are not frowning it does not mean they want you to approach them.

10. If they are drunk you still have no right to rape or molest them.

11. You cannot rape them even if they are sleeping with somebody else. Or even if they are sleeping (or have slept) with more than one person.

12. Their morals are not your concern.

Feel free to add more.

I also believe in such reminders. The society needs to hear in no uncertain terms that the criminal, not the victim is responsible for this crime (just like any other crime).

Updated to add:

As recommended by Allytude

FaceBook group created

Please join and add your tips and links to any blog posts that deal with sexual harassment or sexual crimes against women, the right way.

By dealing with the offender.

Let’s say no to Victim Blaming.

Sexual Assault Prevention Tips Guaranteed to Work!

Wanted: A world fit for… victims.

“We seem to have come a long way from the 1979 case of 16-year-old Mathura, who was raped by two policemen within a police compound, when the court acquitted the policemen on the grounds that Mathura had eloped with her boyfriend and “was habituated to sexual intercourse” says Gurchran Das in today’s Times of India.

I agree with  him. The conviction of the rapist in the Dhaula Kuan (Delhi) gang rape is good news.

The ‘court admonished the defence for maligning the victim’, saying the private life of the victim has nothing to do with with the case.

It cannot be said that a lady, who has already lost her virginity, is an unreliable person,” the court said, rejecting the plea that the victim had sexual relations with others before the incident.

(‘The victim was abducted on May 8, 2005 when she was walking back home after buying food from a roadside eatery along with a friend and was raped by four accused in a car near Dhaula Kuan in South Delhi here.’) [Link]

Seeing how we treat the victims ever wonder what happens to Sex Workers in such cases?  Do read this short story by Pawan.

Amrutha shared this eye opening video on twitter – ‘ Sunitha Krishnan’s fight against sex slavery‘. The description reads, “Sunitha Krishnan has dedicated her life to rescuing women and children from sex slavery, a multimilion-dollar global market. In this courageous talk, she tells three powerful stories.”

And she asks, “Can you break your culture of silence, can you speak to at least two persons about this story..?

If he were a woman, he would have filed a case against a man everyday.

British student Kaya Eldridge alleged that she  was molested by the local plumber  in her flat in Ahemdabad.

I am not surprised that the defence lawyer allegedly wanted to know if she drank or smoked, I have no idea if he wanted to know what she was wearing… but I would be surprised if he didn’t.

But what puzzled me was that they allegedly spoke to her in Gujarati.

Elridge found the “experience in court ” “intensely humiliating.  [link]

‘Even public prosecutor J S Joshi left the court during cross examination to attend hearing in another case, she complained.’ [Link]

‘Eldridge broke down in the court and pleaded for privacy in the trial after alleged hostile questioning by the defence lawyer. “I felt powerless and helpless–as if I did not have a voice. Nobody was listening. I felt as if I was not being respected. I felt as if I had been stripped of dignity.’ [link]

Why is this so easy to believe ?

She also said, ‘Everyone in the courtroom was laughing at me.'[link]

So I am glad she is strong and says “It is important to come out and say that this is unacceptable behaviour. I will stay in India till the end of the case. I don’t intent to be chased out soon.” [Link]

Made me want to clap. My best wishes to Kaya Elridges.

‘The girl’s lawyer Meena Jagtap strongly objected to defence lawyer Sanjay Prajapati’s remark: “If I were a woman, I would have filed a case against a man every day.” The Bar Council of India has also reportedly decided to file a case against the defence lawyer.’ [Link]

I agree with Indo Canadian, a commenter, “The level of sexual abuse attacks in India is disgusting. A woman can’t even walk down the street without having strangers grope her, it’s even more horrifying when a man does this in her home. Indian culture needs to develop respect for women.” [link]

It really does.

Trivialising Sexual Crimes Against Women

This *joke* could never make me laugh.

“When rape is inevitable, you might as well lie back and enjoy it.”

Why is it that sexual crimes against women are taken so lightly in India?
When we hear of a woman being sexually assaulted, why do we start wondering about her life style, character or the way she was dressed?
We are conditioned to believe that sex offenses are related to how attractive the woman was looking.

Do we realise such talk encourages sex offenders?
And going by this logic, should it be legal to rape a sex worker?

Amitabh Bachchan as a Police man in Dostana tells Zeenat Aman she should have expected some street sexual harassment because of the way she was dressed.
“What’s wrong with these clothes?” She asked.
“Bahut kam hain.” Big B replies. (Translation: You are wearing ‘nude clothes’.)
We know that is the thinking everywhere in India.
(Couldn’t find the video…)

Today Mangalore molesters are openly threatening more molestations on Valentine’s Day. One more group of people will have to learn to live in still more fear.

Are we going to be told to put away a favorite outfit and choose something that would not give “a 40-year-old, fifth-standard drop-out, who is a founding member of the Sri Rama Sene” an excuse to molest us? (Not to mention he must have experience at such tasks, he has 40+ pending criminal cases against him.)

Terrorism is unequivocally condemned and has stringent laws against it, but assaults by local terror groups, like the Mangalore militants, despite being totally unconstitutional are considered ‘debatable‘.

Doesn’t this make such politically motivated, sponsored internal terrorism more dangerous, and to a larger number of people ?
It is a terrifying precedence.
And this terror is faced everyday of their lives, by half the population of this country and their worried mothers and fathers.

I think some humans (including some women!) cannot understand why women react so strongly to sexual harassment. Like in the *joke* above, maybe they think it is possible to find the attention flattering?

Men probably cannot understand what a woman feels when a pervert is ‘just flashing‘.

How does one explain …? I wonder what would be the equivalent of a rape for a man? What would be close to being equally traumatic?

Wonder if your guess is the same as mine.

Edited to add: Sasha’s post on Rape…