As a woman, it was cathartic for me to write about my own experiences. At the same time, as a blogger, I felt that my post had nothing new to say. So many women were writing the very same thing. And then I realised, that’s the point , isn’t it ? All of us women, from various walks of life, talking about virtually identical experiences. Which just goes to show how ubiquitous street harassment is.
Another thing that made my stomach churn was that nearly ever post began with “I remmeber when I was twelve/thirteen”, and some even with “I remember when I was eight”. Children. We were mere children, innocent kids, girls. And our innocence was stolen in an instant, leaving us bewildered and suddenly aware of the world.
Do you know - this is the first time I’ve ever spoken about these things publicly. My family, not even my brother, still does not know they’ve happened to me.
I read that, and I just wanted to reach out and hug her, because I know. I know how that feels. The inability to express that fear to your family. The hidden secrets that have never been spoken. There was a reluctance to transfer my fear, humiliation and anger to my family. I felt that it would be best to forget, to ignore. An impossible task. And I wonder how old I will be before the secrets spill out …
Some have questioned the purpose of the blogathon saying that bloggers in general belong to a category of people who do not indulge in such activities, and the blogathon will teach them nothing. I point them to Karthik, who admits,
I’ve seen a lot. In buses and movie theaters, upscale malls and vegetable markets. From catcalls to breathing down the neck, from elbowing a fellow passenger to things a bit more than elbowing. Everytime, a silent “What the…” and I’ve moved on. Sometimes, not even that.
I do not think that street harassment is restricted by class or by education. It really has no boundaries. All the nameless, faceless people who play the villains in our posts have come from all walks of life. Young and old. Poor and rich. Illiterate and educated.
I do not wish to project an image of suave machismo but I guess the sense of protection accorded to the womenfolk is hardwired into the male genes. How can some men transcend complex biology and stoop to the level of inflicting the treatment that they wouldn’t tolerate on their loved ones on to other women is honesty beyond me.
So many times we talk of guys acting too tough, too macho. Being overly possessive and protective. The ingrained me-big-man-me-protect-little-woman instincts. Where are these instincts in the bastards who feel us up ?
Annie talks of the rules – some spoken, some silently understood – that govern the very way we live. That mock the freedom and independence we claim on the basis of our education, our intelligence, and our strength. Aishwarya talks about being dependent on her guy friends to drop her home at late night. The dependence on men, that is necessary. And that embarrasses our embrace of emancipation.
Why are not women seen as another being, having the right to walk carefree on a street or ride on a bus and to reach their destination without being abused, assaulted and battered, without feeling frustrated, guilty, angry, simmering with rage, reconciled to being violated, tearful, afraid for their safety, feeling like shit, feeling dirty, or without feeling like an object of someone’s uncontrolled lust?
Why indeed ? Is it no wonder that I have no desire to return to a society that treats me like this ? I never thought about it, but certainly this would be an unconscious factor driving me away from returning. Thalassa Mikra rightly terms us the world champions of sexual hypocrisy. Why would I want to return to a place where my daughter will be humiliated in this way ?
A wise man, viz. Saltwater Blues, says,
A women is like a flower, and the moment you attempt to violate her, you are causing harm to something that adds beauty to what is otherwise a very drab world.
A mushy thought, but I wish more guys thought that way.
-Action Hero Ash