“Gang-Rape” of Indian Culture by US Media

Our title was inspired by an anguished tweet from an Indian woman (name withheld for her privacy) to Paul Beckett of the Wall Street Journal:

  • “i swear. internationally it seems entire country is getting raped”

We thought this woman’s tweet perfectly caught the sentiment of many Indians who saw their culture raped internationally. We added the “gang” element simply because the global media, the US media, acted in unison in their savage attacks on Indian culture, culture they disdain but know absolutely nothing about. 

If you want to know how deep this disdain is, read the following quote of a Minerva Kennedy in the Washington Post:

  • It’s easy to blame a retrograde culture that’s hostile to women, but rapid transformation is also part of the story. (emphasis ours)

Look at the complete self-assurance of Ms. Kennedy in describing Indian culture as “retrograde” and “hostile to women“. There is not even a shade of doubt in her mind. Minerva Kennedy lives in Delhi and has numerous friends in Delhi, she tells us in her article. Yet, despite all these “friends” or perhaps because of these “friends”, Minerva Kennedy harbors such contempt for Indian culture.

If calling Indian culture retrograde was not enough, Minerva Kennedy talked down to the entire country and suggested India is ungrateful:

  • “For two decades, the West has been cheering India’s rise…”

Meaning, how ungrateful are you India? We in the West have been cheering you and this is how you behave! This is what we think Minerva Kennedy meant. But we don’t have to think to understand the message of a Monique Cattrell. Read the comment she sent us:

  • “I am horrified at the hatred Hindus nurture for the west. This is horrible. It is undignified and unjustified. India does not deserve all the help she is receiving from us. To the contrary, due to all this hatred, she deserves to go back tribal.”

We do not know Monique Cattrell but the contempt in her comment is deeply imbedded in global media, especially the British media. Witness the quote attributed to a Libby Purves in the Times of London:

  • “India’s “patriarchal culture,” where Indian men are characterized, as Libby Purves put
    it recently in the Times of London, by a “murderous, hyena-like male contempt” towards women.
    (emphasis ours).

Monique Cattrell was content to call Indians “tribal“. Libby Purves & Times of London called Indians “hyenas“. But then contempt towards Indian culture and Indians in deeply ingrained in the British mindset and culture. America is a very different country from Britain. But, as we have pointed out often, American media is extraordinarily insular and they follow the British lead when thinking about the Indian subcontinent.

And no media organization is more British-like than the New York Times. When New York Times looks to India for writers, whom do they select? Names like Faleiro, George, Joseph; names from a tiny minority, names from a non-Indian religion. This bias, by the way, is reserved only for “Indians” at the New York Times. You will never find articles that defame Israeli culture from a religious minority in Israel or articles that defame European culture from a religious minority in Europe.

Read what Sonia Faleiro wrote in her op-ed in the New York Times:

  • “India has laws against rape; seats reserved for women in buses, female officers; special police help lines. But these measures have been ineffective in the face of a patriarchal and misogynistic culture.” (emphasis ours).

Use of a phrase in the New York Times gives a ticket to the rest of American media. Almost every single article we read used words like “patriarchal” and “misogynistic”. This topic and this treatment went as far and as low as the Foreign Policy Magazine which published articles about India’s “Woman Problem”.

At least, New York Times & other print organizations used factual incidents to attack Indian culture. CNN wasn’t bound by such journalistic boundaries. CNN’s Erin Burnett invented facts in her zeal:

  • In her program on Tuesday, January 8, she declared “there isn’t even a word for rape in Hindi, the predominant language spoken in India“. This stupid, bizarre statement was accompanied by over-dramatized facial expressions to suggest that Indians are too backward, too misogynistic to have a concept of rape. She retracted this statement the next day amid protests and admitted to the existence of the Hindi word Balatkar

A few days later, Erin Burnett made a sensationalized report of another case of brutal rape in India, worse than the Delhi murder she said. On her CNN OutFront show, she reported:

  • “In another case, a woman travelling with her 10-year old to New Delhi was dragged off a train, gang-raped, strangled and then hanged.”

There was a slight problem in her reporting of facts. On the same day, January 14, the Senior police officer handling the case announced to the media:

  • “The medical report has clearly
    established the absence of any kind of sexual activity.Going by the
    findings of the medical team, she probably committed suicide”

So Erin Burnett’s highly sensationalized report about an even worse gang rape case than the Delhi rape-murder turned out to be a case of suicide by a mentally challenged woman. But Erin Burnett did not retract her story the next day. And this standard of journalistic honesty and ethics seems perfectly acceptable to CNN & Time Warner management, at least when attacking Indian culture. 

British Descriptions of Indian Culture – Then & Now

What we don’t understand is how Britain’s view of Indian culture changed from disdain for its “feminine &
” nature to disgust for its  “patriarchal & misogynistic” nature? 

If you want to know how the British described Indian culture, read the quotes below:

  • (James) Mill had declared that “the Hindu, like the eunuch, excels in the qualities of a slave,” 37 – page xxiv
  • Thomas Babington Macaulay had dwelt on the emasculation of Bengalis, who’d “found the little finger of the Company thicker than the loins” of the prince Siraj-ud-daula 37.- page xxiv
  • Rudyard Kipling – It was the Bengali male’s “extraordinary effeminacy“, as evinced by his diminutive physique, his flowing clothes, and his worship of goddesses, that best illustrated why he, and by extension India, had to be guided by the firm, benevolent hand of a supremely masculine race.” 37 – page xxiv

James Mill, Thomas Macaulay and Rudyard Kipling are British names that are respected and celebrated in America. Those British felt closer to Muslims of the Indian subcontinent because of their greater “masculinity”. And no group was respected more than the Pathans (Pushtuns) of Northwestern India. Churchill in particular was a great fan of the masculine culture of the Pathan.

Those British did have a point. The Indian word for power and strength is “Shakti“, a feminine word. The destroyer of evil and the protector of the world is “Durga“,  a female Roop or Representation of the Creator. Every other culture & religion ascribes masculine gender and only masculine gender to the Creator. Indian culture is unique in its definition of the Creator as supra-gender. This is why the Roop of evil destruction can be feminine in Indian culture. 

None of this has changed in the past 300 years. Actually, the power of women in Indian families has increased, especially in the past 40-50 years in North India. Even the New York Times admitted this in their recent article about the power of the Mother-in-Law in Indian TV serials.

So how did the old British contempt towards Indian culture for being “feminine & matriarchal” get suddenly transformed into Anglo-American contempt towards Indian culture for being “patriarchal & misogynistic”?

Or is it simply that their deep seated hate towards Indian culture is flexible enough to find different forms of attack? 

Rape & Sexual Harassment in India & USA – Comparative Facts

Is Indian culture to blame for rape and harassment seen in today’s India? Or are they a part of a global problem? We know from the above what the Anglo-American media thinks. But what are the facts?

We found a couple of factual and balanced articles (exceptions to the rule?) in American media that discussed comparative statistics. The first one was by Diana Reeves, a freelance journalist, in the Washington Post. Ms. Reeves was anguished about the tragedy in Delhi but maintained her sense of fairness:

  • “Fewer than half of rapes in the United States are even reported; one study found only 16 percent of rapes were ever reported to the police.”
  • “It’s been reported that a woman is sexually assaulted in India every 20 minutes; in the United States, it’s every 2 minutes. The conviction rate for rapes in India for the year 2011 was just 26.4 percent — barely a fourth. That’s impressive when compared to 5.7 percent of convictions for reported rapes in England and Wales, according to a 2008 Washington Post story. In the United States, 97 percent of rapists never spend a single day in jail.

The most thoughtful article we read was posted on CNBC.com by Poulami Roychowdhury, a doctoral student in Sociology at NYU. Below are few quotes from this article that tell the comparative story:

  • Attention to India’s “patriarchal culture” occludes the prevalence of
    rape and other forms of violence against women throughout the entire
  • According to the World Bank, more women between the ages of 15-44 are
    killed or disabled as a result of gender-based violence than cancer, car
    accidents, malaria and war combined. In the global epidemic of violence
    against women, the United States is no exception. The Centers for
    Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 1 in 5 American women will
    be raped in her lifetime
    , and the US Department of Justice reports more
    than 300,000 American women are raped each year
    . In 2011, India, a
    country whose population is four times greater than the United States,
    had 12 times fewer reported rapes
  • If police officials in India fail to take rape survivors seriously,
    American law enforcement is not so far behind. The Federal Bureau of
    Investigation crime data reveals only 24 percent of reported rapes
    result in an arrest in the United States
    , a rate far below that of other
    violent crimes
    such as murder (79 percent) and aggravated assault (51
    percent). These statistics show that our own country displays hostility
    towards women that is similar to India

What about the widely reported stories of harassment of women in the streets of Delhi? We recall an angry outburst  on TV by a female Fox anchor (Juliet Huddy, if our memory serves us) about the groping and pinching of women in New York City subways. Look at the tweet below from an American man named Ryan (last name withheld for his privacy) about  an article in the Washington Post about street harassment in Delhi:

  • “While I’m really happy that the women of India are getting attention, street and transit harassment is a problem in US too.”

There is no doubt that the police in India seem to care less about assault on women than about other crimes. But that doesn’t seem restricted to Indian police. For example, this week we saw the following tweet from Kenneth Roth, chief executive of Human Rights Watch:

  • “Washington police
    chief tries to defend her department’s neglect of sexual assault cases
    in advance of @HRW report.” 

Is Gender-violence a global phenomenon?

The above statistics tell us that violence against women and the cultural norms that tolerate them are found everywhere in the world. The USA is probably the single richest and most developed  country in the world. The soft power of American culture is celebrated and accepted around the world. America has done more to awaken people to racial, social and religious injustice & maltreatment than any other society in today’s world.

But America still has the same problems about gender-violence and harassment of women that India does, a society much poorer and far less developed than America. Again, we quote from Ms. Roychowdhary, the doctoral student from NYU:

  • This uneven landscape, where violence against women is simultaneously
    prevalent throughout the world
    and notably higher in the industrialized,
    urban centers of developing countries than their ostensibly “backwards”
    hinterlands, should make us all pause. Gender-based violence is a
    complex phenomenon, with multiple causes and social manifestations, and
    does not lend itself to facile theorizations about “patriarchal culture”
    and “village mentalities
    .” This reduction not only ignores the facts,
    but also is dangerously misleading.

If you think about it, India should be far worse than America and more like Pakistan, Afghanistan, in its treatment of women. After all, North India was colonized and ruled by Muslim invaders from Afghanistan continuously for over 500 years.

The reason it is not, we think, is due to the respect in Indian culture for women and its worship of female Roop of God like Durga. But for this culture, North India would be just like nonPakistan, its ethnic & geographical kin, in the treatment of women. 

But the US media discarded all facts, jettisoned all balance and went on an rampage against Indian culture. The viciousness and savagery of their attacks prompted an Indian woman tweeter to cry out:

  • “i swear. internationally it seems entire country is getting raped” :

Rape, we are told, is really about power and about the violent exercise of that power against defenseless victims. The Anglo-American media is the world’s strongest power today. What we saw in the past three weeks is naked savage exercise of that power against defenseless Indian culture, defenseless because of the ingrained timidity of Indians especially against their former colonial masters. 

In other words, a gang-rape of Indian culture by the Anglo-American media.

* the references to quotes by Mill, Macaulay & Kipling are from the superbly documented book, Churchill’s Secret War by Dr. Madhusree Mukherjee, a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, an editorial board member at Scientific American for 8 years & a Guggenheim fellow.

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