A couple of days back a woman of acquaintance committed suicide. The usual story : alleged extra marital affairs, a society that loves to take figments of weird imagination as the gospel truth, rumour, lack of emotional support from near ones, stress, depression, and fear of facing alone an antagonistic world. Remember, there were male parties to the whole issue. But, it was the woman who faced the majority of the insults and finally paid with her life.
Coincidentally, perhaps at the time when the woman was preparing to hang herself, in the comfortable surroundings of my home I was watching a series of TED talks, one of them being a talk by Monica Lewinsky about the trials and tribulations she faced after the news of her inappropriate actions in the White House became public. Well, those who were of news digestible age by 1998 need no introduction to her.
She recounts that it was an internet site that first broke the news. The president of the United States of the America had been caught pants down with a young intern in the white house. Within no time news spread like wild fire all over the world. The internet was full of nasty comments about her. All sorts of editors from the main stream media to the yellow press wanted to outdo one another in dishing out juicy details. And shaming her.
Bill Clinton was effected too. Of course, he was not as devastated as the lady. Nor was he trolled and shamed both offline and online, as vigorously as Monica was done. He was let off after the public was fed up with inventing banters about him. Ultimately, the US public did not want him to lose his job. His wife stood by his side and after a decade, she was vying for the top post of the world.
Meanwhile, Monica was having a hard time reconciling with the nasty world. She recalls that at some point she too thought of committing suicide. Her mother stood by her. Her mother was so cautious, she insisted that Monica should keep the door open while taking her shower.
In India we have the idea that women are in the receiving end and the bearer of the bigger brunt only in orthodox countries like ours. We think women are better off in such matters in free, modern and progressive countries of the west. But it seems whether it is in the west or in the east, society has been grossly unfair to the fairer sex.
Monica also recalls an incident of a girl committing suicide after someone filmed her intimate moments with a boy friend and made it viral. These are some of the flip sides of the social media.
The talk also raises deeper issues of freedom and citizen responsibility. How can we demarcate a line when commercial interests (more visitors to the website/ more readers of the newspaper) override media ethics and an individual’s right to privacy? Should freedom of expression push every humane consideration to the sideline?
Of course the main issue here is the way society treats women and men over similar mistakes. We know that in Ramayana, Sita did not go through the agniparikha (to pass through fire to prove her chastity) voluntarily. It was ordained by the keepers of morality. Same way, our historians who are now too obsessed with the Aryan Invasion theory, should do serious research to find out whether, during the Isalmic invasion and loot, women voluntarily went through the sati ritual or were coerced to do so.