Women have always been victims of sexual harassment on the street. Of late, I have read a lot of such stories - stories of women, recounting their harrowing experiences on the street. From women being molested in public, to strange men feeling up their privates, to perverts masturbating on women commuters at railway stations, there are so many stories out in the open, thanks to the Blank Noise Project - a project that aims to recognize eve teasing as a sexual crime and establish the issue as something that may be normal, but is unacceptable. And many more exist, mostly untold and hidden in the deepest ravines of an affected woman's heart.
Many men and women have made their contribution to the project and shed light on this reality. I don't intend to just make a contribution. I intend to change the thinking and hope to eradicate sexual harassment on the street as such. I know being male, I can only read or listen to such stories. I will never experience it first hand. I will never be able to step into the shoes of a woman who has experienced such a thing. And when I do read and listen to such stories, I can't help but think what women could do to improve the situation and their chances when they become victims.
I also know it is easy to give advice, and even more, to give unsolicited advice. Women may already know of what I think might be a solution. My words may not be worth a penny. Whatever be the case, here are my thoughts that might improve the chances of woman to protect herself from being sexually harassed on the street.
Recognizing the Crime
Eve-teasing or street sexual harassment, is a social stigma. It is a big problem that manifests itself through small incidents that occur to a large number of women on the streets. To eradicate this, what we need is change in our mindset, thinking, behavior, and most importantly social ranking of women.
Being Less Vulnerable
Like the predators that can sense fear in their prey, pervert men might actually sense the vulnerability in women. Once the prey is vulnerable, a prospective perpetrator’s job is already half done. Take for an instance, a woman standing in a crowded railway station platform. She tries hard to avoid the gazes from men. She stops 'being herself' and pretends to look 'nowhere'. She cocoons herself and turns a blind eye to the truth that several men are gazing at her, with not-so-friendly eyes. These gazes make her utterly uncomfortable and each passing second seems unbearable to her. By isolating herself, she becomes more vulnerable. While she looks nowhere, a pervert brushes past her, touching her where she hates it the most. She is caught unaware and before she can react, the pervert has disappeared in the crowd. Doesn't this happen everyday?
Being Brave & Bold
Another reason why women fall prey to eve-teasing is our culture. By culture, I don't only mean our Indian culture. Women throughout the world are considered the weaker sex, at least subconsciously. When you agree that you are the weaker sex, you get attention - both positive and negative. While chivalry, respect for being a woman, and being treated in a 'womanly manner' count as positive attention, sexual harassment, eve-teasing, rape, gang-rapes account for negative attention. Chivalry that women love is a classic example of this subconscious discrimination - even among women! Now, if women genuinely think they are equal to men and inculcate such thinking in themselves, they will automatically be a lot less weaker - emotionally and physically. They will cease to be exploitable. In my opinion, the key is to be BOLD and not expect any special treatment for being born a woman. Only then will the exploitation stop.
Finally, besides being a lot less vulnerable, weak, and exploitable, being prepared for such situations can only be a positive step towards curbing such instances. Being prepared for such situation does not only mean carrying pepper sprays and joining the weekend Kung Fu/Karate class. The preparation has to start from the mind. Only when a woman truly considers herself equal to her male counterpart in every way, will she begin to be prepared to combat street sexual harassment.
So the next time you have men gazing all over you, hold your head up in confidence. Be bold, be brave, and most importantly be alert of the environment around you. When a pervert tries to brush past you, you will be able to slap him instantly. Or even better, move away before he succeeds and give him the "You suck!" look. Sharp, 'I'll-kill-you gazes' back at men do work. At least that's what many women have told me!
- Action Hero mErCuRiAn