Stalking and kidnapping are, sadly, two ongoing issues in India. A recent case where two men, one of whom is the son of a local political party leader, are accused of chasing a 29-year-old woman as she drove home around midnight, has drawn particular attention because of certain sexist comments made about the case. His victim-blaming comments — that she "should not have gone out" so late — have spurred women in India to post selfies at midnight, with the hashtag #AintNoCinderella, to protest the idea that they shouldn't go out at night to stay safe.
According to India's News18, Ramveer Bhatti, the state vice president of India's largest political party, commented, "The girl should not have gone out at 12 in the night." He added, "Why was she driving so late in the night? The atmosphere is not right." Never mind that it was the two men who were allegedly doing the driving (and the stalking) that led to the woman's filing a complaint.
The comments, which emerged yesterday, sparked a Twitter revolution of sorts, with women across the subcontinent tweeting selfies as a statement against victim-blaming. Although I dearly wish it was a statement no one had to make at all, the women participating in #AintNoCinderella make it strongly, powerfully, and bravely. And it’s long, long past time that the world finally listened.
The victim-blaming is strong with this one, and the internet is not having it.
The hashtag stems, of course, from the tale of Cinderella, whose grand night out at the royal ball was conditional upon her returning home by midnight, lest her coach turn back into the pumpkin it was to begin with. But grown women are not Cinderella; we do not have curfews other than those we set for ourselves, and we live life by our own terms. Women in India posting selfies under this hashtag have sent a powerful message both to the politician and to anyone else on the victim-blaming train: It is not the responsibility of women not to get harassed, assaulted, or raped. It is the responsibility of those who would harass, assault, or rape to not do so.
Some are plainspoken about the message:
While others are delightfully cheeky:
Many are defiant:
And some have not posted photographs, but instead written powerful words:
A good number are joyous, reveling in their lives:
As well they should.
Violence against women in India is an enormous issue. According to statistics from the country’s National Crime Records Bureau released in 2016, at least 34,651 cases of rape were reported across India in 2015, with many more going unreported. Violent crimes against women have been on the rise, too: One report from 2015 noted that between 2001 and 2011, the number of crimes against women rose an astonishing 59 percent. Dowry deaths and honor killings still occur in some parts of the country, and change through legislation has been slow to come.
Which is why movements like #AintNoCinderella are so important. They show that women are not willing to simply accept the status quo, and that they can and will defy sexist attitudes on their own terms.