The Cost of Rejection
On February 1, a woman was attacked with acid on her way home from work by three men in Srinagar. On October 26 2020, a 20-year-old girl was fatally shot outside her college in Haryana. On July 6 2017, a 21-year-old prospective airhostess was stabbed in broad daylight in Shahdara. All these cases involved a romantic rejection by the victims towards their perpetrators. There are countless other instances.
Rejection violence is when a man reacts violently toward a woman who has rejected his
romantic or sexual advances. There is a range of potential causes behind it, from an internal biological predisposition to aggression and violence, wrongly learned social cognitions (for instance, the notion that men are should react aggressively instead of ‘emotionally’ when facing a setback, or the belief that women are objects to be ‘disciplined’ who owe them sexually) and the further facilitation and reinforcement of these attitudes by societal norms and expectations, all of which are fueled by the patriarchy. There are specific social and psychological patterns that form as a result of the culmination of the aforementioned and other factors which get more culturally nuanced in the context of Indian patriarchy.
Toxic masculinity is characterized by societal expectations on men to act in a specific way
and is based on gender stereotypes. It is an outdated conceptualization of manliness that
idealizes aggression, dominance, and physical strength. Statements such as “Be a man”, and “Mard ko dard nahi hota” are examples of verbal manifestations of toxic masculinity we’re all familiar with. There is substantial evidence on what happens when cisgender heterosexual men learn to harbor attitudes falling under toxic masculinity without any intervention. Research shows that cases of rejection violence frequently have contextual indications that suggest toxic masculinity is an antecedent to rejection violence (Thacker 2019). Feder, Levant, and Dean (2010) found that toxic masculinity conventions, such as limiting emotionality and adhering to dominance and aggressive expectations, may increase the likelihood of boys indulging in physical aggression. Toxic masculinity only results in increasing rates of crime against women and is one of the main contributory sources of the perpetuation of harmful social processes such as rape culture.
Often perpetrators are entitled to inflicting harm on women. They do not consider their
victims to be individuals with their own set of human rights. To them, these women exist
solely for their pleasure, to be possessed, controlled, or punished by them. They are under the impression that the women they are pursuing owe them love and sex, simply on account of being a man. One of the major ways these attitudes get perpetuated is through socialization. From a young age, children are indirectly and sometimes even explicitly taught norms rooting from misogynistic perspectives about women’s positions and roles in society, marriage, and the workplace, among others. Common examples of male entitlement include men expecting their girlfriends to take up their last names after marriage, or believing that women dress up for their attention.
Childhood Upbringing— The Raja Beta Syndrome
The Raja Beta Syndrome is a phenomenon frequently observed in Indian families. When you are born male (and later conform to masculine standards) in a middle-class household in this country, you are very likely to be put on a pedestal and have the world at your feet. You’re not expected to participate in daily chores, your food is always already served, you are very well taken care of in every aspect, and often overindulged. What’s more, you’re not even held accountable for your mistakes, or may only face trivial consequences, and are overpraised for the few times you decided to help out at home. In households like these, most men not only observe all the housework being carried out by women, they also see them constantly working to serve and appease the men in the family. This could lead to heightened perceptions of their worth, and entitlement to being looked after and prioritized by other women in their life. This could also build expectations of women putting their needs second, only after making sure that every whim of their male partners has been fulfilled. Naturally, this can also extend to sexual entitlement on women and their bodies. Upon being rejected by a woman they resort to committing violence against them, as they believe women ‘owe’ them sex.
The problem at hand has complex reasons entangled with socio-cultural factors, and one cannot expect to bring about change overnight. Effectively challenging dominant societal attitudes take time. However, we can try to actively call out such incidents and educate the people involved. Since occurrences like these are so frequent and normalized, it is important to learn to identify these happenings as detrimental in the first place.