Getting Rid of The R-Word


 by Akshay Rangamani, alumnus.


Rape Culture- CC FLickr

Image Credits: Creative Commons License
March Against Rape Culture and Gender Inequality – 2 by CMCarterSS is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

As freshies, each of us tried to find out more about the hallowed institution we were going to join, and in the process came across IITM’s rather curious “insti lingo”.  Our seniors taught us that it is an amalgamation of Indian English, Tamil, Hindi and Telugu, among others, and that it is indigenous to IIT Madras. All of us went through different phases in our relationship with insti lingo. Initially intrigued by this wonderfully simple language that uses one verb (the ever versatile ‘put’, used in phrases ranging from ‘put CCD da’ to ‘dei, I put a C in the course’), we then went through a phase where we could not understand anything our seniors tried to tell us (‘N fart he is putting’ does not refer to excessive flatulence). The purists among us were outraged at this unintelligible dialect. Over time, however, most of us embraced it and came to accept it as our own. Like it or hate it, it is evolved enough to have inspired a thesis. As much as we all may love our “insti lingo”, there is, perhaps, one component that must change.

“Germany completely raped Brazil last night!”

“Alak’s been raping it in Techsoc this year.”

“God that viva was such rape.”

“He’s a super stud man, rapist at everything he does!”

These are quips which are not out of place in any normal conversation that happens in insti. What do they have in common? All of them use the term ‘rape’ outside of its usual meaning, in a far more casual context, trivializing it. Now before you think that I’m preaching from a pedestal here, let me confess that I have myself used all the above sentences in conversation. But thanks to devoting more than a fair share of my time to reading stuff on the internet, I have come to understand why rape analogies are not cool.

I watched the unbelievable Brazil-Germany semifinal too, but do we really need to say “rape” when we mean “humiliated”? Does losing a football game (even on the world’s biggest stage) come even close to the trauma and pain a rape victim experiences? Your instructor might have deconstructed your fundamentals and laid bare the little bits of whatever you managed to assimilate right in front of you. But is that really rape?

“I think the word raped gets thrown around far too casually. You ever listen to a bunch of guys playing video games with each other online? It’s like, ‘Ah man you shot me in the back dude. You raped me dude!’ I’m pretty sure if I talked to a woman who’s been through that horrific situation and I said, ‘What was it like, you know, being raped?’ she’s not gonna look at me and go, ‘Have you ever played Halo?’”  

– Dane Cook, Comedian


Don’t get me wrong here — I am not suggesting that when we’re expressing our shock or admiration for a victory, we want to equate it to rape. We also say “murdered” and “killed” with semantic differences to describe events. Why is rape any different? Well, we ought to be a little sensitive when saying “rape” because of the level of misunderstanding that rape and its victims still experience. Victim-blaming and slut-shaming are still very real problems. No murder elicits the response ‘she had it coming’, nor do we ever justify it as a manifestation of the perpetrator’s ‘natural drives’. We are now happily disgusted that every newspaper reports incidents of rape at increasingly frequent intervals, but how many of us think beyond the rapist and question the society to which both he/she and we belong? Conversations about rape try to tell us that it can no longer be seen as an act of individual depravity, but as a product of the skewed norms of the society we live in. Using “rape” to describe normal events in such times, then, is indicative of a rape culture.

I am not advocating censorship here. I do think there are certain rape jokes that can be funny (like this one). However, the next time we’re making comparisons, let’s just look at the scale of the ordeal we are trivializing, and what our flippancy implies. Let us judge whether we want to perpetuate the normalization of rape in society. We can all “put our peace” and “gen put wing fart”, but let us agree to think before we use “rape” out of context.

Note from the author: I have liberally borrowed ideas from this article and made use of inputs from Milind Rao, Padma Priya and Sushmita Gopalan.

About the author: Akshay Rangamani (BT/EE/2013) graduated from IIT Madras in 2013. During his time here, he was an avid quizzer, and also served as the LitSec of Alakananda Hostel. He is currently pursuing a Ph. D at John Hopkins University.

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