Reading people's blogs and my own comments and my experiences walking home yesterday has got me thinking as to whether our whole attitude towards eve-teasers is skewed. Whether we, by our attitude, are actually encouraging them, rather than protecting ourselves.
Ive read so much in the last couple of days about the travails that women face, especially in intensely public spaces like railways stations, more so than streets, and ALL of them, even this suspenseful, sensitive one by Anil Purohit, talk about how women are forced to shrink into themselves and become as small and invisible as possible to focus the male gaze on as little of their body as possible. And I understand, because it's a natural instinct to want to run and hide.
To all these women I would like to say: I understand, I've been there enough times. But there's only so much you can do. I know that all of that which you are hiding - your legs, your breasts, your ass, even the glow on your face, will be folded into a snug little bundle in the area between your chest and pelvis, and held close to your womb. But do you not realise, that your physical self is not reducing in size? You are not protecting your body, merely putting it and your mind more at edge by compacting your tension into one contracted, shivering explosive area. Making you more jumpy and aware and hence, prone to offense.
By shrinking into yourself thus, you are simply giving the eve-teaser more space to invade into your territory, more room for his confidence and arrogance to expand. In a crowded place on the street, the sexual perpetrator is simply a bully. A bully by definition is one who picks on weaker, smaller people. Besides, a bully has no power against those who stand up to him. In such cases, he merely cowers or run away.
A woman may be smaller in size, but she is certainly not smaller in aura. When I said attitude was the panacea for this problem in my post to commemorate the Blank Noise 3 posts ago, I meant it. Attitude is not only in your core, but also in the periphery that is manifested in your physical being.
I was walking home from the parlour yesterday - a ten-minute walk - in tottering high heels. It was 6 pm - peak travelling time and I had to traverse dug up , crowded sidewalks and cross a busy intersection and walk. I tend to walk ramrod straight, very tall, face facing straight ahead, nose up, only looking down if the pavement is bumpy or Im in deep thought. And even then, I do it with a full awareness of men watching, which they invariably do. (The music helps me zone out and relax, of course). Yesterday, I noticed that I do maintain basic courtesy in not being in a hurry, in letting people cross, and in making sure I dont accidentally touch anyone. It is very easy to develop agility in dodging. I also noticed that while a lot of men look at me, they generally don't touch. Now this led me to think: why? I got felt up a lot when I was younger - I was fairly tall then as well, so I was possibly more vulnerable because of my age and lack of awareness. Is it because my sense of self has evolved greatly through the years and this has manifested itself in my mien?
I really do believe I have a subtle force field around me because no matter how close men get as they walk past, they just don't touch me. (of course, this field is blatantly invaded in Shrinathji temple at Nathdwara because the temple is always sooooo crowded and you're simply swept away from the door to the corridor by the force of the crowd). Or at least their brush is rendered inoffensive. I think it also helps because I look straight through, and not away from men, if I happen to catch their eye.
It's been studied scientifically, and results show that women who behave very confidently, who walk tall, who acknowledge their molester by turning back and looking, who display no reaction, such as quickened pace, facial nervousness etc., who even stop and let the potential molester pass, are less likely to be molested. That's the first thing they taught us in self-defence in college, and throughout women's studies. They do recommend we yell for help, fight back, but concentrate on getting away most of all in case of attempted assault.
If you do get eve-teased and wish to complain, a woman has the right to not go or be held up or questioned overnight at a police station between 6pm and 6 am unless there are women officers there and she has been ordered by a woman officer.
You're a woman, you're naturally beautiful. You have curves, you have softness. They cant help looking at you. But you have every right to NOT be violated. And to prevent that, you have to start with yourself. If you make it a big deal, that your supposed, socially-upheld but actually imaginary 'honour' is at stake, you're actually giving them a situation thats more of a challenge to them, and therefore, a prize that's all the more valuable when, despite all your resistance, they manage to violate you.
I know this requires a complete overthrowing of the belief system that has been imposed upon us by social pressure and actually coming to terms with a lot of aspects of the female self that is simply not addressed except in the terminology attributed to a wife or a mother. And you know what? It's completely okay!!!
Action Hero Aranyi