So I have never posted to this blog, it’s kind of Anthony’s project and I leave him to it. It’s good to have projects, keeps people occupied and out of trouble. Well, the time has come to speak out- or rather rant about a major issue here in India. Being a white, Western woman in a land dominated by small, (I’m 6ft. and most men tower out at 5.6ft) mostly uneducated men.
Why is it that men who are holding hands, groping each other, etc. can stare at me, laugh at me, go out of their way to try to bump into me (yes, Anthony is right next to me) and otherwise harass me? In my country, in my world, this would never be considered acceptable. Oh sure, people are made fun of and all of that, but this is different. This is public harassment in a form I have never seen, and more than that- it is totally socially acceptable.
In this ancient society that is trying so hard to step up to the 21st century, staring and gawking are totally the norm and nothing is thought of in publicly harassing people. NOW, this I know is not just left for me- I have had so many conversations with white Western women from late teens to late 30’s who have just hit the end of being able to deal with this issue, feel harassed, bothered, unsafe or otherwise tired of the whole thing. The only place in India that I have been, where both other women and I felt safe was in the hill stations. Starting in Darjeeling and going upwards, the harassment abated and the jeering stares disappeared.
Harassment was replaced with curious stares, questions, smiles and fair conversation. At no time did I feel harassed and insulted- usually I was met with smiles, nice conversations and earnest questions. The harassment that I am referring to has been exclusive to the low lands of India.
Most of this behavior has been explained as the boys/men here only see sex coming out of the West and assume this is what all Western women are about. Oh shit, please. This is a society that allows boys/men to do what they want, when they want, rule with abandon and not give two craps about anything or anyone around. I have seen little boys hit their mothers, scream and yell and otherwise display behavior that made both Anthony and myself drop our jaws. With the “gut and a strut” fathers just standing there, smoking and otherwise not doing a damn thing. That’s just the way it is. In fact, some of the worst harassment I have encountered is by little boys being egged on by older men around them. The favorite is to come up, of course holding hands and groping each other (this will be discussed in a later post…sigh) and they stare. Then they try to get closer and closer, and they try to touch. Now mind you, the whole time Anthony is standing right next to me staring them down. I try to do the same, even saying something-but see, I don’t count! So whatever I do or say is ignored. But they won’t even look at Anthony. They won’t get near him, but they will circle around until he just about jumps them, then they saunter away playing kissy face with each other, pants hiked up under the armpit, belt wrapped 3 times around their waists laughing as loudly as possible. So this happens 6-7 times a day at least. Take that with the glaring stares, trying to touch or bump, and a lady just has enough.
I had a super conversation with a few women from Seattle, WA regarding this issue. They were young, in college, cute and all. Studying in Delhi for a few months and then touring India, (why didn’t I do this in college? There was more to do than get loaded? hmmm…) anyway, they had a few things to say also. We compared notes, and we vented. It was great!! I told them about the fantastic book “Holy Cow!” by Sarah MacDonald (just about this very issue) and they ran out and bought it, we spoke some more and laughed over the next few days. The thing we all agreed on was that we just didn’t understand this lust and lurking that these men do. I know they don’t get laid, they have the social maturity of a 5 year old (especially toward the opposite sex) and they are ignorant about so many things in the world. But come on.
I have not in any circumstance been met with this behavior by educated Indian men. I have had fantastic times with educated, intellectual Indian men. Call it respect even!! They know there is something outside of their world and have seen more… I appreciate it greatly. Hands shaken, eye contact, business cards exchanged. All very kind. Now come on, I know that they are looking- but it’s not the same. I am not ranting about looks, I am ranting about all out harassment.
So if anyone knows how to say “Get Fucked” in Hindi, or “Go fuck yourself” or “If you actually had sex instead of fantasizing about me then you might feel better” Please let me know. I really need to say something.