A video of a woman physically assaulting a cab driver in Uttar Pradesh’s Lucknow has been viral on social media. The woman alleged that the cab driver tried to hit her over while she was crossing the road. But a scrutiny of the CCTV footage revealed that the cab driver, who was initially speeding, pulled the brakes at the zebra crossing, right in front of the woman.
The footage further shows the woman coming over to the cab and assaulting the driver through an open window. A First Information Report (FIR) has been registered against the woman, after the driver made an official complaint.
It incident is violent and ruthless display of caste and class power, and social privilege. But quite many people have been outraging against feminism on social media in connection to this incident, by trying to imply that feminists would support violence by women on men.
In our eager frenzy to bring down the feminist movement by vicariously shifting the onus of one woman’s condemnable act onto the entire movement, we are failing to analyse the relevant layers of the problem. The incident is a testimony to the caste-class hierarchies in the society.
Had the person beating up the cab driver not have been a woman, it would have been a man. The subordination of the economically and socially marginalised has been taking place over centuries. Our society functions on the problematic ideas of class and caste power. Blue collar workers are treated inhumanely and demoralised by the privileged.
While the woman did use her gender for her benefit, it was the power of her class that allowed her to even start this public assault on the cab driver in the first place.
It is not a case of one gender versus the other. Rather, it is the case of the “upper” class versus the “lower”. The intersectionality of class and gender is the point where a lot of complex issues of hierarchies arise. It decides who gets subjugated and who is the oppressor. An upper-class woman would have more power over a lower-class man. The same thing applies when we add caste to this mix. An upper caste woman, or a woman from a non-minority faith has more social capital than a man from a lower caste/minority faith, such as in this case.
But within the same class/caste, a man would always have more power bestowed on him by the society than a woman. While a woman from a lower class/caste would be the most suppressed in this problematic hierarchy. It is important to keep the complex nature of our caste-class-gender power structures in mind while looking at issues of this nature.
Class/caste domination is so engrained in us, that it goes unnoticed in everyday instances. From cab drivers to waiters, to domestic helps, the blue-collar workers and marginalised have to struggle for a living as well as basic dignity and inclusion. Everyone needs to question how they treat the people who they think fall lower on this hierarchy.
In fact, we need to question how and why such hierarchies exist, when in fact, it is the blue-collared and the socially excluded majority who hold our economy, homes and society up with their essential labour.
Feminism unfairly has to face a trial every time a woman behaves unreasonably. For the people who need it to be spelt out, intersectional feminism does not endorse violent treatment of men, women or any individual as a valid form of empowerment. The feminist movement does not give blanket approval to the unjust actions of all women. To assume so is prejudicial, opportunistic and ignorant.
Women empowerment is not a woman beating up a man. Gender equality is a concept that advocates equal opportunity and social standing of all genders in context to the intersectionalities that affect the access of each individual. The feminist movement does not validate incidents like this one.
Women are capable of being unjust and are often themselves part of patriarchy, and the feminist movement is informed about that. To use a few incidents of women assaulting men to claim that men are the real victims of gender discrimination is triggering and absolutely problematic.
Many people on social media are seen to make sweeping statements like – “just because he was a man, no one said anything. If it had been a woman, there would have been candle marches”, in relation to the cab driver’s assault. This is extremely insensitive. To use an unfortunate instance of assault on a man to trigger the trauma of the survivors of sexual abuse cannot be justified.
This is not to say that feminism is above criticism. It is, like any other evolving political theory. But using every instance of abuse on men to unfairly troll and demean feminists is testimony to the fact that none of this is fair criticism. Fair criticism is constructive, democratic, civilised and productive.
Comparing traumas is absolutely unempathetic. Every kind of trauma must be addressed in its own light. We do not have to bring down women or the feminist movement in order to amplify the right of the cab driver who was harassed and assaulted by a woman. The problematic hierarchies of gender, class, caste and other factors have created a system within which discrimination thrives and is experienced by different individuals in different degrees.
When we respond to a particular incident, its own context should not be lost track of. If we allow our conversations to be guided by our inherent, majoritarian dislike for the feminist movement, we let toxicity thrive. In the process, we lose track of the roots of our own biases.
Featured Image: Ritika Banerjee for Feminism In India