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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Of Sluts and Walks

As is the case with any new happening, a lot is being said about the Slutwalk being organized in Delhi. And as is the fate of any current happening, most of us are using it as another opportunity of wordplay and pun-making. What we are doing, in effect, is trivializing it. I will tell you why that is wrong on so many levels. It isn’t, as most of us think, a day out in the sun for some feisty women who are comfortable with their bodies or feel free to express their sexuality. It stems from something deeper; something far more primal. It stems from a fear women feel on a daily basis; a fear only a prey can feel of its predator. It is a rebellion against that very fear. A lot of men I know are very sensitive and politically correct people. Yet, they at times, unwittingly treat it as casual matter. Even I ignore it and move on, because the prejudice is so instinctive and set so deep that there is way too much effort involved in confronting it, let alone eradicating it. But I believe it’s high time.
Dear people, it hurts when you trivialize things such as these. It hurts deeply. I believe you don’t see the violence that a woman feels in these daily acts of sexual abuse. And when I say sexual abuse, I mean everything from eve teasing, to molestation (verbal and physical) to rape. I don’t think the rape statistics that get flashed into our faces ever so often seem real enough to you all. Well let me make it real for you. Let’s see if it makes any difference.
I studied for five years at the School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi. I was all of sixteen when I left home and came to an alien city. Do you remember being sixteen? Well, you could try. I came from Indore, which was a relatively safer city and I hadn’t faced much sexual abuse; or maybe I was too innocent to notice. My college was spread across three campuses within the city. Two campuses were at ITO, one opposite the Vikas Minar and the other, half a dozen blocks away in front of the Indraprastha Stadium. The road from one block to another went through a by-lane on the side of a flyover. The lane was usually lined with lal-batti cars belonging to the bureaucrats working in the nearby government offices. And these cars were occupied by drivers taking a nap or playing cards through the hot Delhi afternoons. It was one of the afternoons in August of the year 2004. I had joined the institute and was walking alone from one campus to another at about 2.30 in the afternoon. And one of the drivers walked up to me, asking for directions to Laal Quila. I told him I didn’t know. I don’t know when during the course of conversation, he flicked out his penis from his zipper and started massaging it. IN BROAD DAYLIGHT. IN FRONT OF HIS MANY OTHER DRIVER FRIENDS, WHO WATCHED AND LAUGHED. That afternoon, I felt fear and helplessness like I’ve never felt before. And for those of you doubt, I wasn’t wearing anything remotely “provocative”. It was our ragging duration, and we were supposed to wear salwar kameez and chappals and oil our hair till it dripped and tie them in a tight plait. I came back to the room, and broke down. I’ve never been the one to share my problems with anybody, and this is the first time I’m telling anybody at all about that incident. And I’ll tell you how it felt. I felt violated at the very basic level of my existence. It wasn’t as if the man had touched me or hurt me in any physical way. But the fact that he could do it, without any shame or fear and get away with it was what bothered me. He probably went away with the sense of satisfaction at my expense of intimidating a girl, he would’ve even forgotten about it, or done the same thing to the next girl coming down his way, I’d never know. Have you ever been screwed over by your boss at work? Where they abuse their power and take credit for what you’ve done. Obviously you can’t do anything about it. Now take that anger and helplessness, multiply it by a hundred. That was what I felt that day; and almost every other day after that. Ever since that day, I could never move around fearlessly in that city. I lived in mortal fear. That man came SO close to hurting me in one of worst ways humanly possible. THAT was the moment it became real to me. What also became real to me was my acute inability to do anything about it. After that I always moved in packs, carried around a cutter, and was constantly vigilant about my surroundings. Trust me, it’s not a great feeling, living in fear. And every single moment I went around feeling that way, it was by all definitions, exploitation.
In another incident, I was traveling in an auto with two other girls and another guy in an auto. This was at about 9 in the night, not late by many standards. After we crossed the Nizamuddin station two bikes appeared from nowhere and started circling our auto from both sides. Drunken men were riding both bikes and they started making lewd remarks. In spite of ignoring them they didn’t go away and kept coming closer and closer to our auto. One of them lunged and tried to grab one of my friend’s arm through the window. Again, this is at 9 in the night, there was mild traffic and everyone watched and did nothing about it. Our auto driver sped up and those guys tried following but then I they simply got bored and abandoned the chase. NOT AFRAID, NOT GUILTY. BORED. Again I felt that same mixture of helplessness and anger. It is the worst kind of violence, this mental abuse.
Once I was traveling in a bus from college to Vasundhara Enclave in East Delhi. One middle-aged, middle class ‘respectable’ looking man, came stood next to where I was sitting and started rubbing his erect penis through his clothes into my arm. Again, I gave him looks and told him to stand away, but he wouldn’t listen. I saw many people noticing, yet turning their faces away. As if nothing was happening. In fact the conductor gave him a sly smile like a symbolic thumbs up on his conquest. Hence it was futile to create a scene. But I guess I was acting too restless, he went ahead and started doing the same thing to another woman sitting in the seat ahead of me. She didn’t respond at all, or worse still was completely unaware of what was happening to her.
I can’t even begin to count the number of times such incidents have happened to me. I’ve retorted, sworn at, and on two occasions, slapped these men. But never did I ‘get used’ to it. I learnt to ignore it, but it made me feel equally miserable every single time. Now imagine every woman that you’ve ever known; especially the women most special to you, your mother, sister, loved one or best friend. All of this that I described above happens to them, in worse forms, EVERY SINGLE DAY. They obviously don’t tell you, because what can you do about it. You can’t possibly accompany them everywhere they go and keep beating these men up all the time.
So when you make fun of rape, eve teasing or anything along those lines, it hurts us in deep ways. It is an insult to those mortifying memories that we carry around. It’s like making fun of someone’s cancerous tumour. Like one of my favorite men @cgawker put it, “i'm guessing the slutwalk is as much about the right to dress like a slut as the salt march was about the right to eat salt.” When the British were ruling us, the people actually facing true physical exploitation were few. What do you think made so many people leave their comfortable existence and come out in protest? What made them angry enough to leave everything behind and lay down their lives? Well, the sheer fact that there are worse ways of exploitation than getting whiplashes on your back, or being taxed unfairly; the fact that it’s not worth living, if it’s not a life of pride and dignity. The Slutwalk might not be the most articulate way of telling the story that I am trying to tell here. I don’t know if it will be able to achieve its objectives or simply be subject to jokes and criticism. But it will for sure be an outlet of fears and frustrations that women feel every living moment of their lives. Vamos slutwalk, all the power to you. And more.

41 comments:

  1. Bravo. Nice blog post. :)
    Little do people know is that these incidents happen not just in Delhi but almost every city in India.
    btw, this line probably needs correction - "Our auto driver sped up and those guys tried following but then "I" they simply got bored"
    thankyou :)

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  2. "I’ve retorted, sworn at, and on two occasions, slapped these men. But never did I ‘get used’ to it."

    Nicely articulated

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  3. I am a Delhi girl and I've experienced such crap so many times. But I just feel that dressing up in skimpy clothes and going out on streets will only call for more crap from guys.
    I am participating in the slut walk, but I think it would be better if we do it in the clothes we like to wear, do speeches, talk about it, open up and demonstrate a little, show them that we've a voice which, now united, will screw them pretty bad if they tried to hurt us.

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  4. Mum always told me the *issues* she faced in New Delhi couldn't be described in words. I have ambivalent feelings about calling this a *good* article - it is well written but the contents are quite disturbing and depict the *tharki males* in poor light. I hope things change; because a country cannot prosper if their women aren't respected.

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  5. thanks for putting up this post. i'm 17, and i've forever wanted to talk about my experiences in this regard, but have never found the courage to do so openly.
    thanks. i think i'll do a post on it, after evading it for so long.

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  6. Girls in Bangalore and Chennai experience the same thing...... we have all experienced the same things....... Thank you for posting this!

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  7. You know as much as I do, everything I have to say about this. And it's a lot. Right now, I'll just say one thing though, men we know and live with, trivialize it because all these arguments point at certain "other" uncouth men who are >out there< groping women in crowded buses and forgotten streets, or so they think. Blissfully unaware of their own remarks, jokes and consistent snubbing of women or disregarding their *being* outside of their *form*. The likes of slutwalks (I don't think much of the name yes) are also talking to men who don't want to stop when a woman asks them to and who find their rage rightfully placed when encountered with a "cocktease". It's pretty much talking to every man who has mutated interactions with a woman/about a woman because of no other peculiarity that she manifests except the fact that she's a woman.

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  8. 1st of all i wud like to cngrtlte u 4 putng it up so brlntly nd artcltly........nd ya nw i m ashmed of blng to d gndr whch takes prde in ths knd f act widout a bit of rspct nd rgrt to women....

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  9. I had a bit of a problem with the name Slut Walk when I first heard about it - 'slut' sounded too extreme. Cgawker puts it succinctly and this is what I realised as well when I read more on the movement.

    Participating in the Brisbane Slut Walk confirmed this for me. Each and every woman and man participating in the protest that day was angry about the shame and anguish women are put through for being expressive about their sexuality. We were angry about women being blamed for 'inviting' rape or abuse.

    There were strippers marching with housewives. There were college students marching with their mothers and there were drag queens marching with college professors. People from all walks of life participated and (as I realised when I read more about their experiences on various blogs later) they all knew of or had experienced incidents like yours Sania.

    I marched for incidents like these - so many nasty memories of my own joining in - when I marched for Slut Walk.

    I can't ignore or shrug off rape or abuse any more and the feeling that I am empowered enough to take a stand has done a ton of good for me.

    The name may be wrong in an Indian context, but god knows the movement hits the right spot for every woman out there.

    Much love and goodwill to all of you walking the Slut Walk. It's a thing to be proud of.

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  10. Excellent post. One of the most level-headed and bluntly put blog posts I have read in a long while. A scathing attack on the 'accepted' norms of society.

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  11. Great post.
    I'm glad the Slutwalk is taking place in India. I know it started off in Toronto and its good its reaching out to places like India where women are treated like a piece of meat !

    The slutwalk is not about dressing in skimpy clothes - it's about the right to wear what you want without fear of being targeted just because the clothing might be unacceptable to someone else. It's about the right to be yourself - whether its in a salwar kameez or in a tank top & shorts.

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  12. Intention might be good, but name is problematic 'slut' is nearer to 'prostitution' and I am sure it not about encouraging it.

    Why not have a different name for the walk, suggest a name ....

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  13. Highly realistic portrayal.this was a brilliant account.and so goddamn true.men have lost the meaning of respect and the essence of dignity.unless there is a mass awakening with regard to there issues,there shall be no change.tryin to control these issues by policing cannot provide a solution.hats off to you for personalizing this account.compulsory read to every individual.bravo!!

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  14. Your post disturbed me. I am sitting in office as i write this. I am shivering with rage. My sister went to SPA as well. She would have walked the same roads as you did. She would have taken the same buses. She would have gone through the same pain. And she never shared it with me.
    I am a male, from Delhi, and currently living in Bangalore. I dont know if the slut walk is a good thing and whether it will change anything on ground, may be it will just be lewd entertainment for the same bastards who dis this to you and countless women every day.

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  15. To keep it short, an eye-opener for me.

    Being a guy I can never fully understand what every girl (people close to me!) goes through almost everyday. Your post makes me relate to it much better. Thanks!

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  16. Its like hearing what I have felt for so many times during my stay in the relatively 'safe' city of Bangalore. Obscene gestures and lewd looks are more of the smaller things that perverted eveteasers are capable..
    Though events like the 'Slut Walk' may make a statement, there is a long way to go before women can act, dress and speak freely.

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  17. Excellent post. Sharing it right away...more people, especially men, need to know of these daily ordeals the women in our lives endure. Keep the faith!

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  18. First of all, I think there is a distinction between oglers and molesters/rapists. In a society, there is inconvenience caused by oglers to women in skimpy clothes and also there is inconvenience caused by women in skimpy clothes to men who find this scantiness disturbing or at times repulsive. It’s two way. So, in this context, I don’t completely go along with the campaign. This campaign shouldn’t be taken as narrow as a movement against men staring at thinly clothed women.
    But as you've pointed it out, there are men, lecherous and uncivilized men, who go many steps further making verbal abuse, personal assault, molestation and worst case, rape. And, if their hearts are made of anything but cold stone, this campaign should be an eye-opener for them, a facepalm.
    I think at the end of the day, the impression this campaign will make on the society as a whole will depend on how media portrays it. Whether it will ridicule it or embrace it.
    (Any disrespect caused is purely a shortcoming of my language and not intentional)

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  19. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slut

    the wiki definition of slut seems to be more indicative of sexual behavior than related to attire...its obviously another one of those endlessly debatable subjects and im noone to contest any point of view, but i looked it up when i saw the word "slutwalk" being used for a protest.

    the main reason i wanted to comment was having grown up in delhi, i saw these kinda situations everyday so i fully agree with u. but as other people have highlighted in their comments, this walk started in toronto, brisbane etc, so women in other cities face this issue too. other indian cities/towns are no safer than delhi. and indian cities are no more dangerous than other countries. i have not visitied many cities abroad apart from london where i lived for a couple months, and the level of disrespect and crime against women was astonishing.i saw eve teasing and groping on streets on a level which i had never even seen in delhi. and i hear from my friends that other countries like brazil, us, japan, south america are no better. man european countries are notorious as well for street crime against women.

    my point being that its not just delhi men, its a global problem, and i suppose the deterrent for this kinda behavior is only strong laws, sensitive police and a society less numb to womens problems.hell, numb to everyones problems, if u see smone getting mugged on the road, 99% chance u would walk by.

    its not just delhi men, whereever there is an absence of deterrence men will behave like this...lobbying for stronger laws and implementation might not sound as much fun as a slutwalk, but might be a more mature way of dealing with this demon.

    disclaimer **just ended up on this page though smones fb link, so im not sure it comments from strangers are welcome or not**

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  20. this is really an eye opener article... I am feeling too numb to comment anything.

    But i want to tell you something, when i read about incidents you faced, i also felt the same shock and fear (though i am a boy but still i would have felt the same if someone would have done this infront of me, whether the doer is a girl or a boy.)

    So first thing is to think that girl class/section is not weak part of our society, they are equal in all respects. Thinking like this will give us power to act like a society. Where boys and girls are all equal and they all have to deal with this kind of issues.

    Secondly i would request everyone (be it girl or boy) that please do not be ignorant if anything happens on road with anyone. If today we wont stop it on roads then tomorrow it can intrude our home as well.

    Please consider and treat all genders and all section of our society equally and DO ACT IF SOMETHING HAPPENS ON ROAD WITH ANYONE. I WILL.

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  21. used to read about such experiences in my early blogging days on o3.indiatimes.com. Really sad to know the current state.

    As mentioned, am not sure how effective #SlutWalk would be but do hope it helps bring some change atleast...

    atb!

    PS: needs a lot of courage to write such a post...

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  22. My request to women encountering such men is - please react. I slapped people, screamed at them. Once I plunged my high heels into a man's feet who was trying to touch me inappropriately. He fled the bus. If you are brave, no one can take advantage of you being a woman.

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  23. SAD. i was in a good mood when i came to office this morning and was listning to music while beginning to read this.. but by the middle i had stopped the music and was feeling sick.

    true i had heard about one or two such incidents.. but had no idea how often and how many are affected by it.

    I totally support women in such scenarios and would def. react if i were to be in the presence. i think in the end its the general public that needs to be aware and realise that its not ok to simply watch and ignore.

    the public needs to react. the uncles.. aunties.. or anyone aware of any such thing happening around them need to stop ignoring it. It could be their daughter/wife the next time.

    I feel Ashamed that men do such things.I feel compelled to apologize, which i know is useless.

    PS- Not always the best idea to confront. Rather stir up the public/start shouting.

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  24. Hey I totally agree..I have several such incidents myself and its ridiculous.The worst part of it is that when I tell some one about it I get advice, "you should be careful, you shouldn't roam around alone"...Such incidents don't happen late in the night but in broad day light some times..And it only reminds me that we are not free in the true sense, makes me feel helpless...yes some thing needs to be done but what?

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  25. This post required a lot of courage. Hats off to you. The slut walk may not be of any help but at least such posts would be effective to people who after reading this, would take some responsibility on the streets and stop such assholes.

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  27. Thanks for being so frank. This disease pervades the country, and going by the comments above, perhaps the world.

    But it's bad in India. Even educated people often objectify women. Students from good colleges can turn into hooligans when in a pack. Though they (usually?) will not end up masturbating in public.

    I am a student of Psychology. If anyone's interested in trying to understand why women are treated so disrespectfully in patriarchal societies like India, I highly recommend the works of psychoanalyst & writer Sudhir Kakar.

    Very briefly, his argument goes like this: a 'bahu' (daughter-in-law) comes into an old-style home dominated by the 'saas' & 'sasur' (mother & father-in-law respectively). The new bahu has to do all the household chores and generally is treated more like a servant than a family member. She gets practically no time for herself, no freedom for creative or other pursuits. She turns to her husband for support (Let's call him Pappu). Her husband Pappu is a sissy who has been pampered as 'raja beta' (roughly, "royal son") since childhood. All he has seen women (mother, sisters, cousins) do is household work from morning till night, with neither time nor encouragement to do anything else or explore life outside the home. Growing up in such a sheltered environment, with the mother protectively shielding him from life's challenges, he has not acquired any maturity. Pappu doesn't really know how to deal with women coz he didn't really try to understand or converse with the few girls there were in his school or college. (Except perhaps to gang up with his guy friends and ogle them from a distance, maybe pass a comment or two.) He doesn't yet understand that women possess a mind, not just a body. Anyway, he's no support to the wife. The wife begins to hate herself for being born a woman. Time passes. A child is born. If the child is a daughter, both the bahu and her daughter are ignored and treated even worse than before. BUT if the child is a boy, another 'raja beta' enters the family. As the mother of the heir of the family, the bahu gets respect for the first time in her married life. The saas volunteers for the first time to cook dinner, so the mother can spend time looking after the boy. The bahu gets space for herself via her child. The bahu/mother starts to idolize the child, looking upon him as the savior who brought her freedom from an oppressive life. She starts to love boys even more, and like girls even less. Result: she pampers his every wish, not letting him face the harshness of life. Another generation, another Pappu, cycle repeats.
    (character limit about to be reached, continued in next)

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  28. Excellent and thought provoking.....am happy that u reacted

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  29. (continued from previous)
    Most of the people who are reading this blog will almost certainly be from educated, financially comfortable families, because they have access to a computer & the internet. But the vast majority of Indian homes are still like the above description. That's the background from where many eve teasers tend to come. They have never really looked at a woman as a human being worthy of respect. They may do the worst acts, but the 'educated' are not perfect either.

    I have had the good fortune of studying in good educational institutions. Yet, I was astounded to see even there how little understanding guys had of women. Not in the sense of love and relationships, those are hard to fathom for everyone. But in a basic human sense. While studying in schools in the Indian education system, students hardly have time away from studies, or spaces where they can meet and socialize without being questioned by parents or nosy 'well-wishers'. Sex ratio in most professional colleges (engineering, management) is highly skewed in favor of males. Apart from a few males who draw up the courage to interact openly with women and try to form friendships with them, most men stagnate into a locker-room mentality, where they will explicitly discuss a woman on campus in a guy's room, but never have the balls to go and actually talk to her, know her as a person.

    Ready availability of porn, and sexualization of everything in the media I think has worsened things. It makes it even more difficult to think of girls as something more than a body.

    That way I think Slutwalk is a very good idea. Most of this problem remains unresolved because it remains under the carpet. As people have said, women are unwilling to discuss it because of a mixture of embarrassment and helplessness. Sunlight is the best disinfectant. Make so much noise that people are forced to pay attention.
    (Thanks for reading through all this. Even blogger gave me some trouble before accepting this comment pair)

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  30. Just can't get enough of it reading it over and over again. One of my friends was walking on the streets when two bikers came, thrust his hands and grabbed her breasts. She walked like a zombie for a week. It was only after a week she broke down and told us . We were all crying. Don't they see the lives they are spilling in the river of fear and silence just for a moment of their so called animalistic 'pleasure'. This again is just a statement... for the answer is too obvious :(

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  31. While I fully applaud walking as 'women proud of their sexuality' against hormonally afflicted oppressive male behaviour, why call it the slut walk? Slut vs Casanova... both male created terms slut is derogatory while casanova aka Don huan is romantic.... WTF! Don't call it Slut walk, a new female coined term, of proud promiscuity, sexiness and fearless open display of it. Suggestions? While studies show... Kiwi chicks have the most sexual partners in the world and French Canadians have the most orgasms... i'd like to know the stastics on what percentage of men are prone to lewd behaviour ... in the mean time girls, don't call your self a slut, call yourself a casanova if you must!

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  32. Hi ya .. have referenced your post in my latest blog post 'Let The Sluts Walk'
    http://dazedreflection.blogspot.com/2011/06/let-sluts-walk.html

    Do stop by and check it out :)

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  33. Those idiots who do all these crap do it without anyy fear..
    1.its jus cozz the law against these ,though pevelant,is not bein enforced in the way it mus b..these crappy shits mus b shot right THERE on sight..
    2.sorry to say..but the dressin sense of FEW women is really worsenin day by day..(wid due respect)...its also becozz of these weeds tat the whole community is facin things tat mus not even exist in a holy country like INDIA..
    3.The attitude of the public..it mus change..'is not ma prob' thing must change.
    oly then can v see a clean country
    -Athul Sripad

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  34. Excellent article !!! A much needed eye opener to the ignorance in the society !!!

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  35. Appreciate the post ! It was an eye opener and hopefully a mind opener for many of us. The fact that you have come ahead and written this fearlessly itself is a great sign of the things to come. I guess the effects of these movements shall take their own time to be seen but every big thing starts with something small, probably as small as this post.

    All the best

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  36. You made me silent, I feel ashamed as a man. WTF these man thinks of themselves? Aren't they having their mothers, daughters and wife? I can't even ask you to report all this to police, they are incompetent.

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  37. Brilliant. Bravo. Take a bow. You have clearly said all that I wanted to say on this topic, but did not find the right words to express it!!!

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  38. I am so astonished to read this, cause I never imagined that something of this nature could actually happen !
    I had no idea that men can stoop so damn low. I am not the only one guilty of this ignorance, I presume many men/guys are not aware that such incidents happen at all, forget about us having the knowledge of the fact that they occur on so much a widespread level !
    I cant understand why no one would care to intervene for you in places such as a public Bus ! . We (sane men) all have a sister, a caring mother, if we will stand up for them, so will I, and many more like me, do it for you or any other woman. I just wish I knew this happens or had been more observant !

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  39. Kudos. Brilliant post.
    This is something I have never had the courage to blog about, even though I have been through most of the everyday examples you talk about.

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  40. Omg! Ur experiences r so much similar to mine! A few dys bacj, i had narrated them to my hubby n he ws surprised that we had to deal with such nuisance..

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