Dead men can’t eve-tease

finalI was 10 when while waiting for the school-bus outside school, a man walked up to me and showed me his exposed penis. I ran from him, climbed up a tree, and stayed there till the school-bus driver came looking for me.

I was 12 when it became a routine for my school-bus driver to make me sit back in my seat next to him, while he extended his hand to open the door to let a new kid in at every stop, and calculatingly brush his hands against my budding breasts. It took me a week to muster up the courage to complain to my father.

I was 14 when one day, I shaved my legs and threaded my eye-brows for the first time, and suddenly everyone in school noticed the unknown girl in the short skirt of the uniform. Embarrassed by the whispers around me, I pretended to be sick and went home after the first hour.

I was 16 when on a winter’s night, an auto-driver responded to my request to return the change by placing a 5-rupee coin on his penis and saying, ‘Tago’ (take it). Without saying a word to him, I walked away.

I was 18 when I got dumped by my boyfriend of three years whom I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life with. I got called a slut by his friends for getting into a rebound relationship within a month. Without protesting against it, I moved on.

I was 19 when I was not allowed to attend a lecture and was sent home from college for wearing a deep necked kurta (traditional knee-length top) as it might have distracted the boys in class, therefore placing more importance over a boy’s education than my own. I said okay and began wearing round-necked kurtas to college.

I was 20 when on the way home one night in the rain, an auto-driver took a turn into a deserted road with dim lighting, stopped the vehicle, turned around in his seat, and grabbed hold of my hand. After a tearful struggle, I managed to push him off and run into a nearby shop. I felt too embarrassed to tell my parents or my friends, I didn’t go to the police, and made a mental note to buy a pepper spray.

I was 21 when one day past midnight, I was smoking with my friends on the porch, and felt like going out for a stroll to enjoy the night breeze. When I suggested the idea, my friends said that they wouldn’t come with me because I might get raped. I locked myself up in a room and cried.

Looking back now, I wish I had fought back every single one of those times. But I know why I didn’t – it is hard. It is hard to complain. It is scary to stand up to a harasser. It is scarier to stand up to your friends. It is terrifying to think of facing people when they don’t believe you, or dismiss your complaints as trivial.

It is a daily struggle. My Facebook pictures with scant clothing get more likes than those of me in fuller clothing. I get calls and messages from unknown numbers with lewd remarks. Though I am average looking at best, every day when I walk down the streets, groups of men turn around and stare at me. Everywhere I go – streets, buses, eateries, shops – I see pairs of eyes following me, making me feel naked under my clothes.  Some go as far as to whistle at me, and call me names. “Hey baby!” they shout out while some of them zoom past me on their bikes. Some pretend to have lost their way, and stop over to ask for directions, the whole time staring at my chest while I give them directions from my word place. When I’m walking on a crowded street, men pinch my ass and walk away quietly. When I get onto a crowded, shaky bus, some men try rubbing themselves against me. When I take an auto rickshaw, drivers adjust their rear-view mirrors and look into it every time the vehicle goes over a speed-breaker, devouring how it makes my chest heave up and down. I hold my breath and try not to breathe. Being haunted by strangers’ eyes, hands, and penises on a daily basis is suffocating in the literal sense of the word.

Big-screen cinema encourages it. In Bollywood, sex is taboo, but sexual harassment is not. In Hindi movies, intertwined feet indicate sexual intercourse, but sexual harassment is portrayed wholly, using it as a tool for flirting. These films not only tend to “eroticize” sexual violence but often legitimize such violence by showing heroes who use milder forms of sexual violence to gain the affection of heroines.

But that’s not even the worst part. The worst part is that we’ve become accustomed to such behavior. The picture above contains screenshots of messages I’ve received from unknown men on Facebook – a surprisingly common experience for most women who have Facebook accounts, as my friends corroborate. Most women don’t speak out because they say it isn’t a big enough problem worthy of talking about. A few months ago, I reported a sexist photo on Facebook (asking men to put women where they belong by raping them), and Facebook didn’t remove it because it apparently did not violate its community standards. How the hell did we get to this stage?

How did we turn into a society that is no longer shocked by sexual harassment, and that is content with eating popcorn while an actor harasses an actress on the screen? It is scary to think of how normalized and apathetic we have become. Our empathy for fellow human beings and desire to see a reduction of their suffering is one of the most powerful moral tools at our disposal. Rape still shocks us; what happened in the case of sexual harassment? Did the violence of Jyothi Singh’s gang-rape suddenly set a very high bar for what should shock us? Did it suddenly feel trivial to complain about gropes and stares when women were being molested? The experiences of a rape victim do not delegitimize the struggles of other women. The first effect of being constantly exposed to a system of increasing atrocities is that we adjust our view of what is normal. After that is irreversibly done, anyone who speaks up is labelled a femi-nazi – yes, because not wanting to get molested is exactly like invading Poland.

Speaking of which, calling it ‘sexual harassment’ is so yesterday. Didn’t you hear?  We call it ‘eve-teasing’ now. Smoothly done, patriarchy. Eve-teasing; Eve. Like Eve who tempted Adam to stray from the path of righteousness by eating the apple. Eve-teasing; teasing. The Oxford English Dictionary definition for ‘teasing’ is ‘to tempt someone sexually with no intention of satisfying the desire aroused.’ Both parts of the term blame the woman; she is the temptress who isn’t providing something she has aroused. It is hence completely understandable that the man can then take what is not being provided forcibly. Sounds familiar? “She was tempting me with her clothes, she was asking for it”.

Eve-tease – yes, it’s a nice term. Just like ‘cat-call’. That’s another lovely word. ‘Cat-call’. It’s almost as acceptable as ‘eve-tease’. Or if we’re feeling slightly more adventurous to go up the scale, we have ‘attack’. Our politicians and journalists love to say ‘attack’. ‘Woman attacked by mob in broad daylight.’ Attack’s a nice word—our soldiers attack, for example. ‘Soldiers launch deadly attack against invading troops’. Soldiers are good; soldiers protect us. Doctor attack diseases. Doctors are good; doctors treat us. Attack’s a good word. Much better than, say, sexual harassment, which is ugly. Which is what happens to me every single goddamn day.

And now, after years of men looking at my breasts instead of my eyes, pinching my ass instead of shaking my hand, and adjusting their rear-view mirrors to look at my frontal-view with lust-filled, cheap appreciation, I’ve had enough. Gone are the days when I’d walk down the summer streets with a sweater covering my arms, when I’d ride those speed breakers in the auto by holding my breath so my proud chest stays stiff, and when I’d put on a bra to hide my nipples just to stand out in my balcony. And if you think you can take advantage of that because I was asking for it, think again – last I checked, dead men can’t ‘eve-tease’.

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33 thoughts on “Dead men can’t eve-tease

  1. Reblogged this on Overanalysing Things and commented:
    A piece that asks us to get rid of what we’ve been used to — we’ve been desensitized to the extent that we find most of sexual harassment acceptable. It also provides, I think, the basis of some of the answers that are to be had on the post that I wrote some days ago on my blog.

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  2. After reading your blog I feel a surge of pity, not towards you, but for these men who seem so desperate. Its rather embarrassing actually, considering that an entire gender(men) can behave so pathetically. But honestly I don’t believe any form of punishment would solve anything. The only solution that comes to mind is educating the future generations so our children may at least live more comfortably, since a nuclear fallout destroying all mankind seems impractical. Just know that you have my empathy . I’d like to apologise on behalf of all men, not that its really going to make a difference but just know that there are some of us that have always stood by your side and are still fighting for your cause whether you notice it or not.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Reblogged this on Ink and Parchment and commented:
    Often, we find ourselves complaining that femisim Has turned to misandry and that men are targetted unfairly, but posts like these make us realise that problems like sexual harassment and other gender based discrimination still exists in our society at a level which is sick and morally appalling. A change is in order.

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  4. Radhika,
    This is the best article (on this topic) I’ve read till date, it’s informative at a whole new level. Keep up the good work.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Reblogged this on pointlessunited and commented:
    This gave me goosebumps. Although most women don’t have it this bad, it is great to have a voice, it is great to see the hypocrisy of it all, to finally finally have this piece point out how ridiculously upsetting hindi cinema is getting (*cough* Salman Khan *cough*) Thank you for standing up for us women!

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  6. I completely agree that educating the children every step of the way is the only way out. Punishment like in Saudi Arabia too will be a strong deterrent for the current criminals and lechers. The rampant increase in sexual harassment and violence is because of our law taking its one sweet time to handout judgement and punishment.

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  7. Sorry about that, but , not discounting my own harassing experiences, we got to move on. You seem to be a very brave person and you are right, standing up to it is the best solution. If you cannot stand up at the time, get the score straight later, but do it. This is the most active and effective solution.

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  8. It hasn’t got much to do with Feminism. Its normal etiquette. It someone robs another and its the duty of the robbed to stand up and fight. If the robbed person doesn’t than they are supporting the robber to do it again, that seems ugly to me.

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    1. Except nobody robs you because of your gender. I am sexually harassed specifically *because* I am a woman, not *despite* being a woman. And that makes it a feminist issue. Any issue that targets women as an interest group is a feminist issue.

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    1. For some reason, though being a man, it makes me extremely angry when I listen to instances where women are insulted and harassed. I run a small business with barely 3 employees. A 19 year old girl working in my office was getting harassed regularly in my office by the office boy and she was afraid to report it to me. It continued for 3 months.

      After 3 months, I hired a new employee, a woman of 45. This 19 year old slowly opened up to the new employee who was almost her mother’s age. The woman reported the whole story to me. I was extremely sad listening to it.

      She could have directly told me. But she instead put up with it for 3 whole months while he was trying to touch her here and there and passing sexist remarks.

      I summoned the girl and asked her to speak frankly and involved my wife in it so that she feels comfortable. Based on what she said and also checking the CCTV tapes, I fired the office boy who was otherwise very trustworthy.

      When I confronted him, he admitted and was ulta explaining me that this is bound to happen between any man and woman and that she need not have reported. He argued that the girl did not report until 3 months means she was actually enjoying the whole harassment for 3 months. And once she got bored of him, she complained. Such is the mindset of bloody men.

      I warned him of filing a police complaint and fired him with immediate effect. I would have chosen to actually file a complaint but the girl and the girl’s mother didn’t want me to involve police into it.

      I counseled the girl that she need not hide anything from me going ahead. She can boldly speak up about any problems she has, whether professional or personal.

      Men take advantage if women don’t speak up. It is important that women be empowered to be fearless and stand up and speak for themselves.

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  9. You made me realize how sick the term eve-teasing is, actually. I had been using it all this while without even considering to retrospect on its meaning. I’m glad I read this piece. More power to you!

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  10. These situations have become epidemic in India, and I absolutely agree with how Bollywood is legitimising sexual harassment by portraying it rampantly on- screen, with no consequences for the harasser.

    BTW, kudos for the Boston Legal reference 🙂

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  11. i am sorry for all this you went through. i never heard such things before. i am from india and follow a religion where we dont look at women after the first glance !. i did a huge fucking mistake reading this post. now i cant fucking sleep. have you had or heard such experiences fro m muslim men or women ????. if you never did , then maybe you have found the solution to your problems. i cant believe i am bothered to type this to a women like you. you would be another women i would ignore. yeah, now all the american open minded intellectual indian fucktards will burn this post of mine down. i dont care, i made my point, gave you a hint, i can sleep in peace now! and guess what, Facebook doesnt remove a picture nor a video of topless feminists protesting for Freethenipple campaign .

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  12. Although the article is a bit old now but nothing has changed in a year. Great article. I wish we could do something about what is inherently wrong with people. Everyone is to be blamed yet no one but a woman is.

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    1. Thank you! 🙂 The article is a year old, and I’m going to write a follow-up post soon. Do follow for an update on it, if interested! 🙂

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  13. Every sentence is true for 90 percent of womankind.you’re not safe in your own home,forget the streets or public transport.you know why you didn’t fight .. Cos you didn’t know how to.cos a girl is taught n trained to bear and suffer not express or fight or deal with it.we know of the problems faced by girls and women,no solutions offered.thankfully there’s more awareness now so there’s hope.abuse is not restricted to girls alone.facing up to abuse and fighting it has to be taught.to every child.boy or girl.many boys who abuse have been abused themselves.we have to work on eradicating this from the roots,the foundation.let’s be in this together and find ways and means to do so.wishing you love and luck on your journey.and everyone else who cares enough.

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  14. You know, I very recently got into an argument with a gentleman (and I use the term loosely) who was not ready to believe there is something inherently wrong with the society. It’s there, blatant and insidious at the same time.
    Its called patriarchy. That gives rise to male privilege and finally the male gaze.
    He won’t believe me. According to him women are just harking on about nothing. That feminism is despicable.
    I wish I had read your piece then, to shove it at his face.
    Anyway, it’s one the best things I have read in a while. Stark and honest to the boot.

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