Men would read this and nod in agreement like they understand what this means. Not to sound cynical here, but you don’t. You weren’t chased down the street by a bunch of guys on bikes when you were 14. You didn’t get pinched at a Pujo Pandal by a guy who had a daughter clutching his other hand. You don’t skip a heartbeat when a vehicle slows down next to you. You don’t carry a pepper spray around with you (and get laughed at for it). You don’t brace yourself every time you enter the general compartment of the Metro, ready to elbow people pressing up against you in the groin. You don’t glance over your shoulder if you see a shadow behind you on an empty street. You don’t do all this and a million other things and so, you probably don’t understand where I am coming from.
So why am I bothering to write now? Because I haven’t seen anything yet which has put words to how I feel. A lot of people demanding castration/hanging/(insert any gruesome penalty) for rapists? Yes. A lot of indignation and anger? Yes. What nobody brought up, however, is how vulnerable and scared this makes me feel.
My mother makes me call her thrice a day and if I don’t, all hell breaks loose. I tell her “Chill it. I stay safe Maa.”.
Point is, I don’t know what is safe anymore! I stay on lit roads (because rapists are demons who only come out at night). I carry a pepper spray but maybe I should switch to a stun gun. I try staying in a group as much as possible. But like a lot of people will tell you, it’s the acquaintances you need to be most wary of. Staying home isn’t an option if I believe my friends who were molested by their brothers/uncles. Our offices aren’t free of sexual harassment either. Nor are our schools. So what exactly am I supposed to do? Curl up and pretend to be invisible? Well, I hear that “timid” women turn on potential rapists. So should I be bold and brave? Don’t be too adventurous, I am told.
Every time I read the newspapers, I feel maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the hostel in-times I consider an infringement on my privacy are there to keep me safe. Maybe I shouldn’t wear those damned shorts. Or be out too late. Or hang out with my male friends.
But a part of me (which people say is “too much of a feminist”) refuses to give in to this Stockholm Syndrome. I refuse to be taken hostage by the wandering eyes of men who can’t keep it in their pants. I refuse to part with my not-so-conventional style of dressing. I love my social life and will not part with it or my male friends. I refuse to give all this up because this makes me who I am and I can’t let faceless, nameless people hold my identity hostage.
Which leaves me in a Catch-22 situation. Where do I go from here? Bet on my luck or quit while I’m still ahead? And not dead.
Men/boys would read this and nod in agreement like they understand what this means. Not to sound cynical here, but you don’t. You weren’t chased down the street by a bunch of guys on bikes when you were 14, who probably thought it was good fun while you had “what if I hadn’t run fast enough?” nightmares for months after. You didn’t get pinched at a Pujo Pandal (no less) by a guy who had a daughter clutching his other hand. You don’t skip a heartbeat when a vehicle slows down next to you. (And God forbid if it has tinted windows.) You don’t switch on a tracker every time you take a cab, auto or any form of public transport. You don’t carry a pepper spray around with you (and get laughed at for it). You don’t brace yourself every time you enter the general compartment of the Metro, ready to elbow people pressing up against you in the groin. You don’t glance over your shoulder if you see a shadow behind you on an empty street. You don’t have to think twice before plugging in earphones because you don’t want to be caught off guard. You don’t carry your drinks everywhere at a party because you don’t want to be roofied. You don’t do all this and a million other things and so, you probably don’t understand where I am coming from. (And no, this isn’t a rant about Delhi. I have lived in 8 different cities and although the extent of harassment might be different, they are all pretty much the same.)
Don’t get me wrong. I’m sure a lot of you people genuinely empathize and would be enraged by my cynicism. To them, I apologize. And rest assured, this isn’t meant to be a gender-segmented accusation. Men are a crucial part of this fight for safety considering that any change needs to start with them.
My problem is with hypocrisy and lip service to the situation. I ask you this (and it goes for a lot of girls as well) what have you done for my safety? Did you ever stop a friend (or yourself) from passing comments on girls? How many times have you looked at a girl’s profile picture and thought, “This one looks easy!”? Or wolf-whistled at their cleavage? Thought it was okay for the RSS/BJP type to publicly humiliate young couples? Judged a girl by the clothes she was wearing? Cracked a “get me a sandwich” joke? If you’ve done any of that, forgive me for not taking you seriously. While we’re at it, don’t send me petitions to sign or ask me to change my profile picture. Because I don’t care for your token of empathy. Because changing your profile picture doesn’t change anything. Give it a couple of days and it will change back. But my life will go on. And while you forget all about it, my fight for equality is synonymous with my life.
If you really want to show us how much you care, support us while we empower ourselves.
Stop treating us like objects.
Stop staring at us if we wear a dress. And DON’T consider it a bait.
Stop trying to find ways to pinch us. Tell your friends to do the same.
Don’t wink at eve-teasing. If you see a girl getting eve-teased don’t be a bystander. Step up.
Tell your sons they should respect every girl. Follow your own advice.
Stand up for your sister/mother. Treat your girlfriend/wife as your equal.
Don’t blame it on the government. The government is a reflection of you. If you think the government is made up of sexist douchebags, look again.
This is not a law and order problem. This a problem with us. We worship “Nari Shakti” but like our women, like our Goddesses: on the pedestal and mute.
Archaic forms of punishment might stop repeat offenders but you doing the right thing will nip the problem in its bud.
I believe strongly that one can take the moral high ground of being pro-life only if you can ensure the quality of life to come as well. When I see the systemic discrimination and the mental, physical and emotional anguish women in our country go through, a crazy part of me doesn’t want me to ever (hypothetically) have a daughter. Letting them grow up to face life in India as a girl may not exactly be the quality of life they deserve. All thanks to you, nameless-faceless-sexual-predator. I hope you’re happy now.