By Juhi Bansal
PS: This write up has been lying in my drafts for sometime now. It might make you uneasy or touch a nerve. Either way- my apologies in advance.
If you’ve never met a pervert- raise your hand. From being ogled at to groped to eve-teased/cat -called or “accidently” brushed against- I’ve gone through it all. I know you have too- after all it’s a rite of passage in India.
If you’re woman who claims to have never faced harassment- well you’re either living in denial or under a rock. If you’re a man and you think your wife/ daughter/ sister/ mother has never been harassed, you need a reality check.
From “harmless humour” at workplace to “by mistake” gropes and brushes by strangers in trains and buses to lecherous stares every waking hour of your life whatever age you may be, whatever attire you may be sporting, harassment is so rampant and routine we sometimes don’t even realize it’s happening. We’re used to dressing up “appropriately” because we have to understand. Men- they are well within their birthright to ogle unabashedly at women who have even an inch of skin visible. After all she deserves it.
You must have heard it umpteen times too- “itne chhote kapde pehnegi to log to dekhenge hi” (you’re inviting attention by wearing short clothes) or worse still “ladkon ko dikhane ke liye hi to pehanti hain itne chhote kapde ladkiyaan”. (you must want to get men’s attention, why else would you wear such clothes)!.
I remember the times when my friends’ mothers would hush them up just because they didn’t know how to react or because it was a member of the family they couldn’t dare call out. Me- I was just too scared to even come home and tell anyone. I thought stepping out was a privilege and I wasn’t about to give that up because of some a**h**les who I didn’t even know.
My sister was/is braver. I remember she once came home and cried bitterly because she was flashed at and my father lost it completely. He sat my sister in the car, seeked that pervert out (took them the better part of an hour) and beat him up in broad daylight in front of a fast collecting mob. I don’t know whether what my dad did was right or not but we felt vindicated, my sister and I and that was enough!
Now that my little one is growing up I don’t know how to teach her to deal with this. Should I ask her to brush it under the carpet and carry on with her life. After all that’s the price we pay for our “independence”.
Should I ask her to think before dressing up? Should I tell her it’s in her interest to “lay low”?
Or should I ask her to stand up against it?- For her friends, her sisters and herself. To not take it lying down. To give it an honest fight. I was too scared to speak up. I hope she doesn’t learn from me.
After all, #notallmen may be perverts but #definitelyallwomen face it. I have, you have, she will and so will your little one. The question is- how many of us will speak up? If not for ourselves, for our offsprings?
On popular demand, I will try and blog about one work outfit a month going forward. All these are actual outfits I wear to work- needless to say- no rules apply! Whether it is prints, colours or high heels. I’ve tried to break the solid monotony by wearing a dress shirt as jacket. Also helps with the nip in the air. 🙂
Outfit: Forever 21
Shoes: Charles & Keith