Women Attacked on the Streets of India

March 30, 2009

Recently, the Times of India reported a rise in street assaults on females in the city of Bangalore. Women have been shoved, punched, and suffered other forms of abuse on public streets. It has been suggested that some of these attacks might be motivated by what the women were wearing. Examples that identified assault provoking clothes included jeans or sleeveless dresses. The underlying sociological interpretation would seem to be that at least some of these reported assaults were a response to gender norm violations. Such explanations would suggest that society prescribed a discouraging response (what sociologists might label a negative sanction) to such dress behavior. Some sociologists have dismissed such an explanation as ridiculous and others suggest such explanations are an attempt to shift blame to the victims and mask more general, underlying, social problems.

Would you like to discuss this issue? If so respond to one of the questions below:

1) Do you think a person’s dress can motivate some people to respond violently (keep in mind, this is not asking if such a response is proper or acceptable—just whether it can motivate a violent reaction)? Can you think of such an example?

2) Look at your or others’ responses to the question above. Do you think all people would react to the same stimulus the same? Why? What insight does your response afford you into the cultural relativity of violence?

3) Do you think the dismissal of that specific society gender dress expectations might reflect a cultural agenda of the researcher and not an empirically based interpretation of the problem? If so, what dangers can masking such phenomena carry to solving the problem?

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  1. I feel that it is very likely that someone would react violently to another persons clothing. If you go to an area in New York or California were the gang population is large you could get killed for wearing the wrong color in the wrong neighborhood. Also if you were to go to the South and wear a shirt with a rebel flag on it in a predominately African American part of town there is also a chance that you could be beaten for it.

  2. Violent people are violent no matter what. If it’s not your clothes then it’s the color of your skin or the way you talk. Nothing should be able to provoke you to act violently toward someone. If it does then you have a personal evil dwelling inside of you. Gangs don’t fight or kill people in other gangs because of the color of their clothes. They do it because they recongize the connection to their enemy. The women in India that are being attacked are going against social norms so their attackers search for a collective retaliation.

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