Featured post

View video: Why I Wrote "Mr. Bandookwala, M.B.A., Harvard"

Monday, March 06, 2006

Street Harassment!

I write this at the risk of alienating, nay, losing all my women friends, of which I have a very few dear, dear ones.

Women consider me one of their own. No, I am not a tranvestite, or any of that tribe that women consider harmless enough to make friends. A colleague was bitching about men in general, turned to me and said, “No, not you, John.” I just quivered with gratitude and wanted to kiss her or something. But I didn’t.

But this must be said, and I guess, this has never been said by a man before. So am I assured of the TRPs, page views, and the links to this post, right? Ah, well, then let me go ahead and shake up women’s perception of men a bit.

Umm, oh, huh...

The subject is “Street Harassment” and I am supposed to write some gyan (wisdom, silly) about it.

Women, there is a revolution on, if you haven’t already noticed. These revolutionaries are everywhere, in offices, in trains, buses, wearing revealing clothes, displaying their attitudes and demolishing male bastions. Imagine all those cave women and kitchen-bound women down centuries breaking out into Latino dances today and you can sense a revolutionary casting away of centuries-old shackles. You will find a new generation waving the flag of liberation the way they walk, talk, and work.

In my school, girls excelled in all subjects, leaving us poor sods gritting our teeth and more than a little chastened. In college women were always on top. In literary fora, their voices are rational, learned and strident. In journalism they virtually overshadow the men with their deft handling of issues and words. In the Knowledge Process Outsourcing and Business Process Outsourcing units that I have worked they are the invisible movers and shakers. They seek and command attention. These are the revolutionaries.

With the revolution has come an insouciance, a feeling that they can do things better where men have managed to mess things up with their excesses. In this new confidence, a man feels inferior, threatened. Women are aggressively pursuing their dreams and leaving their boyfriends and husbands behind. A colleague screams into her cellphone, “It’s over, finished,” and disconnects. The husband calls back immediately and apologizes. Wimp!

Now how are men taking this revolution? Can’t say they are taking it in their strides. They have resorted to drinks, narcotics, endless cribs about women, dirty talk, etc. Any “men only” talk is peppered with the most lurid accounts of women. When men are bitter they bitch worse than women. And their bitching is malevolent, and can turn into violent acts, like rape for instance. Tradition, you know.

Too many rapes happening in this country? That’s why. The reason: Women have outwitted men, and men can’t take it gracefully.


If you are the harbinger of this revolution, if you have attitude, if you are blasé about a whistle, or, catcall, go ahead and do your thing. You should also know karate, be able to sock a man on the jaw. Dress in low-waist jeans, wear that see-through thingy. Well, go ahead, I won’t dare stop you. A colleague does that and men stay away.

When a man whispered, “Hi Sweetie” in her face, she assumed her sweet-girl disposition and said, “Hold on, let me keep this bag aside. And we can whisper sweet nothings.”

The macho dude salivatingly thought this was his big day and that she was giving “line,” “Yes of course,” he said.

She rubbed her hands to sharpen the sting and let him have it on both cheeks.

The macho-ness vanished. He fled for his life. The crowd wouldn’t have spared him.

Atta girl, if you can pull off such stunts.

The crowd would be willing participants if you raise a hand and your voice. I saw it happen. A man molested a woman and ran in the VT subway. She screamed “thief, thief” and a crowd gathered and beat him up, despite his protestations. Do something similar.

But if you are the sensitive, touch-me-not, thinks-too-much kind, a word of advice. Do not dress in any of the thingies mentioned above. Because if you do men are going to whistle, cat call, say “Chamak challo.” Confession: Men are many, many times more sexually excitable than women. Even a rotund shape can be suggestive of oodles of passion. And passion can lead crimes of passion. So, beware.

Dress in salwar-kameezes and saris and please do not show skin. Indian traditional dresses are so designed as to keep feminine-ness and men’s roving eyes in check and at the same time lend grace and beauty. Wear sindoor in your hair. A former colleague said no one bothered her after she started using this strategy, i.e., wearing sindoor in her hair.

If you still feel you should show your feminine-ness then wear clothes that suit the occasion. That is, don’t wear the mini on a train journey, there will be all kinds of snide remarks and catalls. Imagine all those testosterones that would be released in a busy railway platform like Kurla when a girl in a mini walks past. And all they can manage is a tame wolf whistle, or a kiss sound or a “hey, chamiya.” So much for men’s macho-ness. Wear a mini only if you are in a car and the car would leave you at a party and pick you up after it. Or, better still, take the mini along and change at the party venue.

Agreed? Clear? Now let me have those chappals please! I am already ducking!


Banno said...

No, John, No chappals from me. I agree with your tongue-in-cheek analysis of street harassment. To survive, you need to be tough, blase, and tell yourself, men are dogs. No, not you. And actually, not quite a few men I know. But like one negotiates potholes, shit, stray dogs, beggars, BEST buses, rickshaws, etc, etc on our big, bad roads, the same with eve teasers.

smilingaway said...

Well, you do have a point, John, but let me tell you my perspective...

Women are harassed on the streets even if dresses are not so revealing, and despite sindoor. They have always been.

Sometimes ignoring works. But yes, knowing self defence is a good idea. I have used the good old safety pin quite often. And I hope the men who have been at the receiving end of my "weapon" have not dared to repeat their acts.

I remember once Bhopal police ran a unique anti-harassment drive near my all-girls' college. The head of any man found guilty was shaved!

I am raising my son to respect women. Hope his children will respect women even more. And gradually, change should happen.

Unknown said...

Hi Batul & Smita,

Thanks for your comments.


"To survive, you need to be tough, blase, and tell yourself, men are dogs. "

Please do not take this extreme view. They are only misguided. As Smita says we have to work towards a change in attitude.


"Women are harassed on the streets even if dresses are not so revealing, and despite sindoor. They have always been."

I had forgotten one vital point. Kamayani has stated on her Ryze page that "portrayal of women in the media is one of the major causes of violence towards women," something to that effect. In the same vein I would say "portrayal of women in films and serials is one of the major reasons for eve teasing and street harassment."

In films women are shown to playfully enjoy being called "Chamak Challo," so men assume in real life too they love being called that. Wrong assumption. In films they are following the dream merchants' tricks to get more people to watch the movie and in real life it hurts to be called "Chamak Challo."

so the portrayal of women in the media also has to change with the change of attitude we are aiming towards.

Confession time: Even I used to have a "teaser's mentality" (no not an outright teaser, as I was shy of girls, but I still do "look" [the "that woman is stunningly beautiful" sort of look, and i have been amply rewarded by a smile for my efforts] if that amounts to harassment, please enlighten) at one time and I changed when I had enough wonderful women friends. If I can change then all men can, I am sure.

Thanks for your posts!


Banno said...

No, John. I don't really believe men are dogs. I meant it in the same tone as was your article. For that moment of time, when one is being teased, like a bit of a whiplash, actually, one just reacts. That's it. I don't believe in generalizations. Nor do I enjoy being a "Chammak Challo". But I do like being looked at appreciatevely as I am sure, do men

Unknown said...

My reaction to a post on Anita's blog.


We, as a society aren't ready enough for our women to wear g-strings, as yet. If they do, it's at their own risk.

I hint at a feminine revolution, but the harbingers have to go by the status quo before changing attitudes and perception.

As I also said elsewhere, the provocation happens in a song video, but the rape happens in a lonely spot to an innocent girl who least expects it, by a man who hasn't learnt to be nonchalant (as it happened to a girl in a police chowky in Bombay).

Thanks for a balanced view on the subject.


Ulrica said...

Whatever made you think you'd have chappals thrown at you?


I enjoyed every bit of this post. And I'm taking the advice about the martial art. :)

bilbo said...

nice post. and no , am not aiming any of my footwear at you. Though I must say, just being a female is enough to get cat calls. I grew up being called ugly by my family so was really aghast when I still got lewd passes made at me. And, no I havent worn a mini in my life :P

Miss Frangipani said...

What gave you the idea that salwar-kameez's and sari's can sheild you from being groped?!! That's just a fantasy! And you don't think married women with sindoor and mangalsutra's get molested everyday?! Ask around. You'll be surprised. It's not about g-strings and revealing clothes. It rarely is.

Innocent Bullet said...

John I dunno what to say! I personally don't like telling people what to do. I'd rather advise men to keep off. If its ain't your business then its ain't your business. Just keep off!

Why advise women as to how should they dress? Anyways, an engaging piece. :-)



D said...

"Dress in salwar-kameezes and saris and please do not show skin." even i thought that worked... but trust me it doesnt.

Unknown said...

Bilbo, mumbaiwallah, d,

All of you are agreed that saris and salwar-kameezes aren't a deterrent to eve teasing. May be, I was wrong. But women friends who suggested this said this works. At least, the sindoor in hair parting bit as the man is aware that there is a man in her life and he doesn't stand a chance.

Dan, dost, I had to write something as I had already enlisted as a blogger. So why not offer a piece of advice? After all, it is my blog I am writing and my personal space.

Thank you all for your comments,



smilingaway said...

"At least, the sindoor in hair parting bit as the man is aware that there is a man in her life and he doesn't stand a chance."

But John! The point here is that the eve-teaser does not care if the woman has a man in her life or not! All he needs to do is to grope and grope he will despite any marital status.


silbil said...

wearing sindoor is indeed a brilliant idea...men will definitely back off...
they know that some asshole somewhere has earned the right to abuse this woman night after night so the eve teaser (poor sexually excitable guys) will leave the alone...
or is it that sindoor just has these adverse effect on male hormones?

Scoot said...

at the end of the day,how much ever street smart I maybe or if i went and retaliated when some lewd guy came up and pinched my back,socked him off or threw my chappal at him,I go home and worry about it again.Why can't it just stop?