I think Scarface put it best when he said, “when you get the money, you get the power. Then when you get the power, then you get the women.” Alternately, “then you take the women”. There are enough women that fawn over money or power that some men seem to think that anything else is just playing hard to get. In fact, it’s often not. They’re saying no, and you’re raping them. Like Dominique Strauss-Kahn (DSK).
This unsexy use of power happens in the IMF, World Bank and western governments. It goes without saying that it happens in Sri Lanka and, I presume, the developing world. Here it’s not even a scandal, ‘eve-teasing’ is common on the street and the Indians have called it that rather than calling it, say, sexual harassment.
In Sri Lanka we have what is called the office kukula, or chicken. More accurately, cock. This is someone in middle management or at a medium firm that pervs on women despite, more often than not, having a wife and kids at home. What’s worse is that girls in the office will often fawn over this guy because they want the job or better prospects, and put up will all manner of things, ranging from sex they don’t like to actual rape or molestation.
What’s amazing about the DSK case is that someone with a huge power differential (a hotel maid) was able to make a case and be taken seriously. Here cops are notoriously unsympathetic to women dealing with sexual or physical abuse. I’ve seen lower class women who are obviously bloodied being made to wait while the cops rearrange their ledger books. I know middle class women who are also treated with disrespect and told to be better wives. I know a lot of women who actually believe that this is true.
The idea that sexual harassment or even rape are crimes is not widely accepted, even by women. I know women who’ve been through what is quite obviously abuse blaming themselves for being in the wrong place or doing something wrong. Marital rape is often not considered rape, simply because they’re married. Physical abuse is also considered something to be dealt with within the marriage, even in the case of Paba, a female MP, being assaulted for who knows how long.
When does it stop, and how? You can call for men to wake up and women to stand-up, which is part of it, but a greater part is that there’s a major power differential that needs to be addressed. On the most basic level, men are bigger than women and can overpower them. We have evolved that way, partly because human males have fought over and with mates. In the modern era, men still have more money and power – meaning business capital and places in government. Physical power isn’t everything anymore, but men use modern power to abuse as well.
One place women do have power, however, is in the media. For all of DSK’s (wife’s) lawyers and connections, he’s still losing the media battle, badly. In India the Mumbai hollaback blog and Blank Noise Project are making a difference. So in that sense, Senor Scarface may have been a wrong. At least on one point. Power is what matters, but you don’t necessarily need money to get it. One shortcut is through the media, and with social media, that shortcut is only getting easier to take.