Romeo and Eve on Blank Noise

Blank Noise has the blog-a-thon 2006 going, inviting stories and thoughts from people about the problem of street harassment. People, because men need to speak out on this as much as women do.

I was waiting to attend the Blank Noise meet in Bombay before I posted on this. Some thoughts from there. The idea behind Blank Noise is to raise awareness among people that we need to Say NO to street harrassment, it is not okay to harass or be harassed, even in the name of fun. It is not okay to encroach upon a woman’s personal space, in the name of checking her out or appreciating beauty. No, it is not okay when the woman feels uncomfortable by this.

So what is harassment? And what is not?

So where do we draw the line and say this is okay and this is not? Start with looking at the innocuous name given to such harassment in India - eve teasing. Uh? teasing? The unemployed Rmeo whistles at the girl, sings lewd songs at her, and in the next scene fades out with the girl and the guy singing lewd songs tgether, declaring their undying love for each other? Nope, Eve and Romeo… doesn’t work that way.

One of the things Blank Noise wants to do first is to understand exactly what constitutes harassment. Please leave your thoughts on this here and spread the word around. Eve teasing to me means blank

Activism is such a dirty word?

It is alright to write about it but getting down to the streets where the harassment actually takes place is not so easy for everyone. You do not have to stand in the streets and ask people questions and hand out pamphlets. be your own activist - when you see a woman get harassed, take some action. Show your support in some way. And if you want to be involved in blank noise, please get in touch with Jasmeen right away.

But what can I do about it?

I agree often there isn’t much you can do about it - in a crowded space, it is sometimes difficult to even tell who pinched or groped. But when you do know, then make a scene. Ask him ‘why are you staring a me’? I have tried this and it works. It sends the “teaser” into a tizzy. Shout if in a public place and get the attention of others.

And if you feel physically feel violated in any way, first get this clear - you are not responsible for it. It is not about the way you smile or the clothes you are wearing - it is about the fact that you are a woman and you happen to be there. I don’t know if this is supposed to make one feel better or worse, it is not about you - it could have been any woman there and then.

All that I have written, I have faced, and thought about.

And the stories….

As Annie said, karoge yaad toh har baat yaad aayegi. It just needs one person to start talking about it and then suddenly every woman has her own story to share.

After all these years, I still get disturbed when I think about this - and I do often. Twelve years old and in a crowded temple on a festival way. And a man squeezed my breasts from behind. hard, so hard that I shouted out. But I had nothing to say when my aunt asked me what had happened. And I saw the man. I saw him again and again. I saw the leer on his face. And I saw him come towards me a second time, and it happened a second time. And I saw him walk away. And I came home and cried unconsolably.

I am shaking with anger as I write this. What breasts does a twelve year old have, you bastard? I have noticed that I still instinctively cover my chest if I sense a stranger come too close to me, and if I am not wearing a dupatta. And I have not mentioned this to anyone in my life till now.

Walking to class at 16. Passing through a house where four teengae boys sang dirty songs every single day. Till I snapped one day. That night, they came to my house drunk and made a scene infrnt of the gate. Neighbors watching in avid curiosity, and supportive parents who threatened to cal the police. The next morning, my dad and I went to the house; the boy’s father as a well known physiotherapist, and compalined about him. The boy’s mother advised my dad to keep his girl under control. They did not sing from the next day, but I didn’t feel good about that “victory”…

And then driving classes at 19. And the scent of the male instructor as he leaned over my neck teaching me to reverse the car. That nauseous smell of coconut oil, mixed with sweat and what, lust? I snapped at him after three days and demanded a woman instructor. And he failed me in my preliminary driving test before going to the RTO. I don’t drive to this day.

Related : my earlier post on Being a female body

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