The thing is, R annoyed me in a big way by a comment he made the other day. Now it's not always that comments bug me or that I'm touchy about any stray comments. But this one was a big no-no, and as far as I was concerned... he had crossed the rubicon.
We were talking about a Filipina housemaid who was raped by her boss within a week of her arrival in Bahrain. I mentioned that it must have been quite a traumatic experience for this young girl and was hoping that the rapist receives his just desserts in the court of law.
And what was R's response? He smiled and gave a sneering sort-of look. I found that quite strange and so, pretending to be a little thick, asked him to explain what he meant by that sneering look. No, I didn't use those exact words but something close, more or less.
And so, R obliged me with an answer.
He said that some women - and he hinted at the woman's nationality - invited and even encouraged it. His opinion was that Filipinas were wild and enjoyed having sex with anyone who was willing to give them a good time. And so, according to him, there was no need to feel sympathetic towards this housemaid who got raped. He said that it was quite possible that she either asked for it and, maybe, because she didn't get an orgasm she must have cried, rape.
I had to control myself because I couldn't imagine someone could actually believe this type of nonsense. And not only believe but, also, to state it as an undeniable fact. I was angry but more than that, furious. Majorly. Royally. Uncontrollably furious. And when I'm really furious - as opposed to instances when I give the impression of being furious - I usually prefer to remain silent in order to gather my thoughts and find my peace.
The trouble is, R's opinion was not unique. He shares these lopsided views with many other men who, somehow, find justification for criminal actions like rape, sexual harassment or whatever. Perhaps my moral world-view is divided into black and white, and maybe, I'm too naive to even consider that shades of grey may even exist in such matters. Maybe. But I prefer to be naive if it involves saying a rape is a rape, and a rapist is a common criminal and nothing else.
Why is that too hard to fathom?
And one more thing, what has nationality got to do with someone's rape-ability? Isn't that the worst kind of presumption -- almost racist in character and intent? And this coming from R, an Indian, who should know better what it means to have the 'wrong' skin colour. But no, his opinions were crystallised because of this strange logic that since these girls appeared westernised and were friendly it has to mean that they were 'available'. That's right. After all, he said, why else would they want to be friendly?
I find it hard to be on friendly terms with R after this conversation, and it's highly unlikely that he'll ever enter my chums list. I don't know if I'm following the right approach because, on one hand, I could try and steer R from this kind of thinking but, on the other hand, I wonder if it'd be a fool's errand.
However, the bigger challenge is to let women in our community know and understand that not all men share R's viewpoint. And that some of us, actually, regard women as human beings worthy of respect, honour and affection.
Why do I get this uncomfortable notion that it's not going to be an easy task?