Domain Query: Cracked jumps the shark

The Dictator: 'Brave, insensitive, funny and horrible' - video review
Cultural insensitivity can be hilariously awesome
AM sent over an interesting link to a Cracked.com article last night that talked about five unpleasant realities of visiting India as a young Western woman. It is worth reading through all the way, if only to get an idea of just how culturally tone-deaf the supposedly enlightened and oh-so-sensitive folks at places like Cracked can be. Here's a taste to give you some idea what the rest of the write-up is like:
The summer before my junior year of college, I volunteered to work for a mental health clinic in a small city in India. I suppose I should say that it was "challenging yet rewarding," or that it was "the hardest summer of my life" but that I really "found myself." But, I'm not about to turn my experience into Eat, Pray, Love. It didn't take long after I arrived for things to turn ugly. 
Sure, when people ask me what India was like, I often just placate them with funny stories about shitting my pants on an airplane [Didact: here's a tip- don't ever fly Air India or Indian Airlines if you can afford better. Seriously. Just don't.] or watching men practice their Bollywood moves at the gym. [Didact: yes, this is a real thing and yes, it's ridiculous.] While those stories are true, they're not the whole truth. The truth is, almost all of my memories of India are tainted because of one uncontrollable factor: I am female, and, in India [...]
AM specifically got annoyed with the author's comments about arranged marriages in India, so I'll tackle that later in my response (since I know a thing or three about the subject), but it's worth exploring the rest of the article in full first.

Since I happen to spend a bit of time every year visiting India, it was certainly interesting to read this young woman's perspective- who, for convenience, I shall refer to as Ms. A henceforth.

Unfortunately, it was interesting for (many of) the wrong reasons.

In fact, the article reminded me more than anything else of a recent article written by Kotaku journalist and bona fide SJW Tim Rogers about his visit to Japan. It has the same appalling tone-deafness, the same cultural blinkers, and the same set of maladjusted assumptions that Mr. Rogers' write-up did. My Reaxxion colleague Steve Alexander did a great job of responding to Mr. Rogers's write-up, in much the same way that a cat responds to an old roll of toilet paper.

Iz in ur office, shreddinz ur stupidz

Context is Good for the Soul

The first and biggest problem with the entire article is the fact that there is not much context provided. It's very hard to figure out the reasons behind what happened to this young lady unless you understand something about Indian culture and social values.

India is incredibly diverse, to a degree that most Westerners struggle to understand. There are at least 14 official languages, and a good 60 recognised ones, along with Lord only knows how many hundreds of dialects, spoken throughout the country. A man from Tamil Nadu will have next to nothing in common with a man from Kashmir; both of them will have nearly nothing in common with a man from West Bengal.

Other than maybe Indonesia, I don't think you'll be able to find a country with more ethnic, religious, linguistic, cultural, or social diversity anywhere on Earth.

Knowing what I do of India, then, I can state with a high degree of confidence that the author of this article probably wasn't staying with a typical city-dwelling cosmopolitan Indian family. Indeed, Ms. A states that she was volunteering at a mental health clinic in a small city in India. Indian families that live in the big cities like Hyderabad, Bangalore, Bombay, Calcutta, or Delhi, are generally fairly laid-back about the sorts of things that she complains about.

There is a further distinction to be made regarding religion and social conservatism. While India tends to be socially conservative in most parts of the country, especially when compared to the highly hedonistic West, there are definitely degrees of conservatism to be found within ethnic and religious groups. The most socially conservative group, by far, is India's Muslim population. Some 20% of the country is Muslim, and even in the large cities, they adhere to a culture and a sense of propriety that is nearly impossible for a Western mind to understand.

Based on what the author has written, therefore, I'm guessing- and it's only a guess- that she was staying with a Muslim family.

And if that's the case, then that goes a long way toward explaining what happened to her.

Having established that she was probably staying with a Muslim family, possibly in a small city, and likely brought a very great deal of her Western cultural "baggage" with her, let us proceed with addressing each of the points that she raised.

1. Indian Rules of Public Behaviour for Women Are Restrictive

https://s3.amazonaws.com/WisdomPlanet/wisdomtimes/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Modern-married-Indian-woman.jpg
You can practically feel the oppression
It is true that, by Western standards, Indian cultures demand that women are demure and modest in public.

To which I respond: so what?

Having seen what we have of Western women, would it be so terrible to ask that women refrain from gratuitous displays of cleavage and skin in public?

Now, the author does have a valid point in that rules concerning Indian women in public are pretty restrictive in traditional societies. And that is true. But this is because traditional societies recognise what the West has long since forgotten: that if they are allowed to, women can and do act like overgrown children in public, with no sense of responsibility unless it is enforced.

This can be, and is, taken too far in India, especially in Islamic society- which is one of the reasons why I detest most Islamic societies to begin with, because they take the concept of restraining a woman's most dangerous impulses to such an extreme that they virtually deny her free will, and that is simply unacceptable.

But it's important to remember that those rules exist in Indian society for a reason. They exist for the protection of women. What Western girls see as unreasonable and silly restrictions upon their behaviour, are in reality rules that are put in place specifically for their safety. They are taken too far, warped, and misinterpreted, to be sure; yet, they were originally put in place for entirely good reasons.

2. Indian Society Enforces a Restrictive Dress Code

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-KxIC-QFy_5A/T9YFab7Sc8I/AAAAAAAAAbI/yhD9HwkzrR0/s1600/pakistani+salwar+kameez+latest+design+2011+(6).jpg

Uh, yeah, and?

Indian summers are indeed sweltering. Temperatures hit 37 degrees Celsius routinely- in parts of the country, that can go as high as 45- with mind-breaking humidity. A Westerner who is unused to such brutal heat and humidity is going to be horribly uncomfortable, regardless of dress.

Indian dress has adapted to meet those requirements. A salwar kameez, which you see in the picture above, is a baggy, flowing tunic with pantaloons of some kind, usually made of cotton, which breathes easily and is comfortable. (Or so I'm told. Also, if I get the fashion terms wrong, don't be surprised- I'm a bloke, frilly nonsense is beyond my capacity for understanding.) It is a traditional form of dress in both Hindu and Muslim parts of India.

As that photo also proves, you can be both comfortable and pretty in traditional Indian dress.

Suffice to say, then, that the number of f*cks that I give about Ms. A's problems related to her wardrobe issues can be charitably described as "minimal".

3. Women Must Be Accompanied in Public

Saudi-Arabian-Government-Sets-New-Rules-for-Saudi-Men-Marrying ...
Wrong country, but you get the idea
Again, a little context is needed. This issue becomes more pronounced in Islamic parts of India, obviously, but it's not necessarily the norm. It depends on which bit of India you're visiting.

In Calcutta, for instance, women are generally pretty safe on their own; this is still a city in which women can go out at night and feel secure.

In Bombay or especially New Delhi, though, this is not the case. Delhi is far less safe. A woman on her own on the streets or in public transport is, unfortunately, quite likely to be harassed or molested.

Now let's be perfectly clear about one thing. Women in public spaces have every right to be left alone to enjoy themselves, as long as they take responsibility for their own actions. If they obey the law and the traditions of society, then no man has any right whatsoever to bother them. And if they are bothered by aggressive men, they have every right to defend themselves or require other men to defend them.

Yet male misbehaviour persists nonetheless, and if you've spent any amount of time around the average sexually repressed Indian man, it won't surprise you as to why. The rules and traditions that have grown up in India recognise this, however quietly, and work with and around that tendency to try to protect women.

This is one thing that feminists never seem to understand. The things that they find objectionable are in fact often put in place specifically to protect women. Just as women have specific biological drives and imperatives, so too do men. And Indian men, regardless of what Hindu nationalists might think, are no paragons of virtue. They're men, and as men they are prone to violence, brutality, and rapine if they do not keep their worst urges in check.

Again, it is possible to take these rules too far. I see no reason to treat women like vegetables incapable of making their own decisions- provided that women are held accountable for those same decisions. Unfortunately, feminists tend to forget the requirement of accountability that comes with freedom.

When all is said and done, this is where I think Ms. A has a valid criticism. And as the Single Dudes pointed out a couple of years back, and I agreed with them, Indian men are some of the most sexually repressed and frustrated beta males around. When you combine that sexual repression with traditional mores that practically require women to be treated as helpless imbeciles, you have all of the necessary ingredients for a very nasty, dangerous cocktail that results in real physical danger to women.

4. The Rules Still Aren't Enough

sexual abuse

As Ms. A states, she was sexually abused- though I have to point out that she wasn't actually raped, at least in the incident that she describes, under any reasonable legal interpretation.

I feel really badly for Ms. A. Sexual abuse is not to be tolerated, and she's right to say that India has a serious problem with this sort of thing. Again, here I think Ms. A has an entirely legitimate criticism.

Part of the reason why it is a problem is because women are indeed very much at the mercy of their men. In a country where economic and sexual liberalisation have yet to reach the majority of the population, a woman is dependent upon her father, her brothers, her husband, and eventually her sons. If any of these men choose to abuse her, it's next to impossible for her to fight back.

I honestly don't know how to solve this problem without creating new and probably worse ones.

You could argue that the right way to do it is to legislate it away- but we've seen how that works in the West, putting as it does the entire burden of suspicion onto a man in virtually every single reported case of domestic abuse, whether justified or not. How many innocent men have had their lives ruined by unfounded allegations of rape and abuse? Do we really want to extend that to India and other patriarchal Asian societies?

You could argue that the solution is more female empowerment- but we've seen how that works too. Laws in the West work specifically to absolve women of responsibility for their actions, while putting the entire burden of blame upon men. Divorce rates in the West are at or above 50% for precisely this reason; do we really want to destroy Indian society the same way?

Moreover, anyone who has any level of experience with the Indian legal system knows that it is corrupt, bureaucratic, slow, and stupid. India's Constitution alone is completely unreadable- unlike its American counterpart, which is a masterpiece of brevity, elegance, and intellectual brilliance, the Indian version is a tendentious, turgid mess that contradicts itself openly and thoroughly.

Self-defence is an option that I strongly approve of. Having visited Israel and met a few traditional-minded yet very independent and capable women there, all of whom have self-defence training, I highly encourage any woman to train to defend herself- I consider self-defence a duty, not merely a right. However, it falls on men to provide self-defence training, which is a bit of a weird idea in India. And while I am thoroughly and completely in favour of women owning and having access to firearms, Indian gun laws make that rather difficult.

The only thing I can think of is to change the culture. And by that, I mean that more Christianity is to be preferred over less, especially in a largely pagan country like India.

Think about it. Christianity was at its origin, and probably remains today, the most astonishingly pro-female religion on Earth. It is far more encouraging of women's rights, within a framework that recognises women's shortcomings and responsibilities, than either Hinduism or Islam. Christianity openly encourages women to be strong in character and yet feminine and humble, and openly demands that men love, cherish, and respect women as the weaker sex who deserve protection, without infantilising them.

It is for precisely these reasons that a Christian code of behaviour is to be encouraged, not sneered at.

5. The Culture is Still Against Women


Having made two rather good points about India- without, incidentally, suggesting any solutions- Ms. A then completely drops the ball on her last point by claiming that arranged marriage is somehow the cause of India's worst problems.

What Ms. A, in her cultural tone-deafness, fails to recognise is that marriage in India isn't just about the people getting married. It's about the two families involved in making the marriage happen. A bride in India doesn't simply marry a man- she marries into the family.

Given this fact, and given that fathers of women in India pay substantial amounts of money as dowries when their daughters get married, is it really surprising that fathers tend to be quite vigilant about exactly who gets to knock up their girls?

Moreover, there is nothing particularly wrong, per se, with arranged marriages.

Arranged marriages have their problems, make no mistake. When they go wrong, they go spectacularly wrong. But they also seem to succeed more often than more "normal" love marriages.

The reason for this is simple. Parents, as a general rule, do at least try to choose partners that will be good for their respective children. I'm not stupid enough to claim that this is always the case, but for the most part, that's how it works.

Among my family's circle of friends, I've seen many people get hitched through arranged marriages. For the most part, these marriages have turned out to be happy, long-lasting, and fruitful unions. There are people of my own age and generation who have had arranged marriages and are very happy- because their parents chose partners who are, on some level, highly compatible with each other.

Arranged marriage is not for everyone. I don't much care for the idea, personally, but that doesn't mean it automatically is without merit. It can and often does work very well, because arranged marriages in Asia recognise something that most Western marriages simply don't: marriage DOES NOT WORK if entered into for selfish or transient reasons.

It is possibly to phrase the reason for success somewhat less charitably, though just as accurately. As AM pointed out in his (or her) original email,
Her bitching about arranged marriages really annoyed me. I am not saying they don’t have their own set problems because they do, my argument is that modern women have proven to be even worse at finding a mate for themselves than they parents.
To which I can only say: indeed.

Don't Be Sharkbait

In the final analysis, Cracked.com messed up, badly, by publishing an article that made India look bad on a number of fronts without providing much by way of context, balance, or solutions.

I visit India fairly often. I can't claim to prefer it over the USA, but it does have its charms. And I have young, thin, attractive Western female friends who have visited India, on their own, and had an absolute blast without running into any of the problems that Ms. A describes.

So I presume you'll understand what I mean when I say to social-justice types like Ms. A and the staff over at Cracked: with all due respect, and with the caveat that I deeply regret what happened to Ms. A while she was in India, SOD OFF.

Comments

  1. I had to stop going to Cracked when the Gamergate scandal hit and it became SJW heaven. I think the following image pretty much says it all:

    http://i.imgur.com/FcoGXfl.jpg

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Funny you mention that. I'd been noticing a creeping trend toward increasingly stupid progressive and "edgy" articles on Cracked for a long time, but it only when their ridiculous smear piece on Gamergate was published that I simply gave up on reading their work.

      It would be interesting to see what their traffic stats have been for the past few years. If they follow the typical pattern of an SJW entry campaign, they'll probably have seen a big spike at first, followed by a plateau and then an accelerating decline.

      Delete

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