Monday, March 06, 2006

Blank Noise Project - Harassment

Had to jump into this one - it's critical and ranges from mild admiration to violent rape with harassment / eve -teasing etc. somewhere in the middle yet close to both extremes.
I have two views - both true I imagine, both diametrically different.
One is the simpler view. I've hardly been to a city in the world where 'eve-teasing' doesn't occur - from wolf-whistles, to leering looks, to driving close,cheesy one-liners heavily sexually loaded, to the breast-grabber and more graphic stuff. As a woman I try and quickly understand the culture of the city I am currently in. Some places in the world, you say 'No' to guy or just tell him to lay off and he does. He's just trying to see if you're game. Some cultures, particularly the North Indian one, the guys don't know better - they don't have the opportunity to engage in normal relationships with women at an age where they have active hormones - and they socio-psychological conditioning is so strong : the aggressive macho male who can have it all anyway he wants completely submerging his own trembling insecurity within. And as a woman, you learn to deal with this guy as well, in the manner that all the other blogs mentioned. Quick tips to keep safe. Sock a guy, keep mist handy, take precautions, use elbows, keep cool.

The complex view (and I'm a little ambivalent on this one, though I cannot ignore it) in India is a rapidly changing exposure to comparativly liberal mores in the media and in society over the past 10 years - not long enough for the deeply-embedded social and cultural conditioning to adapt itself. While I theoretically and personally agree with "if a guy can wear what he wants or scratch his balls in public, why on earth can't a woman wear / do what she wants without getting harassed?", this isn't how it works. Let's be real. We've been used to bare-chested, half-lungi, kaccha -clad guys since forever. But the spaghetti strapped, g-string panty peeping out of low-slung jeans, hugely sexy and carefree young thing is a new phenomenon. Sit at a Subway (or etc.) when school gives over in Delhi and you'll see a bunch of girls in decent school uniforms go into the restroom and come out looking like they're ready for the ramp. I think they look gorgeous. So do the guys. I think they look provocative. So do the guys. And the guys don't know how to handle it. So either those schoolgirls get harassed or some young guy who gets completely turned on but wouldn't dare do anything with them picks on an innocent alone in a bus girl / woman and wants to unleash his manhood on her. Sometimes this leads to more than harassment - sometimes it leads to rape. I'm not saying "she asked for it". I'm saying "he's not ready for so much so fast". And with the focus on looks, clothes, sex etc etc he's getting a lot to handle - and his collective consciousness hasn't equipped him with nonchalance yet.
Any solutions?
I'll try some.
- Mothers, educate your sons
- Media, initiate debate
- Media, (all kinds), you do have social responsibility.
- The older generation cannot abdicate its responsibility to the next and then rue the fact that there is violence and an unsafe environment. So, when you make a Neel and Nicky where the heroine wears a bra throughout and oozes out of it (story does not demand the same) then please expect all the guys from small toowns, villages, big towns to get possessed and lose rational thought.
- Girls, figure what you should wear where.
- Fathers, set a good example in how you refer to women in general
- Schools - talk about this.

12 Comments:

At 12:45 AM, Blogger zigzackly said...

:)

Was hoping you'd have a take one this.

And a nice sane one it is too. Wish I'd seen this before posted mine. May have said some things differently.

 
At 1:30 AM, Blogger John said...

Anita,

Exactly my views expressed here:

http://johnpmathew.blogspot.com

We, as a society aren't ready enough for our women to wear g-strings, as yet. If they do, it's at their own risk.

I hint at a feminine revolution, but the harbingers have to go by the status quo before changing attitudes and perception.

As I also said elsewhere, the provocation happens in a song video, but the rape happens in a lonely spot to an innocent girl who least expects it, by a man who hasn't learnt to be nonchalant (as it happened to a girl in a police chowky in Bombay).

Thanks for a balanced view on the subject. Well done!

J

 
At 4:07 AM, Blogger aparna said...

An interesting take on the issue...I liked your balanced view and pointers.

Regards
Aparna

 
At 7:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been going through quite a few of the participating bloggers' take on

 
At 7:27 AM, Blogger david raphael israel said...

Anita,

it's interesting to have the bit of historical perspective you cast on this. For instance, the mention of changes in social mores about public attire within just the past decade or so in India.

Indeed a thoughtful contribution.

best,
d.i.

 
At 4:51 AM, Blogger Tachyoson said...

well said!

very well put together :)

but we need more people to FOLLOW the path of acting more responsibly, on both sides of the line.

 
At 9:52 PM, Blogger silbil said...

sensible...i was despairing thinking that being sensible is not possible in the light of so much of pain and violence...i am glad you wrote the post

 
At 10:56 PM, Blogger harty said...

Excellent suggestions, those. One of the very few posts in the Blank Noise Marathon, where someone's actually contributing towards ending the problem.

 
At 4:07 AM, Blogger paaji_chele said...

gosh-when is someone going to give the perspective of the v frustrated urban/semi urban male?

 
At 1:40 PM, Blogger Revealed said...

OK! Balanced view point is all fine, but the point I think is to let the "confused out of their minds, and raging hormone filled" guy know that none of that is an excuse for forcing your attentions on any random female. Balanced view points I sometimes think encourage their bizarre behavior rather than achieve anything useful. I'm not suggesting that everyone rant and rave about it, but I'm suggesting that people stand up and admit that women today have every right to wear what they want when they want and where they want. I'm again not saying that young girls at once be encouraged to run around on the roads wearing "provocative" clothing but I AM saying that lets come out and admit that they should be allowed to. The practical changes will follow once we come out and say that!

 
At 2:38 AM, Blogger scribe said...

For Revealed : Essentially I think I completely agree with you on the whole bit about a) as a woman I should be able to stand up and wear / do / say what I want (and fortunately in my life I have!) and also yes b) the raging hormone guys need to get in control and learn about respecting another human being - regardless of gender. I intended to go beyond those two points since they are a given, and place the issue in a context since I found nobody seemed to be doing that and there IS a context. It's not so much about being balanced, but working within a reality. I also wanted to emphasize that wherever there is injustice the responsibility of solutions and dealing with it lies with the perpetrator as well as with the victim, and of course with the community at large. At a very micro level, it's like saying - when someone does something bad to me, why do I allow it and how did it reach a stage where this could have happened. Like you, I have raved and ranted as well, and believe me continue to do so more often than I want to!

 
At 7:14 AM, Blogger Revealed said...

LOL and I was trying NOT to rave and rant. Hehe. Seriously, I understand what you're saying. I'm not even against what you're saying. I have said the same things to people cos its rational. BUT when people like you and me make this rational comment we KNOW inside our heads that the behavior of guys who think they can jump women because of how they're dressed or what they say, is totally NOT ACCEPTABLE. When the self same guys, however listen to us or read what we write they take home the message that people understand us and where we come from, so everything is alright, we aren't doing anything too wrong. That is what worries me. Amit posted stuff related to this the other day, and it makes an interesting read.

 

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