When I was a bookish fourteen-year old I had a very interesting conversation with one of my friends. She asked me if I had been “proposed” by any boy. Nerd, that I was, I got confused. I asked her if she meant if I had been “teased” by any boy, to which she rather innocently replied, “Oh no!That happens to everybody!”. When I think back on this rather bizarre conversation between two fourteen-year-old girls standing in the school corridor, I am amazed by the nonchalance with which my friend accepted the fact of “eve-teasing”. She, however, was absolutely correct, it happens to everyone and it happens everywhere!
I have been “teased”, verbally as well as physically. I have been “teased” when I was a ten year old riding my cycle back from grocery store, on a train, on a bus, on the road and once even in the laboratory of my college. The time of the day, the dress you were wearing, your location and whether you were or weren’t alone…..nothing mattered. It happened and it happens.
You must be wondering why I am suddenly revealing so much and that too on such a public platform. There are two reasons for it.
The first, the horrific incident in Bangalore during New Year’s eve, which brought back all the ugly memories (yes been “teased” on Brigade Road too).
The second incident happened a few days back while I was traveling by Dubai metro. I came across a trio of Indian ladies giggling and pointing at a westerner lady in the other compartment. The said lady was wearing a sun dress over a swimsuit obviously on the way to the beach. I was appalled by the reaction of the Indian ladies. For them to be educated, living in a cosmopolitan city and well-dressed to be so judgmental about another lady’s dress was absolutely unacceptable to me. I was left wondering if educated women can behave like this, how can we have any hope of leaving a safer country for our daughters.
When you are “teased” you feel violated and for some like me, you even feel a sense of shame. It is almost as if it were your fault that the “incident” happened. How much ever you might move on in life these incidents leave a deep imprint on your psyche. Do you know what the saddest part is? Most of us do not even speak about it, either because they lack the courage (like me) or even worse, they themselves are blamed for going through that.Their dress, the time of the day they were out, with whom they were out, all are the reasons given for them to be “teased”. I would like to ask all those how a girl walking on the road wearing salwar kameez is to be blamed for a person who comes from behind, gropes her breast and walks on, leaving the girl humiliated and mortified!
To quote Elif Shafak, when women are divided into categories it is the status quo- the patriarchy- that benefits. It is us, the women, who have to band together to be non-judgmental about other women. It is only then we will have the courage to hold on to our strength. The sad thing is the Victorian puritanism is so deeply ingrained in the collective Indian mentality that to accept anything other than the norm becomes difficult. Short dresses, sleeveless tops or heaven forbid a swimsuit for swimming, suddenly become clothes that brand you as “easy” or maybe “sexy”(of course said with a wink, giggle and nudge). Pleasure, weather or practicalities, of course, have no say in this matter. It is very easy to say “She was to blame”, but what if that “she” was YOU???
This post is for the women who have been “teased” and kept quiet. It is for women who have been “teased” and told to be quiet sometimes even by their own mother. It is for the news about molestation cases every day.It is for women who judge other women, and the women who have been judged. It is even for men who do not realise there is a fine line between appreciating a woman and making her feel unsafe.
Which is why we first need to get together as women, speak out when something wrong is happening. If someone has the courage to open about molestation, listen to them, support them, just don’t judge them.