I am taking the post by the Indian Teenager, and adding my own two cents.
I am more brave and confident than I used to be, but I still am very conscious while walking down the alley.
Ever since I realized why my parents were being so overly paranoid about me and my sister’s dresses or the time when we go out of the house, I have been experiencing the reflection of the very same feeling inside me. My stomach knots, heart pounds and steps increase in speed as soon as I realize the presence of male human in the vicinity. I tend not to look at them and act as if they are invisible. I used to ignore the hoots and cat calls of hooligans while on my way to school. But it is in college that I grew some courage and would turn around to stare at the direction of the voice. This made some shut up but there are egotistical males who think that a woman showing some courage is a hit on their image and what followed usually made me lose my freedom. They would either follow me home or stalk me on a regular basis, in general increase the intensity of their torture. I have no idea how such a thing can be fun to someone. It is utterly sadistic to enjoy someone else’ discomfort. Sadistic pervert pigs.
Let me give a brief idea of how sexy I was back then. I was around 35 kg when I was in college. I don’t know how much I weighed in school but I was pretty thin, with no boobs whatsoever. And I stayed so until I completed my pre-uni. So it was all bones and no flesh. Yes, very sexy.
Now back to the point.
We had unwritten codes of conduct when we went out. We couldn’t talk loudly, or laugh/giggle on the road. I know it is indecent to yell in the middle of a road and I also know of girls who back then used to giggle and laugh to attract a particular someone’s attention. And I consider that too indecent. But I took it so seriously that I stopped talking when I was on road and put on this serious-almost-furious face all the time. It was as if I’m ready to punch the person who talked to me on the road. I was vigilant all the time, taking notice of who is where in the road and looking out for potential molesters/stalkers. If I suspected someone walking opposite to me, I would automatically ball my palm into a fist and be ready to fight back. But before that, I would be sufficiently ready to make myself inconspicuous. Like wearing baggy salwa-kameez, huge spectacles, oiled and tightly braided hair. My parents reinforced all this. Ofcourse they didn’t feel like making us understand the reason, rather just said that its our culture. Only later I started feeling that the motive might be a little shameful for them to talk about – street harassment and molestation. Yep, we are very cultural that way. No talk of social education at home.
Then I went into college and then came the understanding that I can say no too. And I did. I started saying no to baggy dresses. I wanted a fancy hair cut. It is a different thing that I usually didn’t get my way. But my parents started saying things which indicated that I would invite trouble by being bold and making a statement. Ofcourse be bold in your studies and cultural activities and what not, but be within the boundaries of what society expects out of girls, for them to be called decent. Very convenient to think decent girls don’t get harassed. “Don’t wear kurtas with slits on the side, what with your thighs showing off on either side”. “Don’t wear figure hugging jeans, what with the butt showing”. I know they were scared for my safety and were making sure I didn’t end up in a dump by using the only way they knew – restricting me and making me responsible for the trouble if there was any. For the same reason I had to hide from them, the various blank calls and friendship calls I used to get. I was scared they wouldn’t let me go out. Not that I went out too much anyway.
It took me ages to realize that I am not responsible for what other person thinks about me. Only after I joined a job and left home did I realize that I was capable of taking care of myself. And that my body was my and my business alone. And what others perceive of me is not my problem.
I have always had more male friends. I’m just comfortable around them, with no bad experiences so far. But even now I’m all eyes and ears when I am walking on a road. I employ all my senses and keep myself on high alert until I reach destination. Even then I have had bad experiences here in Bangalore, in crowded places like Vijayanagar and Majestic bus stand. Just thinking about them makes my blood boil and murder the whole male fraternity.
We women live in fear every day and I know as a fact that most men have no freaking idea what it is to live like that. We have rules and restrictions at home. Rather, would it not help if men had education at home? Why should we be scared of just walking on a street or sitting by ourselves in a park like men do? Why do we look like opportunities to most males? Do you males really think that stripping us through your eyes goes unnoticed by us? Do we have “fools” written large on our face? Do you think we’ll take all this silently forever? Do you think that we won’t hit back?
We will. Some of us already are. And one fine day, all of us will. I swear we will if you don’t stop.