“Sometimes it seems like every single thing I do has the potential to be something ‘provocative’.”

A guest post by an Indian teenager. Part I of ‘Confessions of an Indian Teenager’

I wasn’t always a feminist. I started identifying myself as a feminist when I was 16. Ever since I knew what feminism was, actually.

These confessions are experiences that happened both before and after I identified myself as a feminist. The difference is how I looked at those experiences and how feminism gave me strength.

Ours is a nuclear family. My mother, my father and me. We live in a city (not a town) and both my parents work. I’m going to start college after a few weeks. My parents did not force any subject or ambition on me. They allow me to go out with my friends, do not force me to wear salwar-kameez and don’t think I’m inherently less intelligent than a boy because I do not have that Y chromosome.

Sounds pretty liberal, right?

Only on the surface.

My father wants me to “tone down” because otherwise my husband will divorce me in three months (he guarantees me that it will be so) and kick my butt out of the house. He assures me, that he is telling me all this “as a man, not a father” and that the fights between my parents will actually be negligible when compared to the fights which will obviously happen between my husband and me.

I’ve been telling my mum that I don’t wanna marry (since a few months) and that I want to be a single mom. But, my father tells me not to be “over-smart”. Because, you know, the only aim of my life should be to GET married and STAY married, regardless of what I have to do for it.

He tells me to keep my room tidy because women are supposed to clean (and cook) stuff. Otherwise “what kind of a girl” am I?

In short, he expects me to be this totally important person, and at the same time asks me to tone myself down. It does not suit a woman, you know.

The mixed messages I get in my house is pathetic. Actually, it is not mixed. Its like “I hope you become really successful but your first priority should be to be a dutiful daughter, wife and mother”. And we all know what that is in the Indian context.

Do Not Have A Voice.

It gives rise to a whole bunch of other stuff – Don’t wear this skirt, don’t wear that top, don’t do this, don’t do that! Don’t, don’t, don’t!!!

Sometimes it seems like every single thing I do has the potential to be something “provocative”.

You might be wondering why I’m not saying anything about my mother. The thing is, well, it is complicated to explain but fairly common in our much-valued Indian society.

*

I went outside my home.

No big deal, really. My dad sends me out at even 9 pm (late by Indian standards) sometimes to buy a few eggs because he loves eggs but feels totally lazy to go out. So, he gives me this amazing opportunity to be a dutiful child (notice that I’m not a girl here, I’m a child).

And because I’m a child, I can do stuff that a girl is not allowed to do. Things traditionally thought of as a son’s duty…

Anyway, I wanted to get a recharge for my prepaid account. It was six in the evening. My mother was all like “You can’t go out now… Your father will…” blah blah blah. I reminded her of my fairly regular egg-scapades and she (very) reluctantly allowed me to go (come back as soon as you can). I went out.

Now, let me give you an idea of what I was wearing – A grey tee and a red almost-to-my-knee shorts (the fact that I’m even telling you about my outfit at all is evidence enough to point towards the screwed-up state of our society). I live in a flat. I went down the stairs and onto the street. Two men were coming towards the way I was headed and my first thought was “OK, they’re just walking – let me stare unto my mobile and pretend to text”.

I continued that until I reached the end of the street and I was thankful, yes, thankful, that I didn’t see any person on the lane connected to the street. I say person and not man because if you wear anything other than something which shows only your neck and face, most women give you these horrible judging glances and somehow, it is truly disturbing.

I know misogynists aren’t only men. I know it. It still shocks when they size you up depending on what you wear (as if that is the most important aspect of your personality).

The next street was totally dark – not even a streetlight. By that time, I was feeling very jumpy and nervous. I was afraid that if a guy comes now – or a group of guys – I would be molested. Dark street. Nobody around. We’ve all heard it from the stories, right?

I did NOT want to meet ANY person AT ALL. Just go to the shop, get the damn thing and return home. The shop was somewhat close to my place so I went in the clothes I did. I know clothes don’t really matter – I’ve had enough personal experience – but still. Social conditioning is a powerful thing. Actually, clothes don’t matter at all.

One thing is there, there is an unnatural obsession with women’s breasts. No matter WHAT she is wearing or how old she is.

Anyway, so yeah, I went to that shop. But guess what? I didn’t get what I wanted.

And here is where things get really interesting (or really repulsive).

I was determined to get what I wanted and started to go to a shop nearby (it was nearby, actually. About the distance from my home to the first shop. But, the distances don’t matter, the people in the streets do).

I told myself what I always do, “It is not your fault. It is theirs. You can totally do this. TOTALLY. Nothing to be scared of”.

So, I went.

As I stepped out of that shop, I saw two women go by – in salwar-kameez – and it made me feel that they would harass me and not them. Although I KNOW it is not true. Social conditioning.

I started walking. Some men were hanging about the street corners – I promptly took out my phone and pretended to text. Apparently, texting was very important to me. So important that I couldn’t even be bothered to look at the road.

I looked quickly when I didn’t hear the sound of men and in my head, I went “I shouldn’t have to do this. I shouldn’t have to do this”.

A few fringes of hair fell over my eyes and in my head, I went “Should I comb my fingers through the hair? But, wait! Will that be thought of as me giving some unspoken signal to them? Better not to do anything at all”. I ignored the hair over my eyes.

I walked and in my head, I went “OK, how am I walking? Is my butt sticking out too much? Are my breasts jutting out a lot? Do I look like I’m trying to be sexy?

There was a man in front of me who was a real slow walker and in my head, I went “Oh My God! I have to go FAST! Should I walk by this guy? Will he grope me? Will he stare at my butt?”

And then, I told myself – “It does NOT matter. I have to walk fast, that’s it!”.

By this time, my heart was pounding frantically and adrenaline was rushing and I felt cold all over.

I pretended to text again, ignoring everyone who stared at me or commented.

Ignoring. Outwardly. Inside I’m like “OMG OMG I have to get home FAST!”

I walked on, hitting random buttons on my phone – keeping the light on. I’m totally a text addict y’know, so, like, what is going on in the streets doesn’t even bother me. Nope.

So, I’m walking and hoping nothing will happen to me today. I’m hoping, I’m hoping. I’m ignoring everyone – even the perverted stares of men old enough to be my father. By this time, I’m out of breath. I go to the shop and get the stuff – hoping none of the customers will try anything.

Now, I have to go home.

I ignore everyone – *texting* again.

Keep my eyes on the cell.

Thankfully, I don’t trip.

Right now, I’m kind of sweating, but not really, since there is a wind blowing.

I think, “These men behind me – I hope they don’t do anything”.

I think “These men in front of me – I hope they don’t try anything”.

I hope.

I hope.

Men, men – everywhere.

I see a woman.

Relief.

It passes – we both move on.

I’m in a totally *!#+ed up state of mind now.

I walk.

I walk as fast as I can.

I wish that I don’t have to go out anytime soon.I’m really close to my home now.

There is a man walking beside me – maybe of the age group 45-50 yrs. He is staring at me. Walking alongside and staring continuously. Not at me, but at my legs, my arms, my breasts, my thighs, my butt, my face.

He is doing it very obviously.

I feel like a cornered animal.

I glare back at him.

At first he seems surprised – maybe he wasn’t expecting me to acknowledge him.

I keep glaring until he averts his eyes – I mean, how DARE he look at me like that and NOT think I will call him out on it?

Indian culture?

I don’t know why I didn’t do that to the other guys.

Maybe it was really dark at that time. Maybe I’m in a familiar area now – close to my home. Maybe it is just one man now and it was a group earlier. Maybe after all that, it was simply beyond my endurance.

I walk ahead.

I see my house.

Relief.

I walk up the stairs.

I’m sweating now – its hot here.

I enter my home.

My heart is hammering. Adrenaline is flowing. I feel hot now. I’m sweating. I feel like I can run a 100 miles and not get tired. I want to run, to run.

I remind myself that I’ve reached home.

I wash my face.

I breathe deeply.

And, I dunno why, but I suddenly remember an incident.

I was 11 or 12 years old at the time. I was on the healthier side (which changed after I hit puberty) and my breasts were just developing.

I was out with my mother. Talking, laughing and walking. Suddenly, she went rigid and snapped back. I did not understand what was going on – what changed so suddenly.

My mother said “Watch how you walk. That policeman was staring there”, pointing with her eyes at my chest.

*

I do not always pretend to text. Sometimes, I pretend to call too.

It is really sad that I and plenty other women have to resort to such elaborate tricks and subterfuges only to feel a sense of security. And even then, we aren’t really safe, are we?

Because, like she said, it seems like every single thing she does (or doesn’t do) has the potential to be something “provocative”.

177 thoughts on ““Sometimes it seems like every single thing I do has the potential to be something ‘provocative’.”

  1. I completely sympathize with the e-mail writer. You are not alone in feeling insecure. Your emotions are whipped back and forth from indignation to fear and even shame at yourself for having to go through all this. It happens every single day and it never ends. I know the relief of seeing a woman on a dark street and feeling just the smallest sense of security. But that is rare. Women are not to go out alone at night. Women are to stay inside where it’s safe. Women ask for trouble if they’re out at night. Blah blah blah. It’s all patriarchal nonsense and what’s worse is WE KNOW IT! But we can’t do anything about it.

    I especially understand what your mum said about the police officers. How can we feel safe when even our “law-enforcers” feel they can stare so brazenly? I myself was molested by a policeman on republic day when I was pushed into him by a mob. It’s infuriating and your anger often feels futile. All I can say is that I’m so proud to read that you are resisting, that you see this is ridiculous. Never loose the feeling. You are young. If you don’t hold on to it, this country and world will never change.

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  2. I feel you Indian teenager. I believe all of us young women out there, have to constantly be on guard and pay minute attention to what we wear and how we behave so as NOT to ‘provoke’ the opposite sex. I too consciously make an effort not to dress in so called revealing clothes, especially when travelling via public transport. Not that it helps much, men still sing, whistle etc.but it gives one a false sense of security. The other day i was arguing with my mother as she was saying that society will never change their mindset, and try to stand up and you will see how people resort to hooliganism to drown your voice. She always warns me that not to use a pepper spray unnecessarily, coz the men especially north indians tend to be hot blooded. it will hurt their ego and what will we able to do if their gang follows me to the house, beats up the girls parents!
    sometimes i get pessimistic, my mom isn’t wrong to an extent, but when will this vicious cycle end? I’ll be honest, during my secondary school, a boy had been harrasing me to no end, and that time i even dreaded stepping of of my house. i think now too i will dread, what if he comes and throws acid on my face? harm my parents?
    then again, what if ALL the women and people who believe in equality get together, surely such men/boys will become powerless. but what is that stops us? i live in a fairly decent locale, yet when i go out, i frequently have come across men who JUST like to sing and whistle. unfortunately the reality is THAT and harsh, a woman has to be vigilant and prudent always.

    and as for you Indian Teenager, i urge you to stand your ground, do your studies well and become financially independent. thats a powerful tool and will allow you to take your own decisions.

    P.S. IHM you could also begin guest posts my teenagers on how they acquainted themselves with matters related to sexual well being and their interactions with their parents on the same.
    P.P.S. I love this photo of TJ in the pool.❤

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  3. I have never known such men but one day I would like to sit down with them and try to understand what is going on in their mind when they are doing all this?

    Indian teenager,
    You do not have to tone down yourself for anyone. I think you know this very well and that is the best part. Just stick to it.

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  4. Wow, this is a great post. It brought back to me the daily drama of just walking the street in India. I wish she would do this for a month – look at her life closely from a feminist perspective. I was tempted to do it myself but I just looked back on today and realised I have nothing to say, which is not to say that I don’t experience sexism at all but just not on a daily basis like I used to.

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  5. I sympathise with you. You should not be so obsessed with what people can consider provocative because your self confidence can be damaged. But frankly speaking, i think you are just demonizing the people on the streets, they havent said anything, they havent done anything and they havent made any obscene remark, then why should you paint such a gruesome picture of those people? Some people stare at the ones who are clad in western clothes not because they lack any manners but because such clothes and such women are hard to come by and hence they stare like they havent seen anyone like you before. They dont plan to molest you but they recognise you being different than the ones who are clad in traditional clothes and hence stare at you, there is nothing to be afraid of. As for men staring at even the ones who are clad in traditional clothes, then that may be attributed to the lack of women who use the streets at night not lack of manners. So stop worrying about what others may find provocative and ignore the unwanted but harmless attention that is being showered upon you.

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    • I used to find your comments amusing (in a wrong way), condescending – and I admit, I always gave you the benefit of doubt because you said you are a young fellow – a student – someone who thought it’s ‘cool’ to play the devil’s advocate. But after reading this comment, I can say without a doubt – everything about you scares me.

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      • I dont know what it is that you find scary about me. I dont even know why you have been using such harsh words against me. I understand that i am entitled to an opinion and i am free to express it on this blog provided that i follow the terms and conditions. Meanwhile i support modernization but not westernization and whenever any comment or apost does otherwise, i criticize it and try to prove my point with constructive argument.

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        • What exactly is westernisation, I wonder? The west is not a big block of monotonous culture, just like the eastern culture varies every 300 km. I wonder how you would feel if some American clubs Afghan and Indian and Japanese culture in one big monotonous “Eastern culture”. I, for one, will punch him on the nose.

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        • Please, what do you mean by “modernisation” and what do you mean by “westernisation”?

          You do realise that it’s a free country, and people have every right to be as “modern”, “western” or “traditional” as they please, as far as they do not impinge on another’s rights and freedoms.

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        • So I assume you always wear kurta-pujamas/dhotis as you don’t like western imports, or is it that you only apply such foolish generalizations when thinking of women’s attires. Why don’t you simply own up that you cannot come to terms with being turned on by women in western outfits so you try to pass the blame onto westernization.

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        • Sushobh, guys like us cannot hope to understand the culture of fear that women in our country live in. We are not subjected to this unwanted attention every time we step out of the house alone at night. So, we are not really in any position to judge how potentially harmful or harmless this attention can be. The fact that the attention was harmless for them today does not mean it will be harmless for them tomorrow. Women do not have any means of knowing whether any attention is harmless or harmful until they have actually gone past the source of this attention to relative safety. Doesn’t this seem incredibly stressful to you? They have to constantly live with this fear and uncertainty every single day. To add insult to injury, women are themselves held responsible for this unwanted attention by means of blaming their dress, their habits or the fact that they were out at night in the first place. I’m sure you’ll agree that this is a pathetic state of affairs for women in our country.

          In such a situation, when we come across women talking about their experiences, the most constructive thing we can do is to shut up, listen silently and encourage them to talk so that their message reaches further.

          Unfortunately, what you are doing here is trivializing her experience and basically asking her to stop talking about it. That is hardly constructive. Talking about unwanted attention is not the problem. The unwanted attention itself is the problem.
          ————————————————–
          The below is an excerpt from a book called “Gift of Fear” by Gavin Becker.

          “Whether or not men can relate to it or believe it or accept it, that is the way it is. Women, particularly in big cities, live with a constant wariness. Their lives are literally on the line in ways men just don’t experience. Ask some man you know, ‘When is the last time you were concerned or afraid that another person would harm you?’ Many men cannot recall an incident within years. Ask a woman the same question and most will give you a recent example or say, ‘Last night,’ ‘Today,’ or even ‘Every day…..'”
          —————————————————-
          It is not about whether we support westernization or modernization. In fact, it is not about us at all. It’s about women and their daily sufferings. If you want to be constructive, listen and if possible, try to help in any way can. At the very least, don’t try to shut their voices.

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        • Despite your severely misguided opinions, not a single reader of this blog, including me have told you NOT to comment.

          Coming to being harsh – don’t like the taste of your own medicine? Let me throw snippets of your own comments to refresh your memory –
          “So stop ridiculing Indian values and make sure you practice caution while hanging around at night”
          “Okay self proclaimed feminist women , i really need to put forth a bit more of my argument and try and see if you people can get some sense into your heads.
          So please, from now on do not jump to any conclusion simply because you get the chance to portray yourself as a strong, level headed and a modern Indian feminist (which you are not i am afraid)”
          “I see desperation in your opinions and i am glad that majority of the people in India think like i do which is what anyone sensible enough to embrace Indian mindset will do”
          “At a time when the western population is trying hard and low to merge themselves into the Indian way of life, you people crop out of nowhere and try in vain to resurrect your depleting tribe. Indian society, culture and its mindset is here to stay and is progressing at an unbeliveable pace and your betraying ideology(which does not hesitate in bashing its own motherland and its way of life) is coming to an end.”
          “stop imitating the morally bankrupt cultures. ”
          “IHM, why do you never ever discuss about the agonies faced by MIL’s? Why always DIL’s?. I know why, thats because MIL’s do not make up educated, young, working, modern women isnt it? Stop this partiality and speak up for the MIL’s for once.”
          “not all husbands are ignorant of their wives woes unlike what IHM believes.”

          In your comments, you get personal, you make accusations, you label other readers if THEY have a different opinion from yours – and when any of us respond similarly – you find it harsh? If you want to dispense criticism, chin up and take it in equal measure too – it’s a two way street.

          And scared? Hell, you are a guy who thinks women ‘ask to be raped’, you are a guy who thinks a victim of domestic violence should continue to be with her abusive husband because ‘a male figurehead is necessary in a family’, you are a guy who brushes aside sexual harassment and makes it out like the complainant is deluded and hysterical and must put up with ‘the attention being showered’ – man, I’d run miles away from a person like you.

          And while we are at it – we are all still waiting for your enlightening view on ‘Indian Values’ and ‘Western Values’ and ‘Modern Values’.

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        • When you say that you are entitled to an opinion, I hope you also extend the same courtesy to others? How then do you justify trashing someone else’s opinion of what they should wear etc in the name of westernization?

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        • Sociologists have tried to define what exactly constitutes the modernisation process.

          ‘[M]odernity’ assumes that local ties and parochial perspectives give way to universal commitments and cosmopolitan attitudes; that the truths of utility, calculation, and science take precedence over those of emotions, the sacred, and the non-rational; that the individual rather than the group be the primary unit of society and politics; that the associations in which men live and work be based on choice not birth; that mastery rather than fatalism orient their attitude toward the material and human environment; that identity be chosen and achieved, not ascribed and affirmed; that work be separated from family, residence, and community in bureaucratic organisation….(Rudolph and Rudolph, 1967)

          In other words it means that people are influenced not just by local but universal contexts. How you behave, what you think is no longer decided by your family or tribe or caste or community. What job you wish to do is decided not by the job your parent does, but by what you wish to do. Work gets based on choice, not birth. On whom you are depend on what you achieve, not by who you are. A scientific attitude gains ground. A rational approach matters.

          M.N Srinivas defines westernisation as “the changes brought about in Indian society and culture as a result of over 150 years of British rule, the term subsuming changes occurring at various levels…technology, institutions, ideology and values”.

          …Apart from this there has been also the general spread of Western cultural traits, such as use of technology, dress, food, and changes in the habits and styles of people in general. Across the country a very wide section of middle class homes have a television set, a fridge, some kind of sofa set, a dining table and chair in the living room.

          Westernisation does involve the imitation of external forms of culture. It does not necessarily mean that people adopt modern values of democracy and equality.

          The above excerpt is taken from Social Change and Development in India.

          Sooooooo… Whaddaya know? Sushobh here is western but not very modern, it seems. Because you wear trousers and shirts and you have a fridge and a chair too, right? Perhaps a word of advice? Learn the meaning of terms before hurling them around in arguments with pseudo-intelligent comments.
          From your comments it can be deduced very effectively that you neither support democracy nor equality (that Male Figurehead comment speaks volumes).
          And no, democracy is not just a political system we have in India. It is a set of values which applied in situations and power-arrangements by it’s followers.

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      • Come come – in all fairness he hasn’t said anything so horrible. Let’s not demonize people and just respond to the specifics of their argument shall we?

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        • Not demonising Bhagwad. I think the discomfort is more because of the vein of his comments on all discussions – from ridicule to downright mysogyny, and the fact that he expects courteous responses while he does not extend the same to either the email writers of this blog or other commenters.

          Somewhere he has mentioned he is a 17-year old; and personally I find it scary that someone so young has such strong, deep-rooted bias. All this is not based on just this comment, but all his comments. It is okay to have a completely different opinion and stick by it; but it definitely not okay to label me (as in all women on this forum) as some brainless, shallow, paranoid, deluded idiot into whose head sense has to be hammered in – just because I hold a contrary opinion.

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        • “he hasn’t said anything so horrible”- very, very subjective as to what horrible is. This comment of his was horrible, his comments on a previous post justifying rape- which he says happens due to lust and uneven population are horrible, and the fact that he sees nothing wrong in having these opinions and airing them is horrible.
          Opinions such as these need to be demonized.

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        • 🙂 I think most of us disagree with the essence of his entire comment and tone. The casual brushing aside of the email-writer’s agony and paranoia – just flicked it away and gave all kinds of justification for harassment. Isn’t it so representative of the general mindset? ‘Men are like that only so why are you complaining?’

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    • Shave off your mustache / beard if you have one, wear a burkha (pad you chest and butt–even lightly should do–for additional measure), then enter a crowded bus and travel for a day. Then try saying what you said again.

      Harmless attention being showered upon you? Try saying that to your mother or your sister. I’m sure they don’t feel the same way.

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    • Sushobh,
      You are right to a certain extent – it is all in our heads. Nothing actually happened, and it seems like “baat ka batangad ban gaya”.
      But do you wonder why the batangad happened, and why all of us can empathise with her?🙂 What she has, and all of us share, is paranoia – to be alone, to walk down the street after dark, to avoid eye contact, of sending mixed signals. Do you know why we have the paranoia? – because of the way we are treated.
      I was once walking down a dark road at 9.30 pm, and a guy on the side took off his pants and showed me his penis, all the while calling me to “help him”. I was 23 then. Same thing happened when I was riding a cycle to school – I was 12 then. When I get into a bus and I feel a man standing close to me, I immediately turn back and say, “can you maintain some distance” – he may be decent, but why risk it? If we are careless, and if we, unintentionally give a mixed signal, then everyone including you will say that it is our fault for:
      1. Coming out after dark.
      2. Being alone.
      3. Wearing provocative clothes.
      4. Being careless.

      We are all paranoid, because we have all learned from experience that it is better to be that than to be an object of a game.🙂

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    • ‘Harmless’ Sushobh? There is nothing harmless about blatant staring/singing/whistling. This is called street harassment and it causes real harm! Just look at the mental anguish the email writer went through just walking down the street. It creates a feeling of insecurity, a feeling of fear. Do you think living in fear doesn’t hurt anyone? Try to put yourself in the e-mail writer’s shoes.

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    • Sushobh,
      Let me give you an example.
      Suppose you are convicted and are sent to jail for a year. Now in a jail, everyone is not a criminal. A lot of people are there on false charges, completely innocent, just like you. Will that stop you from being paranoid? Will that stop you from sprinting away from a group of inmates sitting lazily and staring at you?
      Now, what if one of the criminals beat you up? Will you not be absolutely scared of everyone after that? Will you not try to be very very cautious of where you go, where you venture in the dark, whom you make eye contact with?

      No one is crazy enough to be scared just for the fun of it! Our society is very molester and rapist friendly. That is the reason women feel scared and paranoid to venture out. It is not a hobby.

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    • Sushobh- just one day try wearing a woman’s clothes and walking on the street/travelling in a crowded bus. Then come and tell us to enjoy the harmless attention.

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    • So stop worrying about what others may find provocative and ignore the unwanted but harmless attention that is being showered upon you.

      I don’t know what planet you live on, but I can tell you that most women in the world would like to walk down the street without having to worry about someone giving them unwanted attention. Hence, the keyword here being unwanted.
      Perhaps this is something you can’t understand, to you it’s just “harmless” attention, but for a lot of women, it’s just a constant reminder that women are just objects to be whistled and started at.

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      • Sushobh, going by your comments, I’m assuming that you are not a pervert, but it’s high time that u accept the fact that there are others who are, not just men but women too and lots of them and attention from such people isn’t harmless.
        I was 13 and went to buy crackers with my mother. She was in her early forties. In that store, a guy (looked like he was in his 30s) tried to grope her waist. Look at three things here:
        1) She wasn’t young.
        2) She wasn’t wearing anything “western”, according to you. She was wearing a SAREE.
        3) It was in the morning at 11 am.

        We face such insecurities every minute of the day, be it 11 am or 11 pm. And we are trying to face the problem and get rid of it unlike looking at it the way you are.

        Btw, my mother turned back and shouted at that guy so much that he was embarrassed and left the place. Then she turned to me and said, “This is way you should handle stuff.”

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    • //Some people stare at the ones who are clad in western clothes not because they lack any manners//
      Guess what, staring at people IS bad manners.

      // but because such clothes and such women are hard to come by and hence they stare like they havent seen anyone like you before.//
      Hey its a woman wearing pants or a skirt, not the kohinoor diamond. So stop staring and move along.

      //They dont plan to molest you but they recognise you being different than the ones who are clad in traditional clothes and hence stare at you, there is nothing to be afraid of//
      Well maybe they don’t plan on molesting these women, but for women being on guard is like wearing a seat belt while driving. People don’t get into accidents everyday, but we wear our seat belts (expression, body language etc) just in case for safety.

      .

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    • @ Sushobh
      The author wasn’t actually demonising anyone, she related about her fear and discomfort in the street, while she was trying to get a recharge. As a man, you might find it frivolous, but given that a stare in this situation could turn into an unwanted obscene remark, gesture or touch, her paranoia in this situation is not unwarranted. The male equivalent of this scenario would be walking alone at 10pm in a deserted street that is known to have muggers and street robbers. It is one thing women use sexual harassment charges to discourage unattractive men from approaching them and quite another thing that a single Indian woman feels such fear and paranoia in what should have been just a normal ‘walk in the park’ in any civilised and cultured part of the world.

      Like many others here, I am very interested in hearing your discource in westernisation and how it differs, in your opinion, from modernisation. And what is this ‘Indian culture’ you tout about? Is it your culture or mine or the culture of Parveen Togadia?

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    • I consider myself to be quite feministic and I am extremely sensitive to any form of sexual harassment having been at the receiving end quite a few times (Like all Delhi women). But I have to say, I agree with Sushobh. Indians in general like to stare at everything. Funnily, when I walk my dog, they stare more at my dog than me. You will notice that a lot of times even men get stared at, if they wear shorts or bright clothes. A lot of it is not sexual harassment just a lack of etiquette. Ofcourse, this behaviour should change but lets categorize it properly.

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  6. I would say it is more the fear of being molested than the frequency of it. Since childhood, most parents fill the girl’s head with the shame of being groped, stared at, commented upon, and it invariably has the result of making her expect and practically welcome it. It might actually be a relief when someone does something just so you can react! Don’t worry about it. If women pay the price of a patriarchal society, so do men. There must have been many times I have given rude stares to perfectly innocent men with the idea of ‘prevention is better than cure’. I am pretty sure on retrospective that not all were potential molesters, possibly only 10% of them.

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  7. This is so true… !! This is exactly what it feels like.

    As a teenager , I remember how terrified I used to be to walk about alone. I could never ever tell my parents about the various times I was groped or just scared, because they might then take away my freedom to go out, they might force me to wear loose salwars, and such.

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  8. Wow I can so relate to this post!!! I have felt very similar at different points in nearly similar circumstances..
    When I was in my teens, i was actually ashamed of growing breasts.. when i felt weird (that feeling when someone stares) i used to try and hunch so that my breasts weren’t visible!! i used contract my muscles to tuck in my butt when i passed these men (strangers/relatives alike)..
    I dont seem to remember when I stopped caring about those stares… but i can still remember the feeling when i was ashamed of growing curves.. it just shouldnt be so..

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  9. Honestly, I dont know what to say…I just got really sad reading this post…if this is how ‘liberal’ parents are, I shudder to think how it is for people who are not so ‘liberal’

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    • I guess for people who are not so *liberal* the only option is to keep their daughters at home and make sure they wear only tent-like outfits.

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  10. Well dearest, as far as most indian men are concerned you’re just a collection of body parts. You’re not human at all, just attractive female body parts strung together with fat and muscle.

    I am 37, and the only solution I have found to avoid sleazy men is to avoid men altogether. I’m serious, I avoid male company unless absolutely necessary.

    When talking to men, I wear an expression that is affable but remote. After much trial and error, I have struck upon an expression that is polite yet aloof and it appears to discourage men quite effectively.

    I wear this mask with all men except the closest of my male friends.

    I’ve been sexually harrassed by two bosses, leched at by a few co-workers.

    As a teenager, I’ve been leered at and felt up by friends of my father, men whose daughters were as old as me. They said, “Hello beta, how are you” while their hands grazed the side of my breast.

    As a 17-year old, I have been groped by a doctor who was ostensibly examining my chest. My father was waiting outside the examining room.

    I am leaving out countless incidents of harrassment on the streets and on public transport because they are too numerous to enumerate.

    After all these years, I have concluded that for the average Indian man, no woman is off-limits.

    The only spaces I feel safe and comfortable in are those which are female-only. In those spaces, my skin does not pricke because the male gaze is devouring me from somewhere. I feel whole, human in those spaces.

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    • I kinda do the opposite. Hang around more with my male friends. Albeit not purposefully. I happen to have more male friends than female, and I happen to get along well with them. It’s just an added advantage to be with them so that other men don’t feel encouraged to letch or harass you. OTOH, it gives other women (and men) ample scope for judgement… one girl in a gang of 4 (or 20) guys? She’s gotta be a slut. Innit?

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      • yes that works for me too!! Not that it is the reason.. but u know what.. i have grown so indifferent about the scenario that I actually am amused when people pass such judgements.. its like “ha, so i seem to intimidate them so much” and there might be even a feel good factor for me in that!

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    • Isn’t it horrible we have to feel so de-humanized on the street? I completely agree with you. I feel as I am my real self. That I won’t have to bolt at any moment because some stranger on the street is intimidating me. It’s sad that this is the only way some of us can feel human, as you say.

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  11. The colleges I studied in rarely had girls who dressed in jeans; forget skirts. Those who did wear..’OMG western outfits’ were subtly singled out by one and all. I think it was expected that they will do poorly in studies (‘wearing jeans-geens means having fun only no?’) They also caught the attention of boys – some flattering, some unwanted. Overall, they got noticed more for no fault of theirs.

    All my growing up years – my wardrobe was completely dictated by the outside world; chosen with the sole purpose of remaining inconspicuous. Clothes should not matter, but they do. Like the example above, most of the girls arrived at a quick conclusion based on exhaustive observation – if you wore trousers/skirts and travelled by bus, the chances of getting groped are extremely high. The chances of being ogled at on the streets is even more high. Why is it so – no idea. But it was just not worth the stress. One of my friends who wore a pair of levis on her b’day was so distraut when she reached college that I accompanied her back to her home in an auto. She changed into a salwaar and we returned. Reason – in the bus, her bottom was pinched, on the street men stared at her (invisible) crotch. THe result – my parents bought me a pair of jeans for my b’day and I steadfastly refused to wear, we had to exchange it. So yes, I grew up never wearing denim…except for a maxi denim skirt which was really a ‘langa’.

    But no matter what I wore, I learnt quickly to keep my head down. Men/boys passing by, loitering – whatever – our rule was ‘don’t make eye contact, keep your head down’. Of course, Bangalore has changed a lot now, and I’m glad about it…it does not induce a paranoia that Delhi seems to induce; but yet, one has to be one’s guard. Especially in crowded places – malls, theatre queues, bus stops, shopping areas – we become like some president’s hit squad – eyes are looking all around, catching signals, marking men who stare, who suddenly walk with a swagger as they near you.

    I now live in a different country – and it took me a long time to get used to walking out in the open, without a wariness, a fear. I mean, I can actually enjoy just the act of walking. But still, whenever I have to pass a group of boys or men, my head automatically lowers – decades of conditioning and I hate it!

    As far as your parents are concerned – whatever you say about YOUR views on YOUR life – it is taken as joke. Not their fault; that’s the way parents are ‘supposed’ to be. THey probably don’t even know this is seriously stressing you out. Tomorrow, the pressure to get married will mount, despite your protests – it will be ‘oh! she is young, what does she know; we have our responsibility’ – it’s as if you are in a sound-proof glass, screaming your head off, and they don’t hear. Because Indian parenting does not encourage relating to an adult offspring as an adult; especially in the case of a girl.

    Just go on, do well in your studies, get a great job, and move out. Nothing strengthens an individual as much as living on your own does; you truly understand the word ‘responsibility’ – towards yourself primarily. An opportunity that is never given to many in India unfortunately. All the best in your life…and I KNOW you will do well, since you already know your mind🙂

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  12. Although I don’t call myself a feminist, but I don’t doubt that all these things happen in every household, and street of India.

    Why are women expected to ‘tone’ down and be someone they are not? Why don’t we expect men to behave rationally?

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      • I guess you didn’t understand what I said. I asked why are women expected to tone down and become someone else. Why don’t people ask men to behave rationally and mind their own business. And does that mean we, as a society are proud of the fact that we don’t want women to have a voice and we worship men like demigods who have taken birth, just to bless womankind with their pervert attitude.

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      • Maybe because of the popular notion that Feminists believe in liberation of women to the extent of not wearing bras. I don’t really support that.

        To me, feminism is more about equality of both the genders and being able to do what one pleases, within the constraints of law.

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        • Hmm, well I think the bra-issue is something that has left feminism decades ago. It hasn’t been advocated for, as far as I know, since the 1970s in the USA. You are right that there are very extremist feminists but mainstream feminism is exactly what you said: “feminism is more about equality of both genders.” Feminism is not about taking away men’s rights. It’s about making us both equal and protected under the law. Of course, you can call yourself whatever you desire, but I don’t think anyone should fear calling themselves a “feminist.”

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        • And that is why I misunderstood you as well, I guess. You said you were not a feminist, so I assumed you were not one. The bra-burning was also a reaction to get noticed, as really who was even giving much attention to women’s issues? There was nothing wrong with it considering the time and place. I also think wearing or not wearing bras is a rather personal issue, so don’t see why you should be opposed to it.

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    • Patriarchy is about many things, but rationality is not one of them. It is simply too much to expect men and women to think rationally about their existence in the society, when we know that both men and women are conditioned from the early childchood to certain narrow-minded thinking. Rationality is just the luxury which people in partiarchal communities cannot afford.

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  13. I don’t know what to say.

    Really.

    As a non-Indian, I simply cannot imagine feeling this way walking down the street at such an early (for me) hour. Here, there are lots of girls/women dressed in the summer as the email writer. They come back at midnight, or after without any fear.

    What’s wrong with men out there? Seriously.

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  14. This doesn’t seem very different from what I experienced or rather am still experiencing. There are two things here; one is the double standards most families have with regards to the girl child. You are supposedly modern if you allow your girls to dress in western wear and go to parties etc. but when it comes to more important things such as independence and asserting your rights most families suddenly turn archaic from modern.
    The second thing is the kind of lives we women lead. Scared always scared, of venturing out alone after dark, of wearing clothes that are “supposed to be revealing”, of thinking how even our simple gestures like flicking hair out of eyes will be misinterpreted. What incenses me most is that we get a raw deal even from our families … Like for example the mother berating the teenage daughter because the policeman was looking at her as if it was her fault.
    Sickening really.

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  15. I remembered my own teenage, when I and many like me were convinced that dressing conservative, putting your head down and walking without any eye contact with the perverts on the streets will keep one safe, and avoid untoward incidents. But there was never any escape from such attention. I considered that a part of growing up. Now, after having outgrown that phase of attention, I understand that the more self confident, and in control you seem, you are unlikely to become targets of such perverts, they may stare but that will be the extent. You shouldnt be bothered about that. If you seem scared, self conscious of yourself,your body, then renders you vulnerable, and people will become bolder and may try to do more than just staring. Even if you are clad in an auntyji salwar kameez. Your best defense is your attitude and the vibe you give out. Be bold, be confident, ignore people, and focus on being normal. Also, it is only wise to carry your phone with you at all times, and keep someone informed about your whereabouts.

    On another note: “He tells me to keep my room tidy because women are supposed to clean (and cook) stuff. Otherwise “what kind of a girl” am I?”

    I would caution against a misinterpretation of feminism here. Cooking, cleaning, and in general being able to manage oneself responsibly and efficiently is an important life skill. If you take your parents’ efforts to train you in these in the wrong way, you will miss out on many learning opportunities, which are part of growing up and becoming self sufficient. Feminism doesn’t say girls shouldn’t cook and clean. It says men should do it to. Any person should be self reliant, and not need to depend upon another for basic day to day living. If you learn to take care of your own needs, and be responsible, it will help you tremendously when you are out on your own, living away from your family for education or work.

    While focusing on getting away from regressive stereotypes, we shouldn’t be closed to learning what will be useful in making one self reliant.

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    • Poetmamma,
      Thank you! I was trying to think of an articulate way of saying what you just have.

      There is nothing wrong in keeping a room clean or learning how to cook. I remember one time, when I was 7, that I did not wash my plate. My dad, who scolds very rarely, said “Do you think your mom is your servant? Wash it yourself.”. It hurt like hell, but he was right – I should be washing my own dirty plates, clean my room and keep the cupboard tidy. I don’t think it has anything to do with being a woman – looks like my MIL was more strict with my husband – he keeps cleaning the house all the time! I wonder if she told him – “Learn to clean after yourself, or you won’t get a good wife.”!
      Same thing with “toning down” – my guy cousins got that a lot more than me (we were equally naughty), and for not being “over-smart” ( Once, in a tantrum fit, I said I don’t want any prasaad). It taught us an important lesson – to avoid the foot-in-the mouth disease as much as possible.

      I truly believe we underestimate and misunderstand our parents all the time. They sound conservative and regressive, and most of the time, we end up not talking or understanding them properly. Given a chance, they surprise us big-time! For example, my dad, who I thought was very conservative, did not bat an eyelid when I asked if he would be OK with a love marriage.

      I am sorry for focussing on a totally different issue than the rest – the dark roads, the palpitations, the paranoia, and the once-over took me back to my teenage!

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      • I think the messaging is regressive. It should always be ‘Be tidy because it makes you a better person’; rather than ‘be tidy to be a better spouse’. Every trait we build need not be for the benefit of ‘being’ or ‘finding’ a good spouse – it has to be built because it makes us better individuals. I think that is what irritated the email-writer – that she had to be a certain way from now on, so that she can be a good wife later.

        Having said that – hats off to your dad for asking you to wash your own plate – there – that is a correct message.

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        • Exactly. And about the “tone down” part, isn’t it only to assure that she won’t get “kicked out” by her husband and that it “doesn’t suit a woman”?
          The comments of the father sound very gendered. Because, notice – she herself said – when dhe goes out on errands, she is a dutiful “child” and not a “girl”.

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      • Archana,
        Agree about the toning down bit too. Although I many times, adolescent girls are suppressed and parents do try to mold them into something they are not, and in the process may affect the the girl child’s confidence. But as per this email, I wonder if that is the case.

        Are the parents aware of her development and are encouraging her to focus on her studies and career? Does she have a good friend circle which is welcomed in her house? Are there many restrictions in the house in terms of controlling clothing, or going out and all? Or not really?

        Adolescent phase brings with it rebellious behavior. Many times, children do not realize the effects and consequences of their actions. So instead of dismissing the parents’ reactions as being controlling, conservative and falsely liberal, can they be taken as a feedback/indicator to improve upon her own social skills?

        Teenage is the age when kids also develop social skills, a sense of accountability, and ability to understand behavioral dynamics. An open mind, which introspects the intent of our well wishers, like parents, takes feedback in a positive way, and alters ones behavior if it makes sense, will go a long way in making a strong and sensible individual.

        It is important to be aware and identify when one is being discriminated against. Feminism does provide a different perspective of looking at things, and helps you overcome many issues. But it is also important to be able to tell if you are really being victimized, or if there is another side to it which you are refusing to see.

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        • Sumana,
          It is unclear from her mail whether her father did say that she should clean to be a good wife. The email writer mentions that
          “He tells me to keep my room tidy because women are supposed to clean (and cook) stuff. Otherwise “what kind of a girl” am I?”
          I am still unclear if he is trying to say that “she is unclean” or “she is not marriage material” you know. But if it is the latter, then of course you are right – a wrong message for sure!!

          Poetmamma,
          I was right – You are way more articulate than I!
          Agree with you 100%, especially the last line: ” it is also important to be able to tell if you are really being victimized, or if there is another side to it which you are refusing to see”

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      • The Indian Teenager says: IHM, 
        Would you please post it in a comment since a few people seem to have misunderstood me?

        The cooking comment was totally gender-specific. My father used the tag of a “girl” to define the acts of cooking and cleaning and not that of a responsible “child”, with which I am associated with when I go out. My father considers these beneath a man and not doing both will get me a divorce (according to him). The fact is I LOVE cooking… Cleaning… Not so much… It is the gendered tag to which I strongly object.
        And as for the tone down comment, it is used because I’m quite outspoken about my feminism and all these things will “inevitably ruin my marriage” because I’m so “rebellious”. And to that I object. Strongly. 

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        • Thanks for the clarification. Her anger then, is valid. What will help are open lines of communication with the parents on these views. Tell them you will clean the room because its the right thing to do. Not to find a husband, or in fear of getting a divorce from a future husband😀. That is silly.

          Agree with Sumana about wrong messaging.
          Maybe ask a close relative or friends’ parents to talk about this?

          Parents’ desperation to control your behavior and your strong reaction to it all may prove counter productive for you. Dear teenager, These years are crucial, and you will need peace of mind, dedication and focus to succeed in whatever career and education path you choose. All the best.

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    • Excellent response – I especially agree on your take about being self-reliant.

      “I understand that the more self confident, and in control you seem, you are unlikely to become targets of such perverts, they may stare but that will be the extent.” – I beg to differ. Irrespective of how you conduct yourself, if you are marked as a target, you will be harassed. In some cases, these idiots misread your confidence as an affront to their ego and manhood and they harass you even more.

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    • “He tells me to keep my room tidy because women are supposed to clean (and cook) stuff. Otherwise “what kind of a girl” am I?”

      Poetmamma, the sentence very clearly states that she should do these chores because she is a woman. “Because she is a woman” could have been cut out. Why only women, even men will gain by learning different skills leading to self reliance. Parents seem to be confused and are giving out mixed signals.

      If teenage is not easy, neither is parenting!

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  16. The story of every girl, isn’t it? Sometimes we stare back, sometimes we hit back, sometimes we’re too tired to be bothered, sometimes we just wanna run. But the reason for us wanting to do any of these things is always there… either the judgement or the objectification. Sigh! We’ve got at least a century to go before the conditioning stops kicking in, both for us and for those who judge / objectify, and we begin to move around freely–like human beings should.

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  17. I think all girls can identify with this post. We have all gone through this walking cautiously with your head down making sure you don’t look at anybody in the eyes!

    Just wondering, would parents also tell boys how they are expected to behave with their wives?

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  18. Dear Teenager !

    I don’t have any advice, as such. But I want to offer encouragement.

    Do have a voice !

    Today your voice is heard from South-Africa to Norway, from India to Canada, from Iran to England. Your words float around the world. And we do more than just listen. We discuss. We encourage. We critique. We talk. We listen. We learn.

    I learnt something new from you today, and it changed the way I think about the situation for women in India. I read about being torn between feeling nervous on one hand, and being annoyed at feeling nervous on the other hand, and I understood and learnt something new.

    Your words are powerful. They can do that. They can shape thoughts. They can tie people together. (or push them apart)

    The future of India, and indeed the future for all of us, belong to the young. I know we old farts sometimes make it sound as if everything you do is wrong. But in fact the opposite is true: the young today are making great strides at fixing many of the mistakes of the previous generations. Limiting the freedom and security of women everywhere is one of the worst such mistakes.

    Continue using your voice. You’ve got a good and strong voice. Some fraction of the world listens, when you speak. And only you alone decide when you want to speak, and what you want to say.

    Today, your voice carried around the world. I think the world will hear a lot more from you, and I think it’ll be a nicer world because your voice is one of the many who shapes it.

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  19. After reading all these posts sometimes I wonder what era was i living in, or was it that I was not doing when boys or men do .

    I mean when i was young there was os much to do, rather then walk behind a girl admiring her but ,or thinking of groping her and looking at her breasts .. I do feel weird sometimes and I feel my friends were also weird.. I mean when ever we had some free time .. it was mad rush to get the stuff so we can hav a game of cricket in the garden…

    Or rush to watch a movie .. or most of the time later was spent in gym trying to get that muslce a Millimeter more than the other guy ..
    Going to uphill trips .. I seriously think I am weird

    Have a lot of female friends also helped ,since college was CO-ed there were so many girls too who would go on these uphilltrips

    I bet majority of the people here are thinking what a WEIRDO I am or was well i think it myself now..

    lets hope people are bought up the right way

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  20. Oh god, this brings back my own teenage years. And it all sounds so familiar.

    The other day, a family friend brought over their 17 year old daughter home to spend time with me. The girl was moving away from home to another city for further studies – her parents were nervous and thought it would help if I talk to her about how to handle unwanted attention. During this discussion, the girl, and her parents, kept saying “It’s best not to do anything to provoke them”. The girl even said “These men don’t even glance at girls who don’t look good. But they tease girls who look good and dress up, So I’m going to wear sober, inconspicuous clothes”. This made me SO upset.

    I was thankfully (and surprisingly) able to remain calm and told them that street sexual harassment has NOTHING to do with how you dress or behave. That I have faced it whether wearing jeans or salwars. That time and effort has given me a certain touch-me-not aura so that I haven’t faced any street sexual harassment in recent times (it could also be that I don’t care anymore who’s looking and where; I do my own thing and the rest of the world can take a p*** for all I care!).

    Today I don’t hesitate so much to wear a dress or a skirt and go out in an auto because I finally, after all these years, I am able to translate the realization “it’s not about your clothes” into action. And it’s incredibly liberating. I still don’t have the confidence and comfort level to wear what I want irrespective of where I am going and how but I am (hopefully) slowly getting there, and it’s an incredibly liberating feeling. Though I guess it’s also sad that just the ability to wear what you want can become so precious!

    I hope the 17 year old took away something useful from our discussion. That it’s not about her, it’s about them. That she needs to be brave and stand up for herself. That she needs to glare, yell, shout and do whatever it takes to keep herself safe. Because nobody else can do that for her.

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  21. I remember when I was a teenager, my worried mother filled my head with all kinds of horror scenarios about rape and child molestation. Since I had always been blessed with a colourful imagination, I grew so scared that I hardly dared to make any eye-contact on the street anymore. Mind you, I’m European, not Indian, but I felt just the same as this girl. Don’t look at people, don’t wear clothes that might reveal anything, don’t go out after dark. Thank God, at the age of 15 I took a self-defence course, and that changed everything for me. I learned how to defend myself against molesters and started to realize that I wasn’t helpless. It was such a liberation, if only because I knew that if the guy over there started anything, I knew what to do with him. The knowledge that without weapons I could hurt anyone who tried to hurt me gave me confidence to walk upright and proud, to hold my head up and not to be afraid to stare people down. Ever since then, nobody dared to molest me again. And the one guy who did paid with his glasses for it. I think girls should be encouraged to learn how to defend themselves. Knowledge is power, and potential rapists sense this power.

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  22. We all go through phases when we consider our parents to be regressive and archaic. However, a lot of women have gone through or are going through what you have listed here. The fact is – its a bad world out there and yes, while we can go on talking endlessly about rights of women, feminism etc. We all want to be safe and your parents want you to be safe. The kind of safety and security that women deserve is not coming soon – its needs a mindset change..and it takes generations to make that happen. All said and done Indian men are pathetic – they lech, lust – barring age, class, profession.
    I think you are smart in dealing with this whole business – however the end goal is – you need to be safe, provocative or not (in your sense) …you must stay safe and for that – women do need to be cautious about a few things. For eg- it may actually be foolish to be walking the streets alone at midnight –no matter what you are wearing. I am hoping this gets better and better with time.
    Since you have not listed down any other info about your parents – i am tempted to say – they are only trying to keep you safe.
    While being a single mom sure sounds very revolutionary – you may not fully know right now the pros & cons of having a loving husband and challenges of bringing up a kid. You have your whole life ahead of you…concentrate on securing a good education and getting independent. At the cost of sounding archaic – i have to say ..when you are a little older – may be you have a better understanding of marriage/kids.
    Good luck!

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      • I too found that odd. If the dad wanted to eat eggs at night, he should have got up and got it for himself and not sent his young daughter alone, out in the dark to fetch it for him. According to him is this also what women should do, along with cooking and cleaning? How can people say such contradictory things in the same breath? Is it fair to the girl?

        When the policeman stared at the girl, the mother should have glared at him with looks that said ‘how dare you?’.

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  23. very well written. I haven’t really felt this since I have been in US all my life. The only time I feel scared is when I have to walk alone at night and there is NO ONE outside. As long as I see few plp (even if its guys) , i feel okay. Also, I used to keep pepper spray with me all the time. Keep it in ur keychain and hold in ur hand while u walk. This way you feel like you have something incase someone tries to do anything to u.

    I think you should be easy on ur parents. They are trying to do what they think is right for u. Being a single mom in India will be hard. Not impossible but hard. Just be prepared. I think they are just scared that u will make the wrong decisoin and then regret it. Show them that u can handle it.

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  24. The last bit of descriptive experience … It seemed totally like my experience in the teen years in our small town all over again. Sometimes I was lucky, sometimes I was not. Men will probably never even realize how this experience is.. and for that reason all of them must be made to read this.

    Kudos to the email writer, very very well written and very very bright future is ahead of you.

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  25. Indian men were conditioned to rape with their eyes, every body part you have is like a commodity jo unke baap ke ghar se aay tha.! As a commentor said in the above comments I have very few male friends, some even tried to use me, but none got a chance.! I was destined to be over smart for my shoes.! What harasses me most is, these are teh same guys who would go out and bash another guy staring at their sister or mother.!?
    HYPOCRISY IN CAPITAL LETTERS.!

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  26. Ah, the old texting trick..done it so many times😛
    In my case, my parents are very liberal and there was never even the slightest hint of this sort of shaming or even gender stereotypes of any sort. I was brought up in naval bases all throughout my childhood which meant I could go out wearing anything I wanted, shorts, skirts etc.

    When we started living outside the naval base after my father retired when I was 16, I was suddenly overwhelmed by so many do’s and don’ts for girls among my friends, classmates and everyone around me. Same attitude in college/hostel as well. People (mostly girls) around me started telling me off about so many things and I became very very conscious. I used to get obscenely stared at even in my school uniform (a loose salwar kameez). An accidentally peeking bra strap was a grave crime. Once a random guy on the road shouted at me to ‘be proper’ because I hadnt draped the dupatta of my salwar kameez completely around myself, just around my neck. I became very edgy, continuously adjusting my clothes all the time. Another time I got stared at by everyone in a train just because I helped a fellow passenger (a man) with an address because he was new to the city.

    I’ve been in US for the last one year and even there I get a little conscious, when Indian guys are around. We never go out partying/drinking with most Indian guys because they continue to be judgemental and leery of girls. They like partying too, but get awkward and creepy when Indian girls do the same. Nevertheless, it was a huge relief to not get stared at all the time.

    Now I’m back in India for a couple of months and was experiencing this all over again when I saw this post. Still getting readjusted to it.
    This shame culture is so pervasive that in spite of it being non-existent at home, I have still internalized it. If not parents, friends, classmates relatives and everyone else will still force it upon you.

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    • Oh yes, some desi men in the US stare when they see a desi woman in skirts or figure-hugging clothes. It’s like they’re mentally reprimanding you, “Behave yourself, loose woman.”

      Many desi men have double standards too. If a non-desi woman is dancing, driking, smoking, it’s all good. The more the merrier. If a desi (born in des) woman does the same, they want the heavens to part and lightning to strike her down.🙂

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    • I have been living in the US for the past 4 years and I also feel that Indian guys here check out women in a wrong way. I feel very comfortable when I am in a place filled with Americans but if it is an Indian theater or restaurant I immediately get really conscious and I know it is NOT in my head. Indian men look at women in a wrong way ALL THE TIME!!!When I was living in India, I too felt very conscious even in salwar kameez, forget jeans and T-shirt. Living in US is a big relief!! I can wear whatever I want to and no one will bother me. But in India if you are a woman you will be stared at.Indian men do have an unnatural fascination
      towards a woman’s body. I still remember, I once refused to use the train as some man was behaving weirdly and this is the response I got from my friends ” Oh, so you think you are very good looking cause you always keep telling that men stare at you”. I mean really!!!! In India, if a stone has breasts Indian men will stare.You do not have to be good looking for men to misbehave with you.All you need is breasts and a butt.That’s all.

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      • Everywhere in the world some men looking to women but it is about how they look. One thing is just to have a discreet look and another to harass. Another important thing that a woman must know is that as much as she is scared or embarassed man will feel that. And i don’t talk about common man. I am talking here about men that are harassing so we can call them ” dogs”. If one “dog” doing something that can embarasse the woman, she must reply to him. Slowly, slowly if more women will reply and will react things will change. Are so many ways to make a “dog” to feel embarassed even is the most stupid dog.
        I think one important factor in indian society that makeing harassment common is the fact that one primary need – sex need- is not satisfied. Some men feeling the need to do sex to a very early age. They satisfy themself but their need for normal relation after sometime becoming frustration. Another factor can be the arranged marriage in which mostly persons are not carrying much about the needs of the persons they live with. And to don’t forget the last but most important- luck of education. In fact all starts with education. Education should be done in family first and then in schools. But i think nobody having any reason to educate people because education means freedom, education means power and imagine what can do 1.22 bilion of free and powerfull persons.

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        • As a dog-lover I’m against the use of “dog” as a pejorative to describe a molester🙂 Unless you are drawing a parallel to male dogs that leg hump with great enthusiasm?

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      • Everywhere in the world some men looking to women but it is about how they look. One thing is just to have a discreet look and another to harass. Another important thing that a woman must know is that as much as she is scared or embarassed man will feel that. And i don’t talk about common man. I am talking here about men that are harassing so we can call them ” dogs” ( sorry to all real dogs for the comparison ;)) ..). If one ”dog” doing something that can embarasse the woman, she must reply to him. Slowly, slowly if more women will reply and will react things will change. Are so many ways to make a ”dog” to feel embarassed even is the most stupid dog.
        I think one important factor in indian society that makeing harassment common is the fact that one primary need – sex need- is not satisfied. Some men feeling the need to do sex to a very early age. They satisfy themself but their need for normal relation after sometime becoming frustration. Another factor can be the arranged marriage in which mostly persons are not carrying much about the needs of the persons they live with. And to don’t forget the last but most important- luck of education. In fact all starts with education. Education should be done in family first and then in schools. But i think nobody having any reason to educate people because education means freedom, education means power and imagine what can do 1.22 bilion of free and powerfull persons.

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  27. Again…and Again…and Again…
    When will that time come when I don’t have to read about such abominable acts of men…! [Sigh..!]
    And that instance of the man staring at you or, precisely your body parts, I know it feels as if his gaze is piercing through you. It’s correctly said that there is an Obscenity of evil which contaminates the observer…!!
    Please read my post on the same topic, through a man’s perspective-
    http://zindagirozclassletihai.blogspot.in/2012/03/ashamed-of-being-man.html

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  28. I can totally understand the email writer’s state of mind! Been there, done that! My parents never told to tone it down, but I could see they used to be tensed up when I used to venture out in the dark alone at odd hours. I still remember, I used to go out for walks with my mom in the evenings and would be the object to constant stares. My mom and I used to talk about these things, and how one can prevent getting stared at. I now realise that it can be prevented only by changing the mentality. But at that time, Mom and I had devised different ways to make the ‘starer’ feel uncomfortable. Things like staring back at him till he averts his gaze, or looking at him whispering something among ourself and bursting out laughing. In a bus if someone touches by mistake, then pinching him hard and saying ‘oh sorry, galati se ho gaya’. Small things to get back at the perverts and making sure we do not feel unconfortable. At that time these acts of getting back at men were nothing but cheap thrills (I do not wish to de-emphsize the magnitude of the issue, but at a small age, I was not aware that these things were a part of a much larger issue) but I now realise and feel glad that back then I did give the perverts what they deserved (even if in small doses).
    I wish we teach our daughters not to take it lying down, but to fight back. Not feel uncomfortable if someone stares. But to continue to walk with the heads held high. It will take a long time for the patriarchial mentality to change, for men and women to be treated with equality, but in the mean time, I wish we do not deprive the women of our society the freedom to walk and venture out whenever they want to.

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    • I’ve done that too – “shaming” the person bestowing “unwanted attention” on me.

      I was working out in my company’s gym when a middle-aged desi man was staring at my breasts in a most desp( both despicable and desperate) way. Now I don’t feel the need to work out in tent-like outfits because most people, including desis, are courteous and professional (It’s a corporate gym!). Something snapped. I made a fist, stuck my middle finger out, and put it on the side of my hip, figuring that’s where he’d look next. The next time I had to walk past him, he stared straight ahead at the mirrors without a single glance at me. And he looked pretty angry.(What did he expect, a smile instead of the finger?) I was told off by a friend because she thought he could have been a “big guy”. I told her that it was precisely this attitude that let these lecherous old men get away with ogling time and again.

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  29. Dear e-mail writer, I completely sympathize with you. It reminds me of all the times I felt exactly like this. I have no idea when all this will change. Be brave and never let any one – man or women under estimate you or feel like they can boss over you.

    IHM – I have been all your posts but have been very busy and couldn’t comment. it’s very nice that you are sharing all these posts. Even if one man changes for good because he is reading all this, it is still worth it. Please keep sharing these wonderful posts!

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  30. I was sitting on a bus in NY city, and a little 5 yr old boy sat with his mother next to me. He gazed up at me a couple of times, his mother embarrassed immediately said sorry to me, and told him…’That’s not right baby, no staring at anyone, now just give her a smile & say sorry’ !

    Ever heard of anyone teaching that to their kids in India? The well behaved son at home can become a totally different person on the streets. Why does that happen? We tell only gals how to behave among men, do we ever tell boys how to behave with women?

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    • Have to disagree. The newer generation of parents (who are us or much like us) do teach their kids manners. Staring at someone is bad manners. Have you not had any one in the US stare at you? I have had that experience too. Can give you geographical references!

      Let’s not make this an India versus the rest of the world issue. I think it is one mindset that considers women lesser beings. And until we get gender neutral in our parenting (kind of tough since we’re still struggling with our conditioning and shall always have to consciously break out of it), there are no answers. Gender neutral raising of kids can then show up as just two categories: criminals who harass and others.

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      • Sangitha, in all honesty, I’ve come across very few Indian parents who consciously teach their kids about respecting others, not littering, not staring and saying ‘thank you’ when offered something.

        I always feel Indians have a very strange approach to parenting — tits mostly focussed on having children succeed academically. Very few Indian parents teach kids essential life-skills. For instance, how to resolve conflicts, how to respect others (especially servents) and to not litter, manage money prudently etc.

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        • I think street sexual harassment is more than such curious staring, these stares are quite intentional and include a sense of public spaces being barred for women.

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        • I agree with Biwo. I have seen the most educated of Indians staring at others when they are out in the public. Sometimes even when the elders in my family do it, I feel compelled to tell them not to do it [of course it is difficult to tell them that]. They always reply and sayy- ‘WHAT, I was just lookin’. I think its not nice nor decent to look at someone for more than a second, unless of course you are trying to figure out if you know them. U need to teach kids right from a young age that staring at soemone is ‘wrong’.

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        • Yikes, there’s a whale of a blooper up there — “tits mostly focussed on…”.🙂

          My apologies for the typos and spelling errors — did not edit before hitting “post comment”.

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        • biwo, I can’t generalize like that when I see so many people putting in so much into parenting. It is a question of damned if you do (label: helicoptering…the non-parents normally love this one!) and double damned if you don’t, these days.

          I don’t believe that very few parents teach their kids life skills, agreeing all the while that we have a life skills gap in our country. Definitions are changing constantly and India is changing…it may not/is not at the rate we need it to but I find generalizations rarely work. Anywhere and definitely not in India.

          How then is the staring in the US explained?

          We’re also talking way more than staring here.

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      • I agree to Sangi on this one…

        I tell my ‘daughter’ as well not to stare even if she does it with innocence…she is only four..

        Staring at anyone is bad manners, whoever does it!

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  31. I have nothing to add that others havn’t already said about the teasing and harassment, My paternal grandma was a women for all times , my mum of course scared the whit out of me one day me and grandma were walking, i was in high school i guess and dressed in a long skirt and top… and she was in her 9-yard madisar ..we were walking when a few guys whistled, came close ont he cycle , i hunched and looked at the ground and started faster – my mom’s ignore instructions when she stopped me and asked what i was hiding from? she wanted to know what i was ashamed of ??? and said words to me i will never forget –of course translated into english …” you have every right to live in this world as those guys, what are you ashamed of? your looks, your body the very same body that god bestowed on you.. why?? if someone tries to do harm maybe you cannot fight back physically but look them in the eye and fight. don’t slouch and hurt your spine — stand straight , walk strong and look them in the eye.”

    the next time the cyclist came close to us on purpose she gave the bike a shove… and loudly gave him a piece of her mind.

    She has set my parents right so many times when they made sexist statements.

    of course she made sure she taught me how to cook , i was resistant initially but she showed me how much better it was to be self-reliant , she always said learn your favorite dishes, and we all did ( me and my brothers) that way you can eat your favorites everyday🙂

    Why don’t they make parents like that nowadays??

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  32. Dear Email writer,

    As you can see all the women who have read your post empathize with you because we have all been there at some point.

    I grew up in a very small town in a small suburb outside of Mumbai. I never wore western clothes and only dressed in Salwar kameez with dupatas. I was a thin scrawny looking thing with absolutely no breasts, infact my friends in college used to call me a Carom board because I was so flat. So at the age of 16 with NO Breasts, a pair of specs and a dressing sense from hell, I was still subjected to the same scrutiny and lecherousness that you are today and this was 14 years ago.

    Everyday some guy used to follow me from college or I used to get blank calls from guys who wanted to do friendship with me.

    My defense against such men was to stare back at them and give them a piece of my mind. Once when I was returning back from college during a rainy evening these 2 boys kept on following me on their cycle. Just as I reached my place they both jumped on me trying to touch my breast right opposite my house with my father staring out of the window. I was shocked but I quickly gathered myself threw my heavy bag on them dragged pushed them from their cycle and started hitting them with my bag screaming and shouting till my father came running out to help me. I used to look like a malnourished kid so the boys must have thought that they would get away with it but what they did not know was I had a will of a giant. The boys got so scared that they ran away leaving their cycle behind, which we later donated to someone. I never saw them after that🙂

    Another time when I was in a crowded local train I entered the male compartment as it was late in the night and I did not want to miss the train home. There was a guy standing behind me who kept on trying to touch me. I glared at him a few times but he looked back at me defiantly and then almost grabbed my breasts really hard when the train got more crowded. It was so painful that I had tears in my eyes. So as the train reached the next stop and jerked forward I gathered all my courage and rammed my elbow hard in his chest looking at him as he vinced in pain and said sorry bhaisahab galti se ho gaya and got down at that stop and quickly bordered the female compartment.

    And this is not something that men who are uneducated or belong to a small town will do. A male friend of mine who is well educated, married and has 2 kids met me on facebook after 12 years. He remembered me from my time in College so the first thing he tells me while chatting to me is “Do you remember what we used to call you in College? What do you think we should call you now? ” (I am pretty curvy now ). So you can imagine most men just objectify women and refuse to grow up. I just unfriended him from facebook right at that time.

    I love my body now and I am not ashamed of how I look. I wear what I want to as long as I am comfortable with it. Thankfully I am married to a man who is happy with the way I am and has never dictated what I wear and what I don’t wear. Because he trusts my judgement and knows what that I can handle myself.

    As far as your dad telling you to clean your room and tone down is concerned. I agree it is very gender specific and he should not use such words. But I would advise you to just clean up after yourself for your own sanity and mental well being. Study hard and do well so you can move out and be on your own to live your life. You seem like a sensible girl and you have a world at your finger tips. Don’t let anyone dictate your life. All parents think they know the best for their children and all children think that they know better than the parents, it is a part of growing up.

    I agree with what Poetmamma says above, take the wisdom your parents offer you and use your own judgement to make your decisions of what is right or wrong. If you see cleaning your room bothers your father then just clean the room. You cannot change him or his thought process. But you can surely change the way you deal with it.

    Sorry for the long post but we all know what you are going through and each of us want to give you our 2 cents of advice🙂 Best of luck.

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  33. I can totally empathize with you dear email writer. I’ll be 21 this Saturday and I know how it feels. I’ve never been allowed to sleep over at a friend’s place, but I’m allowed to have sleep overs at my place. Twisted logic, yes.
    I will be staying away from home for the first time this October for my first job. The first thing my parents asked me was if one of them could stay with me. Had I been a boy, they’d say, “Go out! See the world. Learn to live on your own.” (They said that to my cousins). But they want that job, mind you! They don’t want me to sit at home, they want me to be “successful”.
    Here is when you have to put your foot down. I am going to live on my own. Come what may.

    Be brave girl, like you are now. Don’t change yourself. All the best!🙂

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  34. hi IHM..

    reading the post and sumana and desi girl’s comments, reminded me of an incident while traveling in bus.

    i commute to office taking a share-auto or bus, that particular day, i left office early so that i can take a less crowded bus. here in Vizag, there is no particular rule of women entering the bus from front entrance, men using rear entrance, senior citizen take the front two seats next to ladies seat. i found most of the times, i senior citizen crowd to be more pervert than the teenager or middle aged men.

    a lady was standing just in front of me, was wearing the proper dress, in other words most accepted saree. i got a seat just behind her, and i sat. a man, must be in his fifties, came and stood next to me. accidentally of purposefully he tried to fall on my shoulders, i gave him a stare. he quickly moved a seat ahead and didnt come near me. but, i kept my eyes on this fellow. he went and he started stroking that lady’s breast. first he put his one finger , stroked when the break was applied. that lady didn’t react or look back at him. then he continued doing it.me and other lady sitting with me exchanged glances. we knew what was happening. i was about to hit the fellow, but the other lady( sitting next to me) stopped me. she just asked me,” why are you bothered? “.

    i was bothered as that fellow was misbehaving with her/ using her to satisfy his what ever.. i couldn’t stop my self, i took photographs and videos with my mobile without flash, hoping that, the lady there would react and i have it as evidence for his act. but to my surprise, the lady didn’t react. for one moment i thought she was slut enjoying the act. but when i was getting down, i saw tears in her eyes. it bothered me for a complete week. the incident is still in my eyes. if at all, the lady had the guts to speak up, or just give him back a angry look, she would have not had those tears in her eyes.

    now thinking back, was it her dress, saree which provoked that guy? i have read various surveys where saree/ half saree declared as most sexiest outfit. but it the traditional and most accepted outfit in my community. or is it the attitude of the women, as she didn’t react? what would have happened if she reacted/slapped or questioned back that guy? was she scared of telling out that she was used up?? So many questions… as in what is the reason for her not to open up or speak up for her rights to say nobody can touch her without her consent..??

    she was not school kid, who is scared of adult men acting on her, she looked like working women,a grown up, married, but why she didn’t just turn back to look at that idiotic man..

    now i cant do anything about that particular incident. i can only hope that women react to such men, and make sure that eve-teasing doesn’t happen. i can educate my daughter about this happenings and explain her what are her private parts and why it is named private, why nobody had rights to touch it without her permission even if it was me or dad or neighbors.

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  35. I hear ya..

    We recently moved back to India and the painful experiences are all coming back to me. I was walking in our colony at around 8pm one day (in my pants/t-shirt), and a car full of men is passing by. They stopped the car ahead and were staring at me as I was walking towards them. I was scared and angry, but managed to ask in a very rude voice what they wanted. This made them start the car and leave. I started to avoid the late evening walks since then. But then that is the only time I am free to go for a walk between the kids, work and managing a home and I am denied that pleasure. What is with men thinking that every woman walking alone at night is a prostitute???

    I have regular meetings at a few offices and I used to wear western formal wear when I went. I get stared at like there is no other species of my kind in the world. I do realize it may not have to with my dressing. Even so I started to “tone down” on my dressing habits, and wear mostly salwar-kameez to these meetings, just so I could get on with my work without distractions. My husband’s suggestion for me is to wear a short skirt one day, and a saree the next and keep changing so they get confused and will eventually stop bothering. However it doesn’t work that way and I don’t think he has a clue of what it is like for women. In his defense, he spent more than half of his life abroad. But I don’t think most men even in India realize how it is like for women to deal with leching.

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    • oh but he is right. i do this.. wear knee length skirts and kurtas and sarees – everything! not to confuse ppl, but bcs , u know.. i wear what i wnt to wear. if u want to stare, your problem! hell, i dont even notice the staring, if any.

      the answer to pointed stares is to wear what you want to wear even more confidently. really. do think about that.

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      • How Do We Know, I have a question. Do you not worry that gossip about your attire will affect your professional image?

        I ask because I work in an organisation where women wear formal skirts and trousers very rarely. Last year, I had a co-worker who’d wear skirts and dress pants fairly regularly. She would become the cynosure of all eyes when she entered a meeting room and I’m not sure if this would have helped her professionally.

        In my experience, in IT, women dress conservatively to bolster their professional image. Trendy dressing somehow translates into “not serious about work”.

        Have you ever faced this?

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        • i can only speak from my experience. i went from IT to a brick and mortar orgn . i was not among the few women who wore western formals to work. i was the ONLY woman doing that in the entire office. so i had a chat with self. that chat said : in my first office, most ppl dressed informal. one of the guys, however, wore a formal tie to work every single day. he just stood out. one day, i asked him why he did that. his reply was, “this is the professional image that i want to create. i am not here to fit in. i am here to be me. and if its professional, then why should i not do it?” i said the exact same thing to myself. also, i can never start or stop doing things bcs other ppl want me to do / stop doing it. its just not me. so i continued to wear everything that i wanted to wear.

          in a while, as ppl got to know me better, they started seeing the sense of humour more than the hem, the focus on getting things done more than the focus on the color of the sari. in short, they got to know me, and once that happens, they worry less abt what u r wearing and more abt how u r treating them. you treat them with respect and dignity, and they return the favor.

          another thing is (and i shld write abt it on the professional blog, not here), i really believe that we need to feminise the work space a lot more. why should women be scared of wearing feminine clothes to work? why should we wear androgynous style just to fit in? women dress differently. and the more we work and wear different clothes, more and more ppl will understand and respect that difference. we are not men, we bring different skills and leadership styles to the table. why not celebrate that difference instead of treating it as an anomaly to be corrected?

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        • You have a point HDWK and a very important one at that. I need to dig that skirt out from the back of my wardrobe and muster the courage to wear it to work!🙂

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        • This is an IT organization that I visit about once in 2 weeks. Most women are in salwars, and I do see women wearing pants too. However women in the managerial roles (very few BTW) are almost always are in a salwar or a saree. So you are probably right about them trying to bolster their professional image.

          Bottom line for me – I don’t care what people think, but I need to get my work done with minimal distractions. And hence I try to “blend-in” as needed.

          It is a culture thing really…why is Sonia Gandhi always seen in sarees? Can you imagine her being where she is today if she were dressed in European attire. Even Priyanka Gandhi is rarely pictured in anything but a salwar or a saree these days. I guess some metro areas are much better in terms of their attitude towards women and their attire, but we still have a ways to go before women can wear anything they choose without having to think about consequences.

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      • That’s only a partial answer. The better answer is to treat people with respect and dignity no matter what they are wearing. I’d prefer it if people would not wear a bikini to work, but as long as the clothing is reasonable, I have zero objections.

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  36. While my blood boils on hearing of harassment of any form, I can do a whole post on this one, where men everywhere try to undress you with their eyes. Its so sickening I could puke on those very same men. But have faith, the world is changing, albeit slowly, but surely. Sure, do your own thing and do it with confidence. But also know when it is safe for you to venture out or not, try to have a companion if its too late as he/she can help you beat the shit out of the guy who tries to molest. As I said, we are still in the process of evolving.
    But one piece of advice I’d like to give is, don’t fiddle with the phone while you are walking. Be aware of your surroundings and take a note of who is where, and which male in the near surroundings could be a potential molester. I guess you already know how to separate them from others. Walk with your head held high and look at people in their eye, whoever that might be. Some might wink or leer or do stupid things. Either give it back to them, or act as if they are invisible. That way you’ll know whos who and what to do should smething happen. Have a plan as to what you can do, should anyone approach you on any pretext. I was once taken aback when someone asked me the time when he was already wearing a watch. I just blabbered, flushed and walked ahead, because I wasn’t prepared. I read a survey of rapists that easy targets are women who are busy walking and doing something else, like fiddling with mobile/ searching something in their purse – in short women who have their attention otherwise occupied. So be aware of your surroundings and have your emergency number on speed dial. All the best to you.

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  37. Pingback: Street harassment/eve teasing/molestation – you say it, we’ve had it. « Coffee time conversations

  38. I was a teenager in an Indian city two decades back. Same situtation even then. I didnt have a cell phone then! so no pretending of texting or calling some one (wish I had one). I had become expert in multi-tasking. Walking + thinking of serveral other things just to avoid the torture of stares and scare of groping. I am a victim of slouching! my dear chiropractor is making money from me now for that. I was scared to tell my parents ( they were liberal at that time) thinking they will never send me out alone. Sigh! stories of our Indian teenage lives……
    hugs to you girl!

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  39. Oh honey, I totally empathize – having faced such situations on the road many times when I was growing up. My first instinct after reading your post is to give you a hug! and to tell you that it was brave of you to venture out and be brave and to loudly confront the lech. In a perfect society women and men, both would have equal opportunity to enjoy the basic freedoms, but as we aspire to that aim, each time a lech is confronted, a small battle is won. Sadly, women on the streets fight many such battles each day and it really saps the energy and makes one into somebody one is not – having to look bodily agressive, having to think about what to wear, having to come up with various shenanigans to make it seem like ‘even if walkign alone, help is at hand, via an imaginary person one is talking to on the phone etc.’. Very sad. But the first time I went out of India to Europe, as very panicked young woman steeling myself against the future travel in buses in a foreign country, thats when I realised that was was seen as ‘normal’ behaviour in India, is definitely and resoundingly NOT so. It was so liberating to not have to worry about these issues. One hopes that things will change for the better through the little fights each one of us puts up. Meanwhile, I wish you strength and am heartened to note that while you take the advice of your parents, you are analysing the dictums as an individual and processing the rights and wrongs. Kudos spunky girl!

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  40. I’d like to draw attention to the way some people here voice their disagreement with people who don’t share their views. Take Sushobh’s comment above – it wasn’t really offensive, combative, or hate filled. Sure, I disagree with his views on “westernization” and I also don’t believe that “harmless attention” is something to put up with.

    But given the tone of his comment, it doesn’t deserve the vitriol spewed on him calling him names and indulging in personal attacks. He hasn’t attacked anyone as such, so I suggest we respond in the same manner. And yes I know that he’s commented before on other posts here disagreeing with the general sentiments (and I’ve responded to him as well), but each comment is to be judged on its merits. We can’t go back and pull out statements made by him previously and use them here.

    I’m sensitive to this kind of thing because when I go on right wing blogs and express my dissent, I’m mobbed by the commenters who are rude, uncouth and indulge in personal attacks. I always feel that my “own” set of blogs are not like that – so I’m disappointed when I see the same type of behavior on quality blogs like this.

    Don’t attack the person, attack their arguments instead. We have to keep a cool head. Otherwise all you’re only encouraging people who agree with your views to comment. Comments like Sushobh’s are actually the most valuable (in my opinion) because they give a chance for real discussion. So as long as he’s polite and doesn’t make hate filled rants, we should treat him in the same way.

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  41. All women can relate to this post – because age doesn’t matter, nor does it matter which city/town/village you live in, what clothes you wear, what time of the day you venture out.
    The first time I traveled outside India was the first time that I enjoyed the freedom to walk without slouching and wore weather appropriate clothing. Yeah, I was that college going student who wore denim jacket in the blistering Hyderabad heat while traveling by the public transport because I felt protected from unwanted stares.
    When I was a little girl we were visiting Bangalore. It was around 8.30 pm and we were waiting outside a restaurant. There were two young women chatting and waiting for their turn as well. A group of young men (they looked educated, well dressed) passed by us, whistling and I saw one of the men pinched one of the women’s waist. I was shocked to say the least. Before that man had taken another step, the woman slapped him really hard and pushed him so that he fell on the ground and mumbled an apology! Most of the people around were families waiting at the restaurant. They all realized what had happened and spontaneously we all started clapping and cheering the woman. My dad told us (me and my 2 younger sisters) – this is how you should deal with such goondas. Though this happened many years ago, the memory is so fresh. It has given me much needed confidence when walking back home from work at night, taking cabs/ auto rickshaws at odd hours after office.
    Looking at how our society actually encourages female harassment, yes, I’ll say encouraged because whistling, singing cheap songs, passing lewd comments to women on streets is all considered harmless, I just don’t think it’ll ever be possible for a woman to go out on Indian streets without being on a guard all the time. I think it’s very important for girls to be taught to be strong, both physically and emotionally, to not suffer in silence but to create a scene, make a noise, learn a few basic self-defense techniques, to carry safety-pins, pepper-spray or similar stuff that makes you feel protected and to use it all without fear if there is a need. I know these are not the alternatives we are hoping for, we are ultimately wishing for a place where our daughters won’t need to waste their time even thinking about such things, but till that day arrives we must prepare ourselves to stay safe.
    Dear Indian teenager – more power to you!

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  42. ok, i have a different perspective here. i was a gawky teenager in a very conservative place. but i almost never got eve teased. because you see, as a young person, i was very full of anger. so you just had to stare and i could outright outstare you. not in embarassment or as a defence mechanism. In pure, unadulterated, and intense anger. even though i was short and puny (physically), i was soooo “dont mess with me” in my head. of course, fearlessness also comes from lack of awareness. i didnt think someone could kidnap me and rape me. the worst possible was that they will touch me wrongly or that they will follow me on the road and then news will reach my parents and then they will stop me from going out.
    but i just hated the whole setup so much that nothing about it could scare me.

    so whats the message? WHY do u need to worry abt stares and being touched or anything? give it right back!! next time , girl, walk with your head UP. OUTSTARE the person trying to stare at you. you scared that 50 year old , right? now go out and scare some more people. they deserve it.

    one more incident. i was in a punjab roadways bus and this hand from the seat behind kept coming through the crack in the seat to grope. after a while, when the hand came, i just clutched it and refused to let go. the guy tried to pull his hand back but i just wldnt leave it. i had the advantage bcs his hand was stuck in a very narrow space. i used that advantage and twisted his hand. he couldnt even scream in pain! after abt 30 seconds of this, i let the hand go. then, i turned right round and STARED at that man. like, really STARED. that hand never came forward again.

    most eve teasers are spineless bullies. the only way to deal with spineless bullies is to scare them and stop playing their game of “ooh, i scared you!” and they will leave u alone.

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  43. Cant say anything that others havent already said…Dear Indian Teenager, (hugs) I hear you, I know what you mean, I understand that anxiety of yours completely, been there and done that; Kudos to you for recognizing the wrong, for wanting to fight that injustice, for voicing it. The solution, arm yourself- with a really loud voice, pepper spray, carry a pendagger, learn to use anything as a weapon that will maim the one who touches you without Your EXPLICIT Permission. They may get away with leering etc, but they should never be able to get away with touching your person or harming you in any manner…YOU MAKE SURE OF THAT. Build your strength – inner strength through breathing to keep calm in the face of perceived danger, trusting your gut no matter what the outsiders say, Questioning like you are doing and building your principle and convictions, standing up for what your principles are; outer strength through exercising your body to being strong enough to fight when needed or run away to fight another day. NEVER LOSE YOUR SENSE OF SELF to the creeps that populate our Nation. Creeps come in different forms, some will be wolf in sheep’s clothing, learn to recognize them too. Keep your spirit alive Indian Teenager. Be Self-sufficient, learn to do the things so that your dependency on others is minimized, but dont ever bow to insensible rules and regulations. Pay attention to the why of things and how to do them efficiently, not to “it was always done this way”. Use that brain of yours to find your way through the Muck that fills our society, no matter what, cause thats the strongest Muscle Humans have.

    I leave you with the poem by Allama Iqbal ” Khudi ko kar bulandh itna” (check this site http://syedfaisal.wordpress.com/2008/02/19/khudi-ko-kar-buland-itna-allama-iqbal/) I love this poem, especially the refrain.

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  47. You are not the only one. I know exactly what you are talking about and I experience it everyday, even at this moment while I’m working at my office trying to make the least noise possible as I type so that my boss is not distracted- he is a gentle ‘harmless’ fellow. But I’m just paranoid. Our whole generation is. There are times when I go crazy in my head! Why do I have to think so much! How is my dress looking? Is it showing a lot of cleavage? Should I get into that crowded bus? If I don’t, I’ll be late, but if I do I’ll be groped and felt up! May be I shouldn’t wear the earrings, it’s work after all. May be I shouldn’t have applied kajal. It’s my paranoia that affects me the most- the fact that my daily activity is interpreted by the behavioral pattern of strange men is sickening and most disturbing! My parents are the most liberal ones I’ve seen and they never ever expected me to ‘tone down’ and I am the rebel personified in my circle. But I think I’ve toned myself down over the years. It was steady and gradual. When I relocated to another city for masters where society was a little more orthodox- where you WOULD get groped or at least stared at if you wore denims, I changed my dressing pattern. Within a year my whole wardrobe was revamped. Initially I used to be so annoyed. I would regularly go out- get stalked within a few minutes- call a male friend for help who would then come to my rescue on his two-wheeler- and return on his bike. Though my friends were nice and supportive, my sense of security was completely lost. I was outraged and helpless- suddenly I was crying out in this big bad world and nobody listened- they were the outcries of a snobbish upper class big city female and hence not to be taken seriously. Its amazing how authorities in government run universities in India can put labels on your frustration and bottle it all up. I remember on our orientation, one of the senior professors had given us, females, a word of advice- how we should always, ALWAYS be accompanied by a male friend if we were going outside campus- which soon translated into ‘we are not responsible for what happens to you outside campus’, even if it is right at the gate of the university. And of course there were the paternalistic, condescending guardians of morality among faculty members- who would offer you tea- listen to your miseries- make a very subtle but obvious suggestion on your dressing pattern and lifestyle in the most polite terms imaginable, and offer you more tea and snacks. And if you belong to the ‘pot-smoking feminist’ category you deserve no sympathy even if you were raped! Only if you have a character certificate from the male faculty members that you always, always wore salwar kameez, never hung around with a particular boy , never took a drag of cigarette, or indulged in any other blasphemous activity like protests, dharnas, poster campaigns, feminism, communism, naxalism, other kinds of -isms(and the list goes on) that you have a ray of hope that you will be taken seriously.

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  50. I completely get you on this one. We all have experienced groping, eve teasing, and sexual advances at some point in our lives.

    And yes, I can never understand why men get excited seeing a woman’s bust? What’s so fascinating about it? They stare at your bust and then look at your face and then go back to your bust again and smile sheepishly!! They stare at us as if its the end of the world tomorrow. The way they look at us is no less then molestation.

    Yes, there are some women who loves to show their skin. Like the other day, I saw a girl on a bike displaying her pink panties in full public. We were at a traffic signal. She was cuddling her boyfriend and her low waist jeans went lower. It was DISGUSTING!! Those 2 mins at the traffic signal became 2 hours for me.

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  52. when i was very small, like 4-5 years old, our car driver harassed me sexually. And the funnier part i did everything one by one as he said!

    as i grew up(untill the age of 11) i was harassed by many neighbor boys.. all through the incidents, i never opposed anybody. i dont know why.

    when i was in my 12th standard, i was groped by my physics sir who is regarded as the best teacher in our school. i was totally shattered. my respect to him turned zero. i felt ashamed. i avoided his presence. yet i did not say this to anyone.(it is my own school, mother – principal and father- correspondent.)

    all through this, not only did i remain silent but spoke to them(neighbor boys) naturally otherwise(we neighbors were a big group when we were small).

    i grew up thinking i’m the most disgusting girl on earth. who would be silent like this? and who will want to talk to that person again.? i could not answer.

    i wish i could re-live my childhood. i hate that person who i was.

    maybe i was the bad girl.. i still think so. i’m 23 now.

    but after 18 years, when i was groped many times in the public bus, i had the audacity to shout back, to stare back continuously until they left the bus.

    today, as i read this blog, i’m thinking maybe it was abusive but i still could not figure out why i went on with that. i am unable to forgive myself for that.

    even now, i am totally a people pleaser. i find it very hard to say no. i have very low self esteem. i lack self confidence.

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