“I am safe because I’m very careful in the way I behave and dress in public, on the streets.”

Everybody knows what women should do to not ‘get molested’ in India.

Here is some more advice for women in India. This is the sort of advice most Indian women – and men, grow up hearing.

“I’ve lived on my own in Mumbai and Delhi ever since I was 22 years old. It’s not that anything untoward has not happened to me because I’m blessed and born under the right stars or safe because I don’t have red hair, blue eyes and white skin. It’s because I’m very careful in the way I behave and dress in public, on the streets. This is the price you pay for living in India – especially as a single woman. You must be constantly vigilant.”

From: WHITE WOMAN’S BURDEN BY RAJYASREE SEN 

Is this popular advice based on facts? Does being ‘constantly vigilant’ (which most of us always are) keep Indian women safe? Why does this advice fail to work so often?

Maybe because the advice is almost impossible to follow. There is no specific description of what exactly does an Indian molester might consider ‘careless dressing’ or ‘careless behaviour’, but most women spend a lot of time worrying about it. This is what they go through, Sometimes it seems like every single thing I do has the potential to be something ‘provocative’.” [link]

I have seen women dance with abandon in religious festival, women also dance in wedding processions (baraat) – in the streets, with social sanction. But the rules are not clear, in fact Indian women (and men) spend their entire lives understanding what is appropriate for Indian women to do or not to do without risking their safety.

Which city in India, do you think is the safest city for women? Do women in that city stay at home after dark? [link]

Women have been told to wear sari with full sleeved blouses in Karnataka, no Salwar Kurta in Andhra, no Jeans in Kanpur – but Blank Noise found women were harassed no matter what they wore, take a look:

SEND ONE GARMENT YOU WORE WHEN YOU WERE “EVE TEASED”

Screen Shot 2013-08-29 at 2.01.01 PM

An honest look at women’s experiences has shown, time and again, that women are harassed no matter how careful they are. Most Indian women, just like Rose Chasm, try to be ‘careful’. They too carry safety pins and scissors (or whatever they consider careful enough), they try not to offend the molesters’ sensibilities by being too visible (by laughing aloud, whistling or humming in public spaces, or by wearing clothes that make them seem like there are no in laws/parents/spouse/boyfriend/neighbours’ first cousins’ nephews/teachers advising them to ‘remain within their limits’ etc).

Rose Chasm made an effort too, but like most Indian women, she too managed to offend the sensibilities of Indian molesters (and those who support them [link]) by not understanding that she could dance on Indian streets, but only under some conditions –  in a wedding possession in North India, she could actually wear a backless choli too, and unless it’s her unlucky day, then in Ganpati celebrations too. I have seen and admired women do that, have envied and wished it was possible to dance with such abandon on Delhi streets too. How did I know it isn’t? Nobody told me, and yet I didn’t even attempt it – why?

It takes growing up in India, or an entire life time, to get a general idea of what Indian street molesters would not be excused for, or not permitted to get away with.

And Indian women still manage to ‘get molested’. I have witnessed and intervened when women were being harassed in traditional attire, one with a child next to her. (The night I was not an easy prey [link]) I wore a skirt once and jeans the other time, the victims wore salwar kurta both the times, and they were not in Andhra Pradesh where salwar kurta is considered ‘fashionable’ (and sexual harassment of fashionably dressed women is seen as expected by most political leaders and the police and the family elders etc, although there is no law permitting such violent but indirect moral policing. How is a foreigner to understand this?)

It seems Indian molesters are wary of women who have a Voice. The ‘man on the street’ also avoids harassing women who appear to have a support system.

For example, what made it safe for so many women to be out, dancing, after dark, on the streets of Gurgaon? [Link]

No matter how carelessly or carefully women are dressed, if they have a Voice and a Support System, they are not harassed. Because sexual harassment in India thrives on, 1.)  The silencing of victims (often by other women too) and 2.) By absolute lack of a support system, including blaming and shaming of the women by the police and the political leaders.

Here is how Rajyasree Sen sees this:

…there is a skewed psychological and sexual dynamic between men and women in the country, and you cannot visit or live in India without keeping this in mind. And you would be a fool to think that you can just ignore it when you visit this country.

Would you say women who are harassed in public spaces in India do it because they fail to keep the risks in mind? Or because if they kept all the risks in mind, they would probably never step out of their homes (although they are not safe at home either [- Study finds 98% of India rape victims knew their attacker.]

And no, the normal man on the street is not used to seeing any woman gyrating or even doing graceful pirouettes next to them during religious festivals.

How did the Indian ‘man on the street’ come to be seen as so invincible and yet so helpless? Maybe because we don’t believe the harassment on the streets can be controlled and so we make no effort? Pubs in Andhra to be officially Reserved For Men?

Have a Good Time in India, Sister (Gounderbrownie)

Forget dancing, they still find it an oddity to see women walking around in market places or checking into hotels alone.

And how do many of us think, should we deal with this?

1. By ensuring that the ‘man on the street’ understands that not-understanding is not an excuse to molest? 2.Or by informing women of the risk they are taking (specially non-Indians) – (what all would you warn them against if they plan to travel?) 3. Or by asking women (and little girls) to anticipate/randomly guess at the man-on-the-street’s lack of understanding and to ‘be careful’?

Which option has been found to work? Why doesn’t ‘being careful’ work for millions of Indian women? Maybe because it’s not the women who can stop the crimes they do not commit.

In some parts of the country it is unacceptable for women to bare their faces in the presence of men they are not married to. This has nothing to do with whether a woman is white or not.
Which is why, you need to be careful in India as a woman. Which is why no sane woman would burst into dance in the middle of a group of men during Ganesh Chaturthi festivals. Whether you’re brown, black, white or blue – you will be stared at.

Blaming, shaming, silencing at work.

It’s normal for ‘sane’ women and men to understand that all fun and partying in India is for men, that if there are fewer or no women dancing that’s because that’s the ‘sane’ thing to do. Common sense!? Maybe for Indian women, who have grown up in India and have been taught this from the day they were born, from when their parents were consoled (at the birth of a girl child) but also reminded that ‘raising a daughter is a very challenging task’. [link]

I frankly find it odd that the University of Chicago gives no briefing to their female students or on the cultural intricacies of India. That this is a country where most men have a skewed psycho-sexual dynamic with women. That you must not stay in dingy hotels in Goa if you’re a bunch of women travelling alone. That you MUST be extra-careful in public places. And do college students of “Civilisations” do NO research on the cultural intricacies of places they visit?

And this is how we deal with it? Blame everybody except the perpetrators, and those who excuse their crimes. Discourage sharing of experiences, and attempt to silence/invalidate the voices that object to being harassed.

But while India is a place where women need to just be a little vigilant, it’s the same as any other city in any other country women visit.

India is not a country friendly to women. Neither is it one spilling over with lecherous potential rapists. But, much like other countries, this is also one in which white/black/brown women need to be careful while travelling through. It is RoseChasm’s shock, surprise and skewed perception of being a “sexual prize” because she’s a white woman which surprises me.

Are you too surprised that RoseChasm saw herself at a greater risk because her white skin and red hair made her more ‘visible’ in a country where being invisible is seen as being careful?

Here’s a response I agree with:

anan 

The whole point of Rose Chasm’s article was that despite being a South Asian Studies student and preparing for her visit, she was still shocked by how bad it could get. This is not surprising or unique. It is unfair to dismiss lived experience as “not being prepared enough.”

Related Posts:

“I will not sit back and allow the image of India’s men to be tarnished by an article that does not articulate other sides to India.”

What kind of men are likely to sexually assault women?

Is stalking of girls and women illegal in India?

Would women be in some ways empowered if they saw no shame in what they could risk being called?

What did Sharad Yadav mean by, ‘Who amongst us has not followed girls?’

Love Marriages spoil the family system of the nation

I do not like reservation.

In Gurgaon, jobs, safety and roads after 8 pm, reserved for men?

I don’t care for freedom

A response to: Why we think women activists should change their attitude of “wear what you like”

Yet another rape that was not about lust but about aggression, revenge and putting the victim in her place.

Who will benefit from criminalising sexual assaults within marriages?

Here’s how Indian universities deal with sexual harassment, generally, women’s safety is not the issue, their future marriages are.

1. Love Marriages spoil the family system of the nation,

2. “Wonder how I survived for 4 years in this college!!”

3. Male escorts and whistles: IIT-Madras’s new safety plan.

4. It is neither correct nor wise to judge one generation with the values of another.

5. “She was warned several times and was used to unethical practices like friendship with boys.”

And some wishful thinking…

6. When a college principal refused to be a Taliban ally ;)

108 thoughts on ““I am safe because I’m very careful in the way I behave and dress in public, on the streets.”

  1. Here is the thing. Even the most ‘prepared’ (by rajyasree’s definition) Indian woman will still face street sexual harassment. There is very little to gain by following the ‘rules’ , as every woman no doubt already knows, because even the ‘rule-followers’ are not spared in our country.
    So, might as well ignore them.
    I’m not a fan of handing out prescriptions to women on what the appropriate things to do/wear/say are, because the goalposts will always keep shifting. You can bet on that. Better to just go about life as you normally would , and tackle whatever happens next head on, than to perpetually keep yourself in check till your last breath.

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    • True. But sadly, this isn’t special to India. The truth is, how often women experience harassment or abuse is mostly related to the culture they live in, and only marginally at best by their clothing. Women in Egypt who dress -very- modestly, are nevertheless harassed and assaulted at a much higher frequency than women in (say) Sweden, even though the latter far more frequently wear far more revealing clothes.

      It’s just a way of blaming the victims, instead of taking responsibility for the problem. Even if a woman stands naked on the street, there’s zero reason to not treat her like one should treat all human beings; with respect and kindness.

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  2. I remember this incident where we were standing in a queue to get on one of the rides at Wonderla, Bangalore. i was wearing shorts knee length and t-shirt as we were in a water park…
    This man was constantly staring and so i loudly told my hubby that i am going to hit this guy. That guy heard that and got the message but there was this female standing next to her with her 2 daughters.

    her comment:
    pehle aise kapde pehente hain phir complain karte hain ki log dekhre hain..
    Anyway, she went on & on..The funny thing is that she was not ready to talk to me directly but was just talking loudly..

    I felt really bad. Though i gave it back to her in full swing, it surely spoiled my mood.

    I HATE SUCH WOMEN..

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    • This is a bad precedent though. Unless he verbally or physically abuses you, he’s not doing anything wrong. Staring at someone can hardly be considered sexual abuse. Obviously, I understand it can be quite annoying, but being annoyed and being abused aren’t the same.

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      • What do you mean?

        So you think staring at girls like a pervert is not an abuse. It is just simply annoying..

        So i should have waited for him to touch me or say vulgar things before setting him straight..

        Hmm.. thanks for your help. You are such an intelligent wise man.

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      • Actually some staring is abusive. I liked how Rose Chasm’s write-up managed to articulate this It’s when people stare at you incessantly and blatantly but don’t look away/ smile/ acknowledge you when you look back at them or when you object to it in some form. It is actually quite dehumanising, it kind of says that they have some ownership on your body. It is more than just annoying or rude, it is denying you ownership on yourself.

        I had just landed in Mumbai Airport last year when this happened. My husband had to go to the loo and I stood outside by our bags. Two men came and stood right opposite me, staring right at me. I looked in their direction and realised they were staring. I didn’t like it, especially as they had chosen to blatantly stand right opposite me. I held my gaze at them for a second, displeasure on my face. They didn’t flinch, didn’t react, didn’t look away, didn’t smile, didn’t acknowledge my reaction. Didn’t care, basically.

        Rather, one of them got more aggressive and challenging. Moved closer. Stared more intently. Looked angry. My husband came out, I explained that some guys are harassing me and pointed in their direction, it made no difference. He stared at me until I was out of sight. I know, I checked. He was making a point that I do not have full ownership on my body, that he is entitled to stare intently and blatantly at my body, and my reaction to this is immaterial. This is more than ‘looking’ and more than being caught staring and more than just annoying. It’s intentional and they are aware of the entitlement they are impressing on you by doing this.

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        • Also what about gangs of men staring? what about when they’re up close? If that’s not abusive, then is cat calling also not abusive? Afterall people don’t touch you when they do that either.

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        • Well, legally I don’t think there’s any recourse to someone staring at you though. If we can figure out a way to stop the rapes, the physical assaults, the child-molestation, and the verbal abuse, I would happily be fine with people staring at others. Staring cannot hurt you unless you let it affect you psychologically. If someone imagines a sexual interaction with you, it’s only in his or her mind, and is not a crime if you think about it.

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        • Also what about gangs of men staring? what about when they’re up close? If that’s not abusive, then is cat calling also not abusive? Afterall people don’t touch you when they do that either.

          The moment they come close to you or say something, then it’s legally abuse. I am referring to someone standing twenty feet away and staring at you. I don’t see how that’s illegal. Uncomfortable : yes, annoying : yes, illegal : no. I’d prefer to ignore that sort of thing, and focus on more dangerous crimes like verbal abuse, touching, groping, and aggressive physical molestation.

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        • @Nish,

          Sure, but you didn’t say it wasn’t illegal, you said it wasn’t abusive. Swearing at someone is abusive but not illegal. My point was that it’s not annoying, this kind of staring, it is abusive. So the original commenter’s response was not setting a bad precedent, as you put it, and was not unjustified. Just because it’s not illegal doesn’t mean it’s ‘nothing wrong’.

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      • Nish, any unwanted or unwelcome conduct in a sexual context constitutes sexual harassment. Such conduct includes staring (or more accurately, leering) too. The person who has been habitually subjected to such stares would be more capable of evaluating whether someone is just staring innocently or is actually leering.

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        • Yes, but I doubt if it’d stand up in a court of law. I know exactly what these women are talking about, and I know how bad it feels for them. But it’s still nothing illegal unless they come really close to you and verbally say something. Someone standing across the street and staring at you may be really annoying, but he or she won’t be breaking any laws.

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        • Here’s another of those from the line of thought that only physical harm matters.

          @ Nish, you seriously need to be enlightened that a person can be broken down to being a nervous wreck without so much as touching her or him with even a feather. Yes, too bad it doesn’t hold in a court of law, but that doesn’t make it something impossible.

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        • Nish, nobody is talking about the legality here but about the Indian male mentality (often supported by silly, narrow-minded women) and how women’s safety and security in India is compromised by this mentality.

          The same audacity that makes them stare with impunity whenever they get an opportunity also makes them rape whenever they get the opportunity. And the staring is the first step to the intimidation. Then follows the groping. If the woman is unfortunate enough to be in a vulnerable position, it may easily be followed by rape and most likely we will be stigmatized for it (even if we are dressed conservatively). As Indian women we all know that.

          The intention is to humiliate and dehumanize. Whether legal or illegal, it is this deliberate public intimidation is what keeps women afraid. Whenever I walk on Indian streets, I get the feeling that the women (including me) are prey who are trying to hide/protect themselves from predators who have every right to target their prey by look and touch. It is the job of the prey to keep themselves safe. Baldeep Kaur’s experience and reaction is perfectly understandable in this context.

          I don’t think this is a problem for only women. The society is definitely destabilized by this. This is rule by brute force. Non-aggressive men, older men, men who are in less powerful positions suffer. The mother, sister, wife or daughter of a cabinet minister or influential industrialist is far less likely to be raped than the wife etc. of a regular bank employee.

          And the safety and well-being of women is directly proportional to that of children. Emotionally insecure, unstable mothers result in emotionally affected children who grow up to be tomorrow’s adults. Both men and women are affected by this mentality. After all, today’s little boys are tomorrow’s men.

          Anyway, I agree with Baldeep Kaur’s reaction.

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      • @Nish
        He stared, she reacted verbally. Then his wife reacted verbally to that. That’s it.
        No need to look into the law books for this one.

        If staring is an just annoyance, then making counter-comments about the staring should also be merely just an annoyance to the staring man as well!

        If a man leers and ogles at women, he better be prepared for the strong reactions that such bad behaviour will elicit, even if he isn’t breaking any laws.

        And how telling that the WIFE objected.

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        • @Nish, Staring/ogling is annoying & it reflects the attitude of the men, who do not want women in public spaces. It is a misogynist attitude.

          Even if you are abroad, it is the south asian men who are staring like they have not seen a woman for years. Other men look but not to the point of making you uncomfortable.

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      • Ogling is not the same as staring at someone. A kid is staring curiously at me, I give him a smile and go about my way. A guy is ogling me,I give him the finger.

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      • Technically it is. Ogling and making someone uncomfortable comes under sexual harassment. He is ogling not at men in shorts but at a woman in shorts just because she is a woman, it is her sex/gender that is point of staring. It is objectifying and it is dehumanizing.
        Peace,
        Desi Girl

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      • That would depend on intent–there’s nothing wrong with staring as such. I’ve been stared at tons of times in Hyderabad and once in the Chennai airport (people were looking at me and my cousin like we were aliens from outer space) and I’ve never had a problem with that.

        But Delhi and Gurgaon? The men here stare with the intent of making someone uncomfortable–and they’re culturally sanctioned to do so. And the real scary thing (in my opinion) is that it seems to be generally accepted!

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    • Similar incident happened to my friend in college. One of a kind, annoying older woman who had this “I’m morally superior” know-it-all attitude was constantly going on and on. It was bothering her for so long she finally told her “It’s not very nice to talk about others like this. If you have something to tell me, you should tell me directly”. The woman just turned her head away refusing to acknowledge. Extremely annoyed and raging at that point, my friend composed herself and turned back “Oh I’m extremely sorry it’s my mistake. I didn’t realize you were a brain-damaged woman. Please let me know if you need any help. Your condition seems very critical”. My friend felt much better afterward. I’m guessing it did silence the woman as well🙂

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      • Abuse is abuse. There is no” conditions apply’. Whether it is staring at a girl, passing lewd comments, or winking. No such unsolicited attention is acceptable to a woman.

        What hurts me more is when women justify such actions and blame the victim? Why is she not covered up? Why is she outside her house at 7 pm? Why did she go to a deserted place alone?

        Just because men do not know how to behave on streets, we should wear a burqa and carry a pepper spray or knife in our bag. If we support each other, we can solve anything.

        High time that men are taught basic human values and social etiquette.

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        • Abuse is abuse, yes. But not all attempts at initiating contact or flirting are abuse. There is nothing wrong with a man who likes a woman, trying to initiate contact with her, or trying to start a flirt with her – if he does so in a manner that is polite and within the borders of acceptable behaviour – AND he should stop immediately if the woman indicates that she is not interested.

          Lewd comments or prolonged staring are rude, so those I’d classify as harassing. Winking ? Well, it depends, doesn’t it ? In some situations, winking at someone is clearly acceptable.

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        • we are not discussing dating here so i don’t understand how flirting or approaching a girl has is related to my point.

          Winking is acceptable. ok? So what you are saying is it is okay to wink at a girl on the street. So if tomorrow a woman you know, your sister or daughter or wife or a friend, comes up to you and complains that a random guy on the street winked at me, you will not care or first analyse the situation to understand its appropriateness. Good for you!!!

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        • This may be partly cultural difference. To even get to the point where two people are dating, someone has to make the first steps. Someone has to approach the other person. Smile at them. Talk to them. Get to know them. Ask them out.

          Usually, atleast in my cultural sphere, the man is expected to perform these tasks. So the question is, if I meet some girl, and I don’t know her, but I’d like to get to know her better, and perhaps if we turn out to be compatible with oneanother, go on a date. In this case, I need to do *something*. I need to make the first move. (if I don’t, then nothing will happen, because women are conditioned to seldom make the first move)

          I agree there’s some situations which are more suited for trying to get to know people, and other situations where it’s better to just don’t try it — because there’s no polite and non-threathening way to do it. If I meet a woman alone on a dark street, I’ll certainly make no attempt at making contact with her, because any attempt at all would be interpreted as threathening. (even if I was being perfectly polite) If on the other hand I’m in the university-canteen with fellow students, then talking to other students (regardless of gender) is unlikely to be perceived as threathening, and is quite likely welcome.

          A random street, is somewhere in between. You just have to play it by ear. It’s happened quite a few times to me that I’ve gotten involved in a conversation with people I met while waiting for a bus at a bus-stop, for example, and that includes one girl I later went on a date with.

          My point is that stopping abuse is right and needed. But we should be careful not to become so paranoid that ALL attempts at establishing contact with random strangers are interpreted as harassment. It’s only harassment if it’s either done in a rude or inapproriate way, or if the attempts continue despite indications that they’re unwanted.

          The lesson should not be: Never contact strangers. The lesson should be: if you feel like contacting some stranger, make sure you do so in an appropriate and non-threathening way.

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        • Honestly I’ve only ever experienced real PROLONGED staring a few times, and all of the times, iwas stared at by a woman. I get so annoyed I usually end up sticking my tongue out or making a face. I mean what else can I do?

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        • There are different types of stare. ..from random stare to prolonged stare to top to bottom stare to open mouth stare, molesting with eyes stare..

          women give other women i am so ashamed of you stare, your parents did not teach you anything stare, look how is she dressed stare but we surely cant beat the men…:)

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        • So 7pm didn’t change in last 20yrs. As a teen DG’s crash time was 7pm from field rain or shine she had to make it home by 7pm as dad awaited downstairs walking in the yard looking at his wrist watch. DG too crash landed like launchpad of Donald Duck at 6:58-59pm.
          So basically nothing changed rather got worse in India shining. During college in early 1993-94 BA hostel closed at 9pm, PG hostel closed at 9:30pm and Ph.D. hostel at 10pm within ten years DG saw them going to 7:30pm, 8pm and 8:30pm and each year young women’s zest to protest went down and ultimately vanished. So much for progress and landing in 21st century.
          Is still planning to land on moon? Will women get there? Oh, only if enough are let to be born and survive.
          Peace,
          Desi Girl

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  3. Men are treated like God at home in India…all this festivals such as karvachath and rakhi n all where they are worshiped like God.. This is the why they think they are superhuman and behave aggressively on the road. It does not end there. I am sure they behave like this at home with their mother and wife as well.

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        • That’s completely true. Even though men are the ones who are responsible for most harassment, women also have some power. Especially because if there’s one thing that young men want — then it is to be liked by girls.

          An example; the girls in my class in college where hugely successful in getting boys to drive safely, by making it clear that that’s what they prefered and that’s what would impress them. When one of the more popular boys in class asked two of the girls if they wanted to ride with him to the concert this weekend, they refused. Then they turned to me. “I’d rather ride with you. With you, I feel safe. [other-guy] drives like an idiot.”

          Those kinds of things make an impression on teenaged boys. This was 20 years ago, and I still remember every word. And you can *bet* that I drove safely. I really REALLY liked the idea that girls felt safe with me.

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  4. Rajyasree Sen’s advice misses the whole point of the post by Rose Chasm. We need to speak and write about these experiences to spread awareness of what women are made to experience and challenge the invincible status of the common Indian rapist/ molester. It is the society that allows this harassment, the parents who restrict daughters but don’t teach sons how to be civil around women… and this same ‘society’ can change that too.

    When you see an article like Rose Chasm’s and then proceed to tell the woman that men’s behaviour is for a ‘reason’ and is the ‘price’ of living in India, you miss the point completely. We have been told to shut up and put up for centuries and that is WHY this is price of living on India. Men are not inevitably going to rape/ molest and expecting it as ‘normal’ is a conditioned reaction to patriarchal hierarchy.

    Besides that, the advice is absolute hokum. Any woman who thinks this will protect her from harassment in India is in denial. The most harassment I have faced was when I wore my school uniform. Clothes don’t ‘provoke’ molester, as the Blank Noise Project found.. it’s about opportunity and an easy ‘prey’, not about taste.

    Also, I have seen plenty of women dancing in Ganpati festivals in Mumbai. Less women than men, but they’re there. Not always molested either. So yeah, hokum.

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    • I have to agree with this.
      The worst incident that I’ve personally faced (groping near the crotch area) happened at 7 pm , when I was with 2 friends , wearing jeans and a tee, NOT on the street but within the AIIMS campus in Delhi , at a time when there were plenty of people milling about , with excellent lighting! That was when I was 19.

      So yeah, that’s when it hit home that I could relax and forget the ‘rules’ for safety that had been drummed into me, since they didn’t work despite following them faithfully.
      In a way, the realisation was quite liberating. You’re not safe, no matter what you do, so no point being worried. Whatever will be ,will be, and you will have to defend yourself with whatever you have. (A small folding knife, in my case, that I kept in my bag after that day)

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    • Fair point, but I think this problem is bigger than women’s issues. We’ve been taught to keep silent about political issues and all sorts of things. We are okay with most basic things like power shortages

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  5. I was groped on the pavement in a busy market in mumbai one afternoon when i was bhaji shopping , arms laden with bags of veggies along with our cook mami, I was dressed in an old dull loose salwar , with long sleeves, full cotton dupatta and kurta hanging past my knees and a salwar that was old fashioned and loose. in short i was far from attractive and 45+ yrs when that happened…
    The one thing i can guarantee the harasses are really not discriminatory. they will touch and grope anything that is female. so wear what you want, it’s happening no matter what. might as well .

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  6. //”It’s because I’m very careful in the way I behave and dress in public, on the streets”//

    Does this imply that all those who are molested have not been careful in the way they dress and behave in public? Excuse me Rajyasree Sen, you really need to get out there and SPEAK to people who have actually been harassed and molested. Then let the numbers speak. That Rajyasree Sen wasn’t harassed is not enough to prove that careful dressing and behaviour keeps you safe in public.
    What an insensitive thing to say!

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    • Either Rajyasree Sen was raised in an extremely privileged background i.e. the relatives of very rich or influential people rarely suffer from such harassment. The come and go in cars and literally buy security.
      OR
      She is too “proper” to mention any incidents that were humiliating.
      OR
      She rarely stepped out of the house and NEVER went anywhere alone.
      OR
      She was just incredibly fortunate. During the course of several years, this is hardly believable. The other possibilities are much more likely.

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    • seriously.. It is so disgusting.. that particular one line.. just the same old victim bashing… I really do not know in which world she is living… hugely pathetic…

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  7. ”It’s because I’m very careful in the way I behave and dress in public, on the streets” —
    –No Ms. Sen it’s because you were lucky enough to be where there are decent men .
    — you were lucky enough that scum didnt target you.

    i’ve been pinched going to school, in a fully covered school uniform in madurai. salwar, kameez, dupatta all pleated and hanging to my waist and school badge pinned proclaiming to the world I’m a school child. with my lab report as my shield and a backpack hanging on my back .
    how much more modestly can one dress and behave…

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  8. This is Rose Chasm, a white woman I have seen lambasted as “racist”, “anti-India”, a drama queen who narrative sound like something out of a B-grade film, on so many sites. I am waiting for a black woman to be courageous enough to come out and write about her experiences. Some how the apologists seem to think that if it happens everywhere in the world it is ok for it to happen in India. With the lethal combination of misogyny and virulent racism that abounds, I believe a black woman’s experience would be even more traumatic. But then we will hear comments like, “STFU, Africa has far higher rates of crimes against women. As if you are safe in your own country?” This would happen even if she is not African, i’m sure.

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  9. I’ve been reading a lot of self-defense websites recently and they all say the same thing. Be careful, and on guard. Learn self-defense techniques. If you are attacked one option is to make noise as usually agressors hate it. Be confident etc…These are websites written by women, for women, because they care about women, in countries where women dance in the streets, smile, wear mini-skirts, go to work everyday and take public transport, sing and drink. I don’t see how this can be interpreted as blaming ?

    You say “it’s not the women who can stop the crimes they do not commit”. As a woman and mother I find this very shocking. Should I tell my kids if somebody harasses you do nothing, since it is not you who are comitting a crime ? Or should I tell them, you are a human being worthy of respect and nobody has the right to commit a crime against you ; this, this and this may help you to get out of a nasty situation ? You seem to imply that as a woman you are not entitled to fight back and that passivity is the desirable behaviour. It’s really shocking to me.

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    • I am not sure which article you just read. Because this one clearly implies nothing of that sort. You won’t be able to use ‘self defense’ when you get groped in buses, busy (or not) streets, or while being cat called. And of course, shout, and get all the contempt in the world about making a big deal about it, if that’s what she wants. And do it again, on a daily basis. I can see that working out.

      And IHM is attacking the disgusting mentality of ‘dress modestly or you’ll get groped’ (and everyone guises it as ‘advice’ here, no one intends as ‘blame’) that exists. Well of course, except that women here who dress ‘modestly’ gets groped too (I don’t know what modest dress is – Saree? Salwar? Burqa?) – so please explain how her (Rajyasree’s) solution makes sense. I am sure women could entirely avoid getting groped if they stayed at home, I guess that’s the next ‘solution’ too? Of course, they shouldn’t take it the wrong way, we are just concerned for them being ‘secure’.

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      • Recently a Saudi leader was contemplating a fatwa banning women from using ACs at home… because the unit’s noise will alert men passing by that ‘someone’ is at home. There is no end to this.

        Victoria, dressing modestly or limiting going outdoors after 6 pm or never being exuberant in public is NOT self defence and does NOT prevent sexual harassment. It is not helpful safety advice, it is victim blaming because it says the act happened because of something the victim could have avoided by dressing or behaving differently, which is patently untrue. Little girls and elderly women are assaulted too, it’s not about what you wear. It’s not about appealing to the taste of the molester, it’s about living in a society that allows this culture of harassment. Dismantling ineffective victim blaming advice which does nothing but limit women’s lives is a part of dismantling such culture.

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    • you should tell them how to fight back. how to get out of a nasty situation.
      you should NOT have tell them to restrict their life, behave a certain way to protect themselves.

      by them modifying themselves to fall in line and therby prevent harassment they are taking away their individual identities.

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    • “I don’t see how this can be interpreted as blaming ?”

      In any society, when someone does something wrong or illegal, it is the criminal who is held responsible, the criminal who is sent for correction, the criminal who has their a few of their rights dismantled (as a result of being sent to prison), the criminal who is expected to learn from their actions and not commit that crime any longer.

      The problem with teaching women how to not be raped is that it takes away this bulk of responsibility from the criminal. Instead of the rapist being taught that he should not rape, that women are not objects for his whims and fancies, that “no means no”, women are the ones being taught how to defend themselves. And if rape occurs, even after these teachings of defense, SHE is made to be the criminal, as though it is HER fault, even though it is the rapist and the harasser’s fault for committing the crime in the first place. The question is never, “Where is the rapist and how can we punish him?” The question is almost always, “What were you, the victim, doing to incur rape?” When we teach women how to not be raped, we are telling them, “Criminality and criminal behaviour is perfectly acceptable in our society, you’re just going to have to live with it, and this is how you’re going to live with it.”

      “it’s not the women who can stop the crimes they do not commit”

      I’m surprised that you find this as an indication of passivity. How is it passive to hold the criminals responsible for their actions? Why should women have to constantly pay for the crimes of other people? Why is it only that women have to protect themselves from crime? It is the criminal who is doing something wrong. If a criminal wants to commit a crime, it is also their better judgement and conscience that stops them from committing it as well. And it is the conscience of a society that ultimately punishes them for doing something wrong.

      Defending yourself is only temporary. You cannot defend yourself your entire life at the expense of your own personal autonomy. At some point, you’re going to have to start expecting better from society around you. The excuse of “defend yourself” has been used as a way to remove focus from the actual criminals and sends the message that, “Crime is just going to happen. You shouldn’t expect humans to be any better or that they will be punished for any of their actions.”

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      • A, there are two aspect in my opinion. Of course society must do everything to catch criminals, punish them and cure them so they don’t commit more crimes when they get out of jail. But as a self-defense teacher writes on her blog “the last person on earth you want to trust with your personal safety is your enemy”.

        It is not only women who need to protect themselves from crime. A European study found women make for 30-40% of murder victims – that mean 60-70% victims are men. But in case of women the crimes are often of sexual nature, often comitted by a family member or a partner. In the 1960’s in Orlando, Florida women were taught how to use weapons ; the following year there was 80% less rapes, 5 years later there was still 13% less rapes in that town than the national average. Protecting yourself works.

        I agree with you, society needs to change. And I expect criminals to be punished. Then this can only happen if women file complaints. But I am very pessimistic about human nature, so I think it’s important to learn survival skills, especially if you are a woman. But as Carvaka points out, protecting yourself doesn’t mean you should limit your life. I even believe you are more at risk if you start limiting your life.

        In any case, as a mother, I don’t fully trust society to protect my kids, so I’m trying to find techniques they can use when I’m not around.

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        • “I even believe you are more at risk if you start limiting your life.”

          Very true. The more you cower, the more of an ‘easy prey’ you are.

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  10. This is how entrenched our mind sets and beliefs are about victim blaming. believe me a lot of people (more women) tell me that ” arrey aajkal mummies betiyon ko kaise kapde pehanti hai,phir jab kuch oonch-neech( read molestation/rape) ho jata hai to kehte hain ladkon ki galti hai”

    No one here is suggesting that a girl should be wearing swimwear to a funeral or a place of worship but the logic that women in sarees and salwars are SAFER is a MYTH.

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  11. Brilliant post, IHM.🙂
    Loved the way you’ve put your thoughts so logically and clearly, unlike the article writer.
    I was a mixture of sad, angry, irritated and disgusted reading the article, but you’ve summed up everything I’ve wanted to say about it and more.🙂
    Very rightly put, accusing someone of ‘ill preparedness’ and dismissing the entire point of the experience shared by RoseChasm’s article, only boils down to downright victim blaming and misogyny.
    The article writer seems like nothing more than a goody-two-shoes with an attitude that spells “I’m careful, and women who get raped/molested/etc are fools.” I hope she reads this and sees the light.
    Anyway, very well balanced post and unlike the article, much more sensitive and sensible.
    Loved it.
    Hugs, IHM🙂

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  12. “I frankly find it odd that the University of Chicago gives no briefing to their female students or on the cultural intricacies of India.”

    “Cultural intricacies” — this is so bullshit and trivializing what really happens to women on streets of India. There is no intricacy here lady, it is plain and simple consistent, indiscriminate sexual harassment because that is what Indian men are hardwired to do based on what Indian society teaches them about women. There is no hiding away from shaming and blaming Indian men for what they do. Indian men are the only ones solely responsible for their disgusting behavior, stop putting the blame on women. Women have absolutely every right just like a man to walk on the street at any time of the day, alone or otherwise, wearing what they want and not get sexually harassed, that is the bottom line, there is no if/buts or fucking “cultural intricacy” here. There is no intricacy at all. Indian culture hates women in every shape and form and the world needs to made aware of it and India needs to be shamed globally. That is why I am so happy RoseCharm wrote about her experience in a direct manner without appeasing to sensitivities of Indian men who cannot stop pinching/groping/staring at women.

    As for University of Chicago, or other study abroad programs, they should make it clear in no uncertain terms that India is a dangerous place for women where they will be consistently sexually harassed or worse for simply existing on the face of earth. There is no crouching behind political correctness here. I told the same thing to my American friend who wanted to visit India, she went to Vietnam instead. Good for her, no women should waste her tourist dollars, vacation days and mental peace to visit India.

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    • India isn’t such an awful place that one has to waste tourist dollars, vacation days and mental piece. I’ve had lady friends from the US tell me India was a great experience. Wonder what I’m missing

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      • I live in the US and even having grown up in India till my twenties, I still feel the shock of the gender bias when I visit. I sense the danger in the air, the tension, the guarded, unsmiling persona that we must maintain. Of course there are unsafe areas in all countries, but the sheer impunity and numbers of molesters even in public places and regular hours is unprecedented. There is a certain viciousness in the attitude towards women that is hard to miss. Even from other women. It is as if a lot of women have started to hate themselves.

        Of course I am proud of parts of Indian culture which is far above the petty social power politics that Indian society indulges in. But I do warn women who are planning to travel to India about the general attitude and lack of security. How can I not do so?

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    • You said it AnnonDiva. it’s ridiculous how she puts it as “cultural intricacies”; this is not “remove your slippers before entering a temple”, this is sexual assault and molestation.

      Sen says “It is RoseChasm’s shock, surprise and skewed perception of being a “sexual prize” because she’s a white woman which surprises me.”

      Yes, Indian men molest all women, but white women are perceived as “loose” and “easy” – please do take in the reams of skimpily clad white extras dancing to Bollywood songs, or shown as being in one-night stands with the “good” hero, who ofcourse just discards her and moves on. Also apparently Ms. Sen has lived her life under a rock all this time, because really whoever heard of Indians preferring fairer skin?

      I’m actually really disappointed that Newslaundry would publish this misogynist crap.

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    • Um, India has a lot to offer. I actually really like the country. I agree that it is a very dangerous place for a white woman to travel in, especially alone, but that is no reason to completely eschew the country.

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      • It is actually dangerous for all women. And no harm in telling the truth. Patriotism cannot be at the expense of safety and welfare of Indian or foreign women. People who feel disturbed by the negative image should do something to try and correct the attitude and environment. Starting with not trivializing the issue and taking it seriously.

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        • I didn’t mean it like that. I do agree that there is a terrible problem of sexual harassment and victim blaming in India. I have warned some of my friends who were planning to visit about the “lack of security and general attitude”, as you put it. I also agree that in many cases Indians take patriotism too far and go way on the defensive when anything is pointed out. What I meant is that India can often be an eye-opening, wonderful, diverse place, and I certainly would not go as far as saying that no woman should waste her tourist dollars on a trip there.
          I don’t think I have ever been accused of trivializing the issue of sexual harassment, and I assure you I am just as horrified by what women have to go through on a daily basis.

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        • @B,

          But how do you exert your power then? As a woman touring the world, if a place is seriously dangerous for me, the way to push them to change is to take my money elsewhere. That’s the only thing that will hurt them. As a woman voting, the way to push change is by taking my vote elsewhere and a potential ‘bride’, the way to push change in a misogynist is to myself elsewhere. That’s just how incentives work. No one changes out of the goodness of their hearts!

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        • Carvaka, before I took my first trip to India I read tons of posts by foreign women who had travelled to India. But they were not all saying the same thing. Some said it was Ok if you take certain precautions, others said there is no problem at all….And of course there is a category of women (and men) who will tell you India is hell and don’t go there – but this category of women you don’t usually find on travel forums. That’s what so unsettling about India ; you can never have a clear-cut answer about anything🙂

          I think if you like to travel, you have to know yourself, know what makes you uncomfortable. For example a person who has a problem with staring should avoid to visit many countries.

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        • Carvaka,
          I think that there is a difference. Not visiting a country has a direct effect on the tourism of the country, yes, as we have seen, but I really don’t think it will do anything to change the mindset of the common person, who probably couldn’t care less about the tourism statistics. And we need the mentality of the common person to change in order to change the attitude towards women.
          Then again, it could, I’m not professing to be an expert on the topic.
          What I am saying is that women should visit India if they want to. It is a lively, beautiful, exciting country. They should, however, be aware that it is also a very dangerous one for women, and it will be far more nerve-wracking than visiting nearly any other Asian country.

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      • Yes @B, that is exactly the reason for a white woman (or any woman for that matter) to not travel to India. I care more about my friend’s well being and safety than some higher sense of patriotism towards India. All women should avoid traveling to India and go use their tourist money elsewhere. Why should women go to India anyway? To get sexually harassed and molested non stop and then have morally high ground women like this author blame her for not understanding cultural intricacy, screw that. Vacation is a time to enjoy, see the world, have fun, not time to get your boobs groped/butt pinched and stared at by disgusting Indian men. My advise remains same to anyone asking for India travel recommendation, DONOT GO THERE.

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        • This comment takes it too far, people don’t go to India to get molested. It’s yet another country with yet another set of experiences, it has some drawbacks, but that shouldn’t let anyone back off from discovering another place.

          By your argument, nobody on the planet should go to South Africa.

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        • Niketan, Threat of rape is not a “drawback”. It is something that will make most women pause and change their mind about visiting a place. This kind of sexual molestation and public physical intimidation (lecherous leering and stalking) is definitely something that one should warn foreign women against. I live in a foreign country now and have traveled a bit. Of course there are other countries in the world where women are equally unsafe. But the potent mix of dehumanizing women, bureaucratic inefficiency and incredible corruption make the situation in India quite surreal where women are concerned. I would definitely not advise any foreign woman to travel in India if she has other options. No matter how beautiful and colorful a country may be, most women don’t think it is worth putting their safety in jeopardy.

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      • @ Victoria,

        Sure, but sexual molestation makes every woman uncomfortable. You might choose to go anyway ofcourse, I do every year to visit family, but there is no grey area in whether or not India is uncomfortable for women. It is a very pervasive case of gendered treatment of women and it has affected the views of some travellers (for good reason I think) http://travel.aol.co.uk/2013/03/31/female-tourists-india-down-35-per-cent-fatal-delhi-gang-rape/.

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  13. RANT:

    This is SUCH BULLSHIT. The worst street harassment in my life has been in Indian cities like Bengaluru and Delhi. As a young girl travelling with my mother, she picked out my clothing: no shorts, no sleeveless, skirts to the ground, loose salwar kameezes, loose everything.

    That didn’t do a damn thing to stop men from harassing me. One of the worst incidents was in Delhi. I guess being with my aunt and watching an afternoon movie was just too much for a bunch of filthy smelly men to avoid stalking both of us and trying to touch us. Or you know, the time this beggar followed me for blocks because I wouldn’t give him money. I hid these incidents for many years because I didn’t want to be even more locked down than I was. My mother’s response: “You just need to get used to it if you live there”

    I’ve never been harassed when I’ve been with a male relative. I don’t generally go out on my own which makes being in India very boring. Three weeks is about all I can stand even though my grandfather and uncle are very loving. But with these stories of women being attacked with male company means I cannot think of my safety.

    Everyone can crib about how India is unfairly maligned and how Indian men are unfairly maligned. BULLSHIT. BULL FUCKING SHIT. This is EXACTLY why despite numerous suggestions, I have no interest in living in India. NONE. These men defend all kinds of street harassment and the ones who do outnumber and outshout the ones who don’t. I’ve got to ask, if you care so deeply about being unfairly maligned, why don’t you Indian men outshout those harassers? Why are do so many films have ritualized harassment as part of their LOVE songs? And why are those films hits? Hmmm….

    And every time I see a Hindi movie, the clothing the heroine wears, especially during dance numbers, takes me right out of the movie. Oh, it’s all WONDERFUL that you want to ogle women in skimpy clothing in nightclubs (which apparently close before midnight), but GOD FORBID I wear my normal clothing while out and about in the day because that means I’m ASKING FOR IT.

    Right after the rape in Delhi, one of my cousin’s husband’s friends, started declaiming about how women lie about everything. This man went to IIT. LOL– IIT, harder to get into than MIT, blah blah, blah, so “educated”, because only “uneducated” men have vile attitudes and actions,right (a common prejudice)? This kind of toxic attitude is emblematic of why I refuse to date Indian men who immigrated as adults.

    I am just full of contempt that these MEN have any right to judge or evaluate me in any capacity. They are not fit to judge me and certainly not worthy of their puffed up status. They don’t deserve the appellation, “re” or to be compared to Shiva, in any capacity. And those women who excuse them aren’t fit to judge me either.

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    • Shakti, I completely empathize with you becauese I often react the same way, but I think we as feminists need to move away from hate, because if we act from a place of hate we are making the same mistake as misogynists.

      P.S: This is not to be construed as advice like ashram bapu type advice, but more like, if we so full of hate, we can’t often objectively judge. As Indian feminists we can avoid making the mistakes of western feminists – completely hating men & swinging to one extreme & slowly swinging back. We have to be inclusive, if we want to change.

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        • Maybe I did not put it it properly but many women are so angry & upset with how poorly women are treated that they direct a lot of their hate towards men because “men” have been suppressing women over the ages.

          I know many women who keep telling ” I hate Indian men. They are like this like that but other men do not do that” but they refer to it like this because they are upset due to discrimination & wonder why they cannot have certain rights as a woman.

          I think people find it easier to name an entity & direct their anger & hatred towards them rather than having an abstract entity like patriarchy/system which has been suppressing women.

          Maybe with western women, hatred would be a wrong word, because it (feminism) is at a different stage, but many women often over scrutinize everything to check if the guy is being sexist. Many of them also swing to extremes – be the subservient wife or the other extreme.

          I feel the other issue is/was world looking down upon traditionally feminine roles – like looking after a house/cooking/ cleaning & women also doing the same. Women who chose to become housewives are looked down upon & considered wasting their education/skills by other women (and they will be feminists – this is both in the west & the east). So, often in the name of giving choice to women, many feminists forget that being a housewife/cooking/cleaning is also a choice & ought to be respected.

          Some women are just sweet & nice by nature, and they seem to get along easily. This is in generally seen as a feminine traits but many people would attack these people as being too sweet on purpose, not strong enough & going against the feminist cause.

          The commentators on this blog may not be like that, but I have come across such people from all over the world & some of these points were pointed out to me by several people from the west

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        • I see that sometimes in the guardian articles. Like one of the articles asked whether it wa right that women were taught to be nice. Instead of asking why men werent taught to be nicer.

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      • Boiling, think about why you’re saying “I want nothing to do with this group of people as romantic partners” as hatred.

        There is no love in victim blaming.
        There is no love in harassment.
        There is no love in condoning harassment.
        There is no love in being told you need to twist yourself into knots to avoid breaking some imaginary set of rules which keep changing.
        There is no love in being told you need to let people who do not respect boundaries and do not want you to you have your freedom or your boundaries walk all over you.
        There is no love in being told that your harassers and their enablers should be romantically chased after by you.
        There is no love in being told you need to curtail all kinds of activities because some unknown in-laws and husband are going to judge you and find you wanting.

        I have neither the time nor the energy to “train” adults into decency. I’m done.

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  14. ”It’s because I’m very careful in the way I behave and dress in public, on the streets”

    Okay, this is complete and utter garbage for two reasons. For one, even women who are dressed well according to Indian standards are still subjected to catcalling and harassment. My mother, who was on a trip to a temple (and dressed accordingly) was propositioned by an auto driver. She was dressed in a sari. What are you going to tell her? That she shouldn’t have gone to the temple at all? That she should have stayed at home? Bullshit.

    Also, for another, EVEN IF a woman is dressed “provocatively” (whatever the hell that means), she still deserves respect and respectful treatment. Even if she is a whore, a stripper, or a sex worker. Why? Because she is a human being, end of story, irrespective of how she is dressed and what she does for a living. Because according to the Indian constitution, Article 14, ” all citizens shall be equally protected by the laws of the country.”

    She is human, and therefore, under the constitution and under the law, she does not engender ill treatment. If she does not want you to look at her, it does not matter how provocatively she is dressed or how much skin is showing. You should not look at her. She has the right to decide that as granted by virtue of her humanity. If someone tells you that something in the way you are behaving is making them uncomfortable, do not do that thing. It is that simple. This is not curtailing your rights. It is being respectful of the presence of other people.

    Forgive me if I’ve sounded harsh, but it grates on my nerves when this happens. Are people blind or something in India? Don’t women go out and see other women being harassed in everything from burqas to shorts? Haven’t those so-called “careful women” also been targets of harassment? Haven’t those respectful men seen every kind of woman being harassed? It is shocking to me that there is this level of denial on all fronts.

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  15. Once, while having dinner in an inner city street restaurant, with one of my colleagues, who happens to be a university prof., the discussion was diverted towards gender equality. Of course, he claimed that he is for gender equality, however, there are differences in genders. Fair enough, but it was not clear to me what those differences are and who decides them. Right at that moment, Pakistan won a match and a few people in the street spontaneously burst into a bhangra celebration, which was quite amusing for all of us. I asked my colleague if he think it is appropriate for a woman to do exactly what happened right now and his immediate reply was, “probably not”. This coming from a univ. prof., that gender differences require that only men should be able to celebrate and be happy when out and about. I know where his response was coming from; thinking about his own women folk and visualizing how they would be stared and teased if they did so. So, blaming the victim, he thought it is required from women themselves that they do not do anything “provocative”.

    My wife always longs for vacations to foreign land only because it allows her to be herself and enjoy herself in abandon. That’s the only reason, she is not fond of history or exotic cultures etc. Its a pity that she can’t have a fully relaxing vacation in her own country at a much cheaper price and with much less hassle and planning.

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  16. All of these articles have definitely made me feel some kind of way. Rajyasree’s piece infuriated me. I understand that she is against the painting of the Indian male population with a broad brush, but in her haste to do so, she made (what I feel) the grave error of completely trivializing the seriousness of sexual harassment in India. “This is just the way that it is” is the attitude that permanents her entire piece.

    I find that disgusting.

    It is a form of victim blaming and shaming. Of refusing to acknowledge WHY men in India have a psycho-skewed view of women. I’m so tired of seeing discussions about how” women need to do this, women should do that, women shouldn’t, couldn’t wouldn’t, blah blah blah”

    Where are the discussions about what MEN should NOT do? The only responsibility women play in the role of sexual harassment is to see to it that they do not raise sons who will harass.

    In terms of comparing Rosechasm’s piece with the next article written by an African American woman that is very interesting indeed.

    I do not mean to downplay Rose’s traumatic situation in anyway, but as an African American woman, myself, I will say that there is a possibility that Rose has never had the experience of being the “minority” in a situation before hence her focus on thinking that a lot of the harassment came from being a white woman in a country where most people have darker skin. The USA is pretty self-segregated, and we would have to peer into Rose’s background to be certain, but the majority of white people in this country
    have not had the experience of being “other”. And even if they have, white privilege still plays a role in perception. Uni of Chicago might not have prepared her for being in a place where harassment is color blind and where she found out the glow of “white privilege” didn’t save her.

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  17. “And do college students of “Civilisations” do NO research on the cultural intricacies of places they visit?”
    The above line from Sen’s article sounds like Victim Blaming.
    On the contrary, she did mention more than once that Rose knew her complexion, hair and eye colour were bound to attract curiosity.Then how can she say Rose was not up to mark on her home work as a Civilisations student?
    A nd the last 2 paragraphs of the article are dripping with blame.

    Her advise to be Constantly Vigilante sounded a bit frivolous, as if you are talking to a new born’s mother.Or a Toddler’s baby-sitter.
    Please lady, constant vigilance did me no good, and it is not advise.It is just Prof.Moody’s favorite phrase from Harry Potter books.
    It is a coincidence that you were constantly vigilant and you were never a target of sexual abuse.They are not at all Cause and Effect.They are just two random unconnected things.

    And to think centuries of conditioning by Patriarchy, and its ill effects, can all be fought with something as simple as Constant Vigilance! Pshaw!

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  18. I feel really sorry for the author. Not only does she think her ‘constant vigilance’ will keep her safe (wrong), but also that women have to put up with this shit the world over! I hope the author actually gets a chance to go to one of the many countries where men behave decently and women do not have to live in fear. Or at least talks to a woman who has lived in both India and another safer country. She doesn’t even have to go to far away places like Canada or Europe – even nearby Hong Kong or Malaysia or Korea are better to their women.

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  19. It doesn’t matter how careful you are to dress – the molesters find you – they work on your vulnerabilities and take advantage of circumstances. Alone girl at the bust stop, with not much company in a secluded place, in a crowded bus! First year of college, I had only heard of horrors of public transport for women – so I got salwar kameez – abandoned them after 2 days. I was pinched, and outraged more than just once. I finally wore just about anything and everything withing the parameters of “appropriate” wear and the molesters were there – I was prepared with compasses and dividers and fought back. Why nothing drastic happened to me? Because I was lucky. I met all kinds of molesters (http://yuvikachaube.blogspot.com/2013/01/and-they-come-in-all-shapes-and-sizes.html) , except the “rapists”. And I thank god for that/

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  20. Good article IHM.. taking care of our dress and behaviour has not stopped harassment till date and is not going to work in future… Men are definitely responsible for this sorry state of females in our country.. but I dont understand how these women (as psharmarao rightly said) say that its women’s job to make sure that they do not attract men..
    Isn’t it my right to feel good about myself by dressing well or doing makeup or anything that I like?
    If we cant make these women understand this then I dont see that happening for men in India’s future!!
    Definitely there are a few good men but the count is minuscule.

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  21. Yet another foot soldier of patriarchy, intent on preserving the status quo. The woman asks why they were not informed of Indian “cultural intricacies” for women.

    Travel advisories by the US and other foreign embassies warn women not to travel alone in India, saying they are “at risk and should exercise vigilance.” Do these statements qualify for the “cultural intricacy” warning she requires? Maybe she should reach out to the embassies that don’t have these warnings in place and request them to warn their citizens too.

    The phrase “cultural intricacy” makes me want to slap someone really,really hard. What a shitty euphemism for the state of affairs in India.

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  22. Again proper Indian women blaming the victim & justifying sexual harassment. I have had the same thing told to me by a guy who told me people were harassing me because I wore shorts. I think that is dumb.

    Even if I am wearing loose salwar kameez with dupatta, I have had people leer at me, pass comment, actually, most harassment cases was when I was wearing salwar kameez & dressed modestly.

    There is nothing to punish molesting. Which is why molesters are growing more & more impudent. They think they can do anything & get away with it.

    Maybe we should all train a dog to get their balls like in Kick ass 2. LMAO

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    • She has been lucky – can you imagine the comments, (from the likes of the one who wrote the post being discussed here, those who ‘understand’ that Indian men can ‘lose control’ if women are not ‘careful’ enough) if one of the people she met had turned out to be not the decent man she thought he was? We also read news about women who trusted and travelled or spent time (etc) with Indian men and were assaulted – and some Indian women and men then wonder why they weren’t careful enough to trust nobody?

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      • I agree with you that she has been lucky. But it also is good to read a different view point. I completely get what Rose Chasm went through–and her story rings very true–white or not, there are always indecent people around( and i would include the women who will look away and not help when someone is getting groped, teased or molested). However i also remember the men who i have encountered– the house boy who was already to help, the train companion who shared food and books– so while India can be scary place to travel in—i know there is always a silver lining. I hope that this lining spreads–and your blog is surely one step in the right direction.

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      • I relate to the post you suggest Sruti. In India I always smile and I met a lot of helpful people. But I’m not sure you can compare the experience of a tourist, positive or negative, with the experience of a national.

        IHM, of course you will read of assaults in the news, and you will very rarely read the positive stories, that’s how the press works. But I think it’s not fair to classify each day without harassment as a lucky day.

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  23. That’s ridiculous. She’s been safe (SO FAR) because she’s been lucky.

    I’ve been ‘safe’ in India so far because I stay in a highly protected building, I travel in my car, I only visit areas like Khan Market, malls of Vasant Kunj, Hauz Khas Village, or nice hotels (which there are many). We also only go to upscale-ish bars and restaurants in Gurgaon as you never know the kind of crowd you might encounter in not so upscale-ish places. Luckily, a lot of the nicer places in Gurgaon will not allow groups of only men to enter. (And even then, luck has a lot to do with it.)

    One of the few times that I visited CP, someone tried grabbing my ass! And then an unfortunate, ragamuffin street kid with a gaping wound on his head followed us around sticking his wounded head in our faces and creeping the bejesus out of me. At that point, I was like ‘no more real India for me, I’m going to stick with the shiny new part of India from now on.’

    At the same time, I do agree with the OP that non-Indian female tourists should be well aware of the mentality and attitude they will most definitely encounter in India (especially if they want to do the back packing/ discovering yourself in India kind of thing). That will at least give students and other non-well off travelers a choice of traveling to another country, preferably one that is safer for women.

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  24. This whole Rosechasm thing has only shown the pathetic face of Indian reality. And from my own circle of friends – women, Indian, educated, widely travelled but holding onto such strong, deeply prejudiced views about how women do ‘invite’trouble by ‘behaving inappropriately’ .
    When did it become that talking about/ fighting for a dignified life, a sexual harassment free reality is being feminist? And therefore not anybody’s concern since its a feminist agenda.
    I’ve been oscillating between rage, disgust, helplessness and sheer frustration about what it means to be a woman in India. It doesn’t help that I have recently had a daughter. I do not live in India anymore, nor do I plan to. But the thought of coming back to this screwed up reality has me in sweats for months now. The experience of Rosechasm read like a leaf out of my own life.
    Why are we confusing sheer fanaticism with patriotism? When did blind patriotism take over basic human rights? Why do we think its a woman’s fault for – being at the wrong place (Ganesh festival), at the wrong time (night/ evening), wearing the wrong clothes, smiling the wrong way, having breasts, buying shoes, being a woman.
    I used to think that lifelong conditioning makes us women in India take extraordinary precautions for the most mundane activities. We breathe noiselessly, dress in tents, anything to make us disappear, anything to muffle a voice, anything that would make people around us aware of our existence. I also used to think that education, travel are the real empowerment. That armed with these we’d break the shackles.
    But I see that neither education, nor exposure nor travel change mindsets. Deeply rooted mind sets that say its always the women’s fault(you cannot say victim-blaming enough) All I hear is this is our culture. Isn’t culture an ever-changing thing? Why are women, the worst supporters and abettors of gender violence?

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  25. Hi IHM, another excellent article…
    As a foreigner who has visited India many times, this baffles me. I have no idea what keeps a girl safe. I honestly think it’s just absolutely by chance. Who knows why these creeps target the way they do? Everytime I go to India, I’m excited but worried at the same time. You never know what will happen. If you come back safely and had a good trip, then you thank your lucky stars. But sometimes you don’t…sometimes you are harassed, you witness harassment, etc.
    I’ve said many times on my blog, Respect is in the eye of the beholder….like the defense lawyer for the Delhi rapist said that “rape will never happen to a respectable woman” but then couldn’t even define what a “respectable woman” was! I think it is all by random, who really knows?
    It is difficult as a foreigner going to India in the sense that I’ve come across many people, even in urban areas who have had limited interaction with foreigners, which basically means that many have preconceived notions about Westerners’ character, especially women. I myself am the first non-Indian member of my Indian family. On my first trip to India, before I got Indian clothes, I felt like some porn star walking around even though I was fully clothed. That was literally how everyone was looking at me and my bum!!! So I just wear only Indian clothes in India because at least then I know that they’re not staring at the shape of my bum or anything (with the salwar kameez hiding it all). And another weird thing I noticed is that there was a HUGE difference after we returned back after we got married. I wear my symbols of marriage (sindoor, mangalsutram, thaali) for romantic reasons, so I was pretty shocked how much more respect I was treated with “wife status” – as if before I was some kind of “white whore”. Especially from men. Like “Oh, he actually married her so she’s not some prostitute”. I really resented it…like, only giving me respect because I’m wearing symbols that I “belong to a man”.
    Regarding the Westerner who has lived there since age 22, I think she’s just lucky. Really lucky. I think dressing conservatively helps, but it certainly doesn’t mean that you’ve got a ticket to safety. She’s just lucky…and I wish she would rather write an article on her “luck” than telling other people “what works”. Let’s see if she still believes that in 5 years, lol.
    And regarding the RoseChasm, it has really disgusted me that women – especially foreign women – have had no empathy whatsoever for this girl’s experience. Those commenters disgust me how they go on and on about India’s reputation and all this victim-blaming, rather than having empathy for what this poor girl went through. “Just because they had a good time in India and it never happened to them” – a.k.a. they were just LUCKY.
    I think instead of all these guidelines for women to limit themselves, there should be a set of guidelines for men. They are the perpetrators and they should learn how they should and should not behave!!! It’s crazy all this victim blaming, instead of blaming who is actually responsible which is these creeps!!

    Un-spammed by indianhomemaker

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  26. Hello IHM! I came across your blog today, and have spent the last five hours reading your thoughts and other blogs you referred to (Blank Noise is amazing. I am so glad I cam across it, thanks to you!).
    Just a few days ago, I had a heated debate with my boyfriend about dress and its contribution towards the harassment of women. Everything that I could not put into words, even though I felt it, has been discussed in this post and the comments that follow it. Telling a woman that dressing ‘modestly’ will help ward off harassment is equal to judging women who have been harassed or assaulted. When will the society understand this? It is very simple: Rapists cause rape and harassers cause harassment. If we are to effectively act against these things, we have to revolutionise thinking in this country. And the world over, really.

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