Unboxed Writers App for Phone and Tablet

Here are more ways to stay at forefront of Unboxed Writers and stay informed and inspired! Download our app for Android Phones and Tablets. Click on the image to Download Now!


Justice

Like Us on Facebook

Follow Us on Twitter

 

Archives

Cattitude: Cause We Support

Cattitude!

The Cattitude Trust is a Public Charitable Trust started to reach out to cats in distress, particularly in Chennai (India).

To know more about Cattitude, 'Like' them on Facebook.

Copyright

Creative Commons License
All content displayed here by Unboxed Writers is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://unboxedwriters.com.

Excerpt, Don't Copy: You may not publish an entire post. You may republish an excerpt of not increasing 250 words.

Give Credit: You may not use any material from our site without giving due credit to the individual author and Unboxed Writers. You must hyperlink directly to the post.

Author: Author of the post retains all copyright, and reserves all rights not explicitly granted here.

They Dehumanise Women Because They Can

image
Sometime last year I went for a late night show with my 18-year-old and forgot one cardinal rule I have always followed while going out after dusk though it is a rare occurrence. Dress down. Wear a big shawl that hides the fact that though 47, I am a woman still. No flashy neck or ear pieces. Be invisible. I know that these are just little tricks I engage in to soothe my psyche because I know that nothing deters men who like to stare at women, openly, brazenly. They do it because they can and it has nothing to do with how a woman is dressed. Many years ago I remember being touched inappropriately outside a single screen theatre in Bangalore even though my toddler was with me. I remember screaming and shaming the man who had caused the “accident” and feeling guilty when a crowd began to gather because I did not want to be responsible for any violence caused to him. That is how accountable women feel not just for their own safety but sometimes for the safety of those who harm them. No such feelings of course assail men who “tease”, grope, assault and rape.
**
So that night, in the movie theatre, I felt a little unprepared without my camouflage gear because I was still in smart work clothes though it was a long dress and a shrug with not an inch of skin showing if you discount my neck and face. A bunch of boys watched me walk up to my seat alone (my son was buying popcorn at the snack stall outside), and began to look me up and down. Then one of them who was sitting at the far end of the row began to joke that he had chosen the wrong seat and would have liked to exchange seats with the boy closer to me. They laughed. When my son took his seat next to me, he sensed something was wrong and I told him, loudly for the group to hear that “tameez”  and manners are not things that can be bought along with movie tickets.
**
They were surprised that I had chosen to call them out because they had not even chosen to consider that I could hear the banter they were having about me or that I could get affected by it. My son often tells me that not every man looks at a woman like a prey but it is hard for me to explain that most women feel like one most of the time. It is hard for me to explain what a woman feels when at a traffic signal, the man in a car or a truck or a bike next to her chooses to stare at her to pass his time. Or why I can’t let things be and always stare back or aim my camera phone at the man meaningfully till he hurriedly looks away. Or what it was like to be a college kid walking back home and being groped by a boy on a speeding moped. Or to explain what drove me to to chase him back to his house, knock at his door and see the colour drain from his face as he called me his  “behenji” and begged that I not tell his parents just what he had done.  It is hard for me to explain that every time a woman is violated in some way, she cultivates a defence mechanism and an instinct for danger that screams even before she does.
**
And it is hard to explain the unease I felt at a restaurant  near Brigade Road this New Year’s Eve, when I looked at the glass walls around and  saw the number of unruly revellers, mostly male, increasing alarmingly on the roads outside. I saw a drunk guest at the restaurant making his way repeatedly towards the girl who was part of a live musical act. To harass her male partner and once even shaking her hand. I worried for the hostesses who were serving us and wondered how they would get home. When we stepped outside around 12:30 am, I knew that every woman who was outside her home that night, with or without a male friend or relative, was feeling what I was feeling. Vulnerable.  I saw from the door of the restaurant, a gathering storm of noise, of jeers, cat calls and unbridled, fearless entitlement on the faces of scores of men on bikes, on foot. Men who have never been taught accountability. Men who think women are pieces of meat or sugar that “attract” violation just because they exist. Men who can’t understand how women can dare to occupy the streets they rule, drink in the pubs they frequent, dress they way they want and still demand respect.
**
Entitlement is a disease that vitiates everything. Politics, gender equations, the way we process facts or perceptions. We want answers not from perpetrators of excess in the political, social and personal arenas but from those who are the most victimised, the most wronged. So women must answer for their violation. They must answer for crimes they do not commit.
**
The larger question is of course why is it so easy to dehumanise women? In our cinema, our music, on our streets, in the way we respond to gender crimes? A report recently attributed crimes such as the mass molestation in Bangalore on the night of January 1, to sexual frustration when the word we should be looking for is deviance. It is criminal deviance fanned by ignorance, subliminal messages at home and in cinema and porn and in the culture of gender inequity at every level and the lax law and order machinery that drives men to hunt for women even in public spaces. Or on dark, lonely roads where a CCTV camera recorded the assault of a girl by two men on a bike. But it is not the first time such an incident has been recorded in Bangalore.  In May, 2016, a 22-year old woman from the North-East was kidnapped at a residential locality  by an unidentified man as bystanders watched passively.   In the CCTV footage, you could see the woman  being physically lifted and carried away by the man in front of her  PG accommodation.   In April last year, a woman was dragged out of her office in Muktsar Punjab and raped. The CCTV footage of her being dragged out is available and what is disconcerting in that case as in the footage of the girl being assaulted in Bangalore is that there were people who saw it happen. And did not intervene. The Muktsar girl could not have been dragged out of an empty office. And in the Bangalore case, you can see people on bikes and on foot stopping to watch what was happening but from a distance. So these incidents happen also because everyone chooses to be a bystander and by default, to be silently complicit in a crime.
**
As for the habitual prey hunters, when they can’t find a woman to debase in a real space, they pour humiliation online on the women they cannot reach. Recently when the news about Nandita Das’ second divorce hit the headlines, she was called every name in the sanskari troll manual and bashed for her morals, her dark skin, her supposedly “Maoist” leanings, her secular and liberal (two words that have been turned into troll magnets these days) values and more. This is a country where a woman’s free will is a thing to be mocked and shamed by ministers and online moral sainiks and eve teasers and rapists. A country where rape videos are circulated and bought and sold because to debase a woman is normal but to let her love and live and dance and celebrate and walk and breathe without fear is dangerous and unacceptable. And against Indian culture.
**
That is why a lawyer defending the rapists of Nirbhaya said that if she was his daughter, he would have set her on fire for watching a film with a boy who was not her brother or her relative. This is why we are a country where killing your own children for “honour” is condoned by entire communities. Where acid attacks occur when a woman says, “No.” Remember also Jessica Lal. And the wedding dancer at Bathinda who was shot in the head.
**
These are things that happen. And keep on happening. And we are okay with sexist men in our politics, in our cinema, in our religious spaces. That is why so many of us think that feminists are men hating crazy women who want to tilt the power equation in the world. And this malaise is world-wide.   That is why Trump despite his sexual misadventures was voted to run America while Hillary became a meme about her husband’s sexual misadventures. That is why politicians and religions everywhere like to regulate women’s sexuality and reproductive rights.
**
The rot is deep but it can be questioned, called out, fought relentlessly, defied, contained and defeated. In our homes. In our office spaces. In politics. Cinema. In not accepting and normalising sexist attitudes in men and women. In asking for less moral policing and actual policing and good governance so that our streets are safer and women do not have answer what were they thinking when they stepped out of their homes on New Year’s eve to have a good time. When nobody gets to shame and blame a victim. Not even a politician in power. Especially, not a politician in power.
**
We also need to figure just who gets to define “culture.” Who thinks that stripping women on a trekking trip to a fort in Lonavala and forcing them to sway flags and chant,  ‘Jai Shivani, Jai Bhavani’ is the best way to define our cultural identity. Who gets to decide that a man urinating in public without a care is not offensive but a woman in a short skirt is?  Where are we getting these messages from? Who is responsible for disseminating them? When we find these answers, let us then stop being passive onlookers. And put the blame where it really belongs.  And make sure that no woman ever feels the need for a camouflage gear on our watch. Or has to fight alone when a hand reaches out to violate her.
PHOTO BY STR/AFP/GETTY IMAGES
Reema Moudgil is the editor and co-founder of Unboxed Writers, the author of Perfect Eight, the editor of  Chicken Soup for the Soul-Indian Women, a  translator who recently interpreted  Dominican poet Josefina Baez’s book Comrade Bliss Ain’t Playing in Hindi, an  RJ  and an artist who has exhibited her work in India and the US and is now retailing some of her art at http://paintcollar.com/reema. She won an award for her writing/book from the Public Relations Council of India in association with Bangalore University, has written for a host of national and international magazines since 1994 on cinema, theatre, music, art, architecture and more. She hopes to travel more and to grow more dimensions as a person. And to be restful, and alive in equal measure.

Similar posts
  • Everywoman… The pain of men Is the crux of noir It’s why girlfriends Are found in fridges The pain of men Is stoic Quietly eats away at the men The pain of men Drives revenge epics Fuels classical tragedies The pain of men Ennobles, somehow The pain of women Is everyday Everywoman And when it is [...]
  • Me too. Me too. Me too. Me too. No matter how many times I say it, it won’t be anywhere near enough. Strangers on the street, boyfriends, acquaintances at parties, “friendly” uncles, neighbours- the reality that our bodies belong to everyone but ourselves is one that women realize rather early into their lives. The first time I [...]
  • Why We Don’t Need A Goddess Queen Today “Everything is fair in love and war,” says Rajkumar Rao’s vindictive hero in the viral trailer for Shaadi Mein Zaroor Aaana. This could have been the tagline of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmavati. The difference is that in the first film, the hero is avenging himself by punishing the woman who broke his heart. He wants [...]
  • Indian Education System – The Real Blue Whale Challenge! It is heart breaking for a teacher to see adolescents killing themselves over an online virtual game which challenges them to do self-harming tasks in real life. It is equally heart breaking to read about the exam, admission, IIT studies, NEET etc related suicides. What are we doing to our youngsters? Are we driving them [...]
  • Because Only Women Need To be “Responsible”! “Live Responsibly or Anticipate Death and Destruction” reads the title of an article on the death of model Sonika Chauhan. “We want ‘equal rights’ – we want to be able to go out late at night as men do, bar-hop, drink and relax, have several rounds of drinks. It’s our ‘right’. We too need to [...]

1 Comment

  1. January 11, 2017    

    Reema Ma’am, I totally agree with all you have explained in this article. Sometimes I ask the same like your son asks. But fail to get an answer. Your article sheds light on my darkest doubts. The links you have made with numerable events that happened in the country are worth reflecting about. Love the way you write and it inspires me. I wish I had a teacher like you to teach me to think and reflect about the society the way you do. Nevertheless may your thoughts on this website continue to inspire me and many others.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Our Authors

Be the first to read the latest on Unboxed Writers!

Subscribe for FREE and get the latest in your Inbox! You can unsubscribe at any time.
Name
Email *

Admins

Editor & Founder:
Reema Moudgil
Design Director & Founder:
Vani Bahl
Media Consultant:
Poonam Goel

Mission Statement

Who are we? We are writers. And here, in this space, we put pride and passion back into writing. We give ourselves and each other creative freedom and respect.

* We create an environment where content generation does not entail degeneration of inspiration and spirit.
* We create content that we believe in and identify with.
* We recognise that to create is always of more value than to berate.
*We critique without malice and arrogance.

This site is about us writers, what we stand for but more importantly, about creating something valuable, inclusive, thought-provoking. In this space, we do not just stand for ourselves but for all those who listen to a compelling inner voice that tells them, "Create!"

Unboxed Writers Share

Join the other awesome people who get the new posts right away by email!
Be the first to read the latest on Unboxed Writers.
Enter your email and stay on top of things!

Subscribe!