Last year when BNP called out for Bloggers to put down their thoughts on this phenomenon we call "eve-teasing", but which actually is serious, ongoing, harassment, I did. And the experiences I read that day, via links on BNP, left me horrified , but unsurprised. It happens, oh yes, it does. Thank God we are actually talking about it now.
This year when they called out again to put down your experiences of fighting back, I was unsure of my contribution. I haven't done anything which you could term "heroic" - I haven't walked into police stations, I have never fought back physically. I have however tried to protect myself, in crowded buses, by turning around and questioning men grinding into my rear, using umbrellas, and elbows, and keys, and zippered, metal-studded handbags. And I remember once, as a school girl, walking home in my white blouse and navy skirt, of being followed by two men on a motor-cycle, and veering off from the road, climbing onto a large pile of sand, and grabbing fist-fulls of it. The men circled the sand-pile a couple of times, leering and reaching out their hands, trying to grab at me, but then went away, when they spied traffic.
I remember, while living in a sea-side town attempting to take solitary walks along the beach, because it was so beautiful, and I loved the feel of sun-warmed sand on my toes. However, I gave up trying because the couple of times I tried it, some moron on a moped or a cycle would follow me down to the beach, and baleful glares, and choice epithets, even when uttered by me, spoilt the experience.
Refusing men their offers of "friendship" while standing at bus-stops can get pretty tiring after a while. So does refusing lifts from well-dressed young men, who know where you live, and profess a familiarity with your acquaintances. No, You don't live there, and no, you don't want to get into their car. However, more tiring than that is acting like eve-teasing doesn't exist. Pretending that when you step out into public spaces, in streets, you don't guard your actions, and you don't use your handbag like armor. Pretending that in polite, middle-class society, women aren't pawed and groped and humiliated. Pretending that you're above this abomination happening to you everyday, when you're not.
We never have conversations about eve-teasing in our living-rooms, in our homes. We never acknowledge the problem - such is life, and women must lump it? It can seem futile to fight this battle because it's never ending, and you know that once you've had chided the molester in this bus, there will be another lecher in the next. But, if we don't acknowledge this harassment, don't speak about it, and complain (loudly), no one will ever comprehend it for the crime it is. Women who speak up are not weaklings. They aren't refusing to take on "life's problems". They aren't refusing to be practical. Eve-teasing should not be a part of "life". It should not be the norm, because invasion of our private space, our bodies cannot be the norm. Ever.
Bravo, BNP !
Posted 21st March 2007 by J