Relationships – Making Someone Happy

Guest Post by wordssetmefreee

There are times when we do things hoping to make someone else happy. I’ve made my children’s favorite dishes countless times over the years. I’ve recalled that a certain teacher likes the Chai Latte at Pete’s Coffee and Tea. I had bought her a bag of this tea when I wanted to appreciate her for her dedication. When my best friend turned 40, I looked everywhere for a copy of Tagore’s Fireflies to get her a birthday present that would mean something to her.

And then, there are times when we try to make someone happy and it takes us down a very self-defeating path. I remember this friend who was not quite committed to our friendship. I mistook her last minute cancellations for genuine personal problems and felt protective toward her. I would listen intensely to her problems, and think about them, and offer helpful suggestions. I did not realize that she very rarely listened to me or cared about what was going on in my life. I mistook her flakiness for innocence and an inability to defend herself. A little late into the friendship, I realized that she would show up only when nothing else was going on in her life. While I would put our meetings on the calendar and fit things around them. Once I began to see her for who she really was (not evil, and nothing personal about her callousness, but just an inability to be someone solid, reliable, and committed to anything), I put an end to our friendship without a fight. I simply told her it wasn’t working.

The above situation is inevitable in relationships – we trust people sometimes, assume they are true to their word and when we learn otherwise, we distance and protect ourselves.  A relationship is like a dance – sometimes it’s smooth and comes together beautifully.  Sometimes it’s awkward.  Sometimes, we start stepping on each other’s toes – and then it’s time to stop and assess what’s happening.

So what happens when we don’t protect ourselves? What happens when we try to mend the relationship by doing more and more while getting back less and less? We are setting ourselves up for manipulation and abuse. In these instances, the more we try to make the other person happy, the less happy we ourselves become. Because their happiness comes at a cost of ours.

This is what I was thinking of when reading some recent emails on this blog. Women in our culture are taught at a very early age to put others’ happiness ahead of theirs. This makes them easy targets for manipulation and abuse.

But it doesn’t just have to happen in abusive relationships or just with women. It can happen at the workplace or with friendships – with both men and women – trying to make someone else happy or trying to make someone proud of us comes at a cost to our own happiness and is invariably detrimental to our relationships and our emotional health.

Yet this self-damaging behavior (varying in intensity) is exceedingly common. Students compete hard to get into the best colleges rather than to pursue something they find interesting in a less than top-notch college. Employees try hard to please their bosses and become disheartened at their criticism. People try to impress their neighbors and friends with better cars, better houses, and better clothes. People have multiple surgeries to stretch their skin free of wrinkles. Some people earn so much money but it is never enough. They are still working on landing a better deal, a better job, a better yacht, and a better life.

It almost seems as if it is human nature to try to win the approval of others, and in doing so, we set ourselves up for misery. No one can claim that they haven’t tried to win someone’s approval somewhere in the teeniest possible way.

Where does this begin, this need for approval?

Survival Instincts

It probably starts with trying to please our parents. When we are little, our parents provide us with every need. We depend on them for our survival. We feel secure when we see them, the guardians of our world, happy. Bringing a smile to their faces seems to trigger the pleasure centers in our brain.

I remember how I would fear my parent’s disappointment more than my own, when I received a bad grade on a test. I also remember a particular day when I went on stage to receive a trophy in a debate tournament. I did not think much of my trophy because I felt the topic was predictable. The event felt special because my father, who had to travel a lot, was in town and was able to attend. As soon as I took it, I searched the audience for my father’s face. I found him smiling and clapping. Even though there were many people in the room, they all just blanked out for me. All I saw was my father’s proud face. Why was his approval more important to me that my own reaction?

Our parents have been given something precious – this tiny bit of power – to mold a life – and power can be intoxicating. They begin to teach us, influence us, shape us. Much of this happens with good hearts and intentions. (I’m referring here to non-toxic parenting.)  And yet some part of parenting begins to create certain expectations that don’t necessarily value the individual at hand.

A Habit That’s Hard to Break

And thus, our parents have naturally set the stage for seeking approval. When we ace a test, we see tour parents smile, and we want to keep acing tests so badly. When we do badly on a test, we get heart broken. And this sets in motion a pattern of earning approval and being rewarded for it.

Earning approval suppresses the self because the rewards are external. – a pattern that some of us eventually break out of, when we realize that setting our own goals, self-assessing our own efforts, and asserting our individuality is the more genuine way to happiness.

Some people, however, continue this pattern and extend it to other authority figures (after they outgrow their parental home). They must gain approval from their neighbors, their friends, their in-laws. They must keep others happy. It’s now a habit that’s hard to break.

It takes them on a path where they’ve forgotten who they are and what they want. Even though the approval they get feels good in the short run, the conditions for approval keep changing, and it’s a hard game to keep up with. Human beings are insatiable creatures – give them control and they keep wanting more. The person seeking approval gets caught in a web of someone else’s greed and insecurities.

The Need to Belong

Human beings are mostly social creatures and thrive in groups.  Sometimes we seek approval because we want to belong in a group. The group gives us warmth, affection, camaraderie, fun, and in return, we give the group back conformity. In college, I belonged to a group of girls who wore mostly Western clothes. (I didn’t think deeply about my clothing choices, I just wore what I liked and my parents didn’t have strong opinions on the matter.) And being similar in other ways made us gravitate toward each other. We also spoke comfortably in English and belonging to different states made the English speaking a necessity.   There were 2 girls in my group that spoke condescendingly about other girls who appeared more traditional in their dressing choices. They also made fun of other people’s (English) accents. This wasn’t good-natured fun, this was clearly ‘I’m better than you’ kind of talk. I felt uncomfortable with this talk but never protested.

I was not assertive enough in my 20s to say, “She has the right to wear what she wants. Stop judging her.” Or “If you think her English is so funny, let’s hear you talk in French.” Or “The gist of what she’s saying in imperfect English has far more depth than your superficial Gibberish.”

This is not to say the group was all bad.  We had a great time discussing books, watching old B&W movies, solving made-up mysteries, dancing to “Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head”, making fun of each other, falling in love with Mr. Darcy, and singing “I have Confidence in Me” at the top of our voices until the neighbors protested.

I was afraid of losing their friendship. I was going against my beliefs (that we respect other people’s choices and abilities) and ‘blending in’ to preserve the relationship. A lot had changed for me over the next 20 years – as I gradually learnt to speak my mind and openly advocate for my values and beliefs, without losing valuable friendships. But it took time and effort. It didn’t just happen.

Dependence and Fear

If a woman is financially dependent on her husband and in-laws, she may do things that go against her value system, to keep them happy. This is not just a matter of survival. This is also something that is driven by fear. Although survival is an issue here, there are solutions. There are means and ways to garner supports, get skills/education, find a job, file for divorce, and free oneself from this prison. It is not an easy path and it is strewn with hardship, but it’s not impossible. What is much harder to overcome is the fear – a fear that is induced my sheer numbers – parents and in-laws, neighbors, extended family, and friends acting against one person. It feels like the whole world is telling you that you need to adjust, you should know your place, you have to earn your basic rights, and to please quit complaining.

Fear makes people try hard to win hearts, a venture that is bound to fail, because people who need to be “won over” are never worth it.

Nature

Some of us hate conflict.  Others take it head on.  Some of us worry about how others feel.  Others don’t.  When my brother and I used to fight in our teens, we would sometimes stop talking.  I would cry all night and analyze my every word and action and try to look for something I did wrong and look at the situation from both his side and mine.  He would sleep through the night blissfully.  It’s not that he didn’t (or doesn’t) love me.  But I think I worked much harder at our relationship than he did.  Even now, I work harder at my other relationships than he does with the people in his life.  I can’t just sleep through the night when I fight with someone.  This makes me vulnerable to some degree.

Can We Break Out of This?

So, what can we do to watch out for this behavior? Some people seem to have a natural ability to resist it. They may have been born assertive, outspoken, and seem to always be able to prioritize their wishes, desires, and happiness. What can we do if this is not our first instinct? How can we protect ourselves and safeguard our personal happiness?

Make a conscious decision to love yourself.

In many cultures, children are taught that loving oneself is selfishness. This is such a mistaken notion. If we are unable to love ourselves, we can’t truly love others. If we judge ourselves harshly, we are more likely to judge others. If we disrespect ourselves, we become insecure and resentful of other people.  If we despair over every mistake of ours, we are more likely to see other’s mistakes as permanent failures.  If we see our mistakes as growth, we tend to be more forgiving of others’ faults.  Therefore understanding that it all begins with us is the first step.

Get to know yourself.

What do you like and dislike? What makes you uncomfortable? What do you fear? What gets you excited? How do you typically react in a given situation? Many of us have never been asked these questions, growing up. We’ve often been TOLD how to feel. As adults, we may continue to fumble when presented with various situations.   We wonder – How should I react? How am I supposed to react? “Maybe, it’s not okay to get angry when someone tells me to wake up earlier. Maybe, I’m the one being unreasonable.” When we don’t know ourselves, we don’t know what we want. Then we don’t know what to fight for.

Understand boundaries.

This is something we don’t learn, growing up in India, and other similar cultures. I grew up in a house full of aunts, uncles, and cousins. Everyone used everyone’s things. This wasn’t ‘sharing’ or ‘generosity’. It was mostly inconsiderate behavior. Those who were pushy got more, the nicer ones got less, as a result of this no-boundaries environment.

My parents bought me a scooter when I turned 16. I took good care of it and used it responsibly. My older cousin began ‘borrowing’ it and I was expected to ‘share and be nice’ and I did. Then he would use it roughly and it began needing more and more repairs. Sometimes he would bring it home with not a drop of gas left in it. Sometimes I didn’t have it on hand when I really needed it (when I went for tutoring). When I questioned him on these things, he told me that since he’s a boy, he should have more access to it because, he can go out late and run errands and help the family. My parents didn’t want to fight with his parents over it. The result was someone getting away with inconsiderate, irresponsible, selfish behavior.

Keep track of the cost to yourself.

When you deny yourself your rights – the right to ownership (in my scooter example), the right to respect for one’s own time (in the example of my friend who stood me up often) – then we are entering the area of unfairness and unhappiness. This crossing over often goes unnoticed. Being aware of this boundary alerts us to someone impinging on our rights and taking advantage of us.

Understand that being nice is still okay.

You don’t have to be rude or loud or mean to stand up for yourself. But you do have to be firm. And you have to be unequivocal with your communication.

Don’t say, “Can you please not use my computer?” to your children, especially after you told them it’s off limits. Instead say, “Don’t use my computer. It’s not okay to use other people’s devices without their permission.” If you see something as a violation of a boundary, say it in no uncertain terms. And say it like you mean it. You are not asking or requesting. You are telling someone what you think and that you intend to stand by it.

Assess your relationships from time to time.

Stepping on each other’s toes?  Frequently unhappy?  More and more conversations leaving a bad taste in your mouth?  Take a step back and try to be objective. As yourself, “Am I getting something valuable out of this relationship? Is there give and take? Am I being listened to? Do my thoughts and feelings count? Do I take the lead at least half the time? Do I get to make my own decisions about personal things that affect no one else? Do I feel supported and affirmed by the other person?

Answer the above questions honestly. Be willing to look at the truth. Do you feel you could’ve stopped some people from manipulating you sooner? Did you badly want to believe they were good? Did you try too hard to make things work? If the truth is undesirable, that’s okay. That’s what we humans do – we make mistakes. You can always change course and begin to work on reclaiming your happiness.

——————————————————————————————————–

Not everyone is naturally assertive. But we can all work on it. Our relationships teach us many things about ourselves. There is this inner commentary that our brain engages in – a sort of an objective, truthful, and meaningful analysis of our experiences. It’s up to us to listen and pay attention.

Are you naturally assertive? Or did you have to work at it? Which experiences shaped you? Did you try to make a relationship work, only to realize later that it wasn’t worth it? Do you prioritize your happiness? Do other people’s opinions have a strong influence on you? Do you struggle with trying not to seek approval? Please share your experiences in these situations.

I’m most interested in the growth aspect of this.  What did you learn? What would you want to work toward?

Related Posts:

An email from a Newly Wed Wife. “Now they don’t like me.”

But how do we go about accepting ourselves just the way we are?

Does loving someone mean we should ‘improve’ them?

“I think most problems in life are when we look for approval and validation outside of ourselves.”

What are we generally thinking of when we say ‘Respect Women’?

Display of respect to those in power, in Indian culture.

When you offer her respect,

What do ‘Modest’ women have that their ‘Immodest’ sisters don’t…

“I have met a lot of Indian guys who say their parents have done a lot for them so they can’t leave them now…”

“What is it in a ceremony of a few hours, that makes women fight tooth and nail to preserve the marriage, however unhappy they may be…?”

‘My parents will be ignored and ridiculed. No one will let them forget my so called shameful behaviour.’

An email: Is it okay to make someone give up something they love to do, because we want them around?

“You can listen to your parents and be unhappy or you can go against them and feel guilty – those are your choices?”

What are we generally thinking of when we say ‘Respect Women’?

What would you say if you wanted to convey that women’s rights to freedom, safety, public spaces, seeking self reliance or happiness etc should not be viewed as privileges? 

What are we generally thinking of when we say ‘Respect Women’?

I think respecting women would be respecting women’s right to Human Rights. It would mean not expecting women to have to ‘earn’ basic rights (viewed as birthright by the rest of the population).

Abida Nahid shared this on Facebook this morning, with the message, “Zero vision day.”

Respect Women - Zero Vision Day

Can asking the society to ‘Respect Women’ be compared to asking men to be chivalrous to women – where basic courtesies extended to everybody else become an indulgence when extended to women?

Maybe instead of ‘Respect Women’, we could say, “Respect Women’s Rights’?  But again, that implies choice.

What would you say if you wanted to convey that women’s rights to freedom, self reliance, safety, happiness, loitering, public spaces should not be viewed as privileges?

Related Posts:

Display of respect to those in power, in Indian culture.

When you offer her respect,

Of Viragoes, Shrews and Tom Boys.

 

She started a fight between two men?

Sharing this email shared by the victim’s friend who’s also a blogger.

This young woman could have been any of us. Please keep in mind that it’s almost impossible to know how one would react in such situations, shock and trauma can confuse and immobilize or fill us with rage. This incident reminded me of the time (have blogged about it , will link) I yelled at four army jawans who were harassing a woman in a train in 1999, it could have turned very ugly too.

What do you think of the reactions of the fellow passengers here?

The account in this courageous young woman’s own words, with a big hug to her.

**

This post contains language, four-letter word language. These are my words and my account. Most of the exchange was in Hindi, nearly everything I shouted was in English. 
23rd June, afternoonish, I board the metro from Noida City Center. The train was almost empty, I find a spot by the right side of the car near the door, put my earphones on and prepare to wait through all the stations till Rajiv Chowk. Few stations afterwards, I feel someone hovering, I turn to look and this guy wearing shades is leaning towards me, his arm extended above me brushing my head, holding the seat railing, his breath fans my hair. I look beyond him, the coach is still relatively empty with plenty of space for someone to stand comfortably without being forced to lean on another passenger and breathe down their neck. I assumed he wanted to get off at the next station and waited. Station arrives, we are standing to the right of the coach, the doors open to the left and he doesn’t move.  I ask him now, do you wish to get off at the next station?  He answers in negative and looks away. I continue to address him, please step back you are crowding me.  He ignores me. I speak again. 

He turns and says, why are you here, you should be in the women’s coach. 

I tell him, women do not have restrictions on travelling cause they apparently can travel in decency, step back please.  He continues to ignore me and doesn’t move. 

Another guy standing to the front us says to 1st guy, when she’s asking you to move why don’t you just move?  2nd guy says, what is it to you? You are her what?

They start arguing. 2nd guy says to 1st guy, hey! speak to her however you want but speak to me with respect! Interesting how suddenly the dynamic of the situation changes.

It’s about respect, not towards me but to his manhood. Sufficiently angered they start shoving each other. I try to turn away and ignore them hoping they will stop and quit being assholes. But it escalates.

The other passengers are watching but not really doing anything to stop the fight. In a matter of seconds it turns horrifically ugly, 1st guy smashes his fist into 2nd guys face and 2nd guy falls to the floor, blood gushing out of his nose and forehead. The other passengers go wild. Few turn to me and start shouting, THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT, YOU STARTED THIS FIGHT, THIS IS ALL BECAUSE YOU CAME INTO THIS COACH.

I’m a little surprised and I try to tell them, I am not the reason they started fighting cause 1st guy didn’t speak with “respect” to 2nd guy. Of course no one is listening. The crowd is a frenzy. The 2nd guy get up off the floor, blood dripping everywhere, no one helps him.

One of the passengers steps up to me and shouts, DO SOMETHING THIS IS YOUR FAULT STOP THEM FROM FIGHTING.

Can you imagine stepping in between 2 aggressive physically violent men and trying to stop a fight?

Me, a girl? When all these other men in the coach haven’t yet made ANY moves to stop the fight!? The train stops at Akshardham station and 1st guy runs out. 2nd guy starts calling his friends and runs out as well. The crowd is screaming at me to call the cops. My shock is a delayed reaction, but it finally sets in. I am supposed to call the cops? If I was in an accident am I supposed to call the ambulance? I dial 100, networks choppy no surprises there. Someone answers, I give the details, which station, 2 men fighting, badly hurt. The guy on the other end of the line hangs up.

I can’t believe this is happening to me, I’m standing here in a coach with 50 odd men and they are all shouting at me. 

– YOU WOMEN ALWAYS DO THIS, YOU STARTED THIS FIGHT – I did not start anything, I spoke up because he wouldn’t move!

– WHY ARE YOU EVEN HERE GO TO THE WOMEN’S COACH – I have as much right to be here as any of you. I’m not the reason the government made separate coach for women.

– YOU ARE THE REASON, GET OFF – The reason is men like you who cannot respect women and instead of stepping up to stop harassment you encourage it by segregating us.

Yes. I shouted these words. Perhaps not coherently. Perhaps not eloquently.

I couldn’t understand how even one individual out of all these people didn’t have the decency to REALLY see what had happened and try to stop it.

My disbelief had turned to royal fucking rage. There were a few women, who looked on like how you glance back at road accidents. I shouted at them as well, shame on you for standing there, this happens to you too and you don’t have the balls to say a word now.

My head was a screaming mess of thoughts, my heart felt it will explode. Strangely even though my knees were shaking like hell, I felt a strange compulsion to stay and not flee.

There’s a button by the door for emergencies. I recall this hours after the incident. The crowd wouldn’t let up. Every time the coach doors opened and new passengers got on they ask about all the blood on the floor, everyone starts pointing fingers at me,

– SHE STARTED A FIGHT BETWEEN 2 MEN. WHY DON’T YOU GET OFF, GET OFF GET OFF GET OFF!!!!

After 3-4 more stations I’m trying really not to fucking loose it. I continue to stand by the door. 

One man in the back shouts, Ladkiyan to hoti hi aisee hain… I turn to see who spoke, he’s hidden between passengers… wo dono pit gaye par isko koi asar nahi huya. I turn back, FUCK YOU! 

Another man from the front of the coach jumps out, HEY SHOW SOME RESPECT!! – Respect????? I’m aghast. Respect to whom? You all stand around and do nothing and I said fuck you so now you want to teach me respect. – YOU WILL SHOW RESPECT.  

– All the men all the time keep saying vile abuses, maa bahen ki gaaliyan and NO ONE SAYS ANYTHING TO THEM. I said fuck you, so you want to teach me respect!

I’m glad he didn’t dare. I do not know what I would have done. I start clapping and giving everyone the thumbs up, THANK YOU EVERYONE, brilliant display of support, I feel so good about my country. Keep it up.  I’m sure they all thought I have gone completely mad. I was mad. Stark raving mad. But I stood there listening to them talk and laugh and stare at me.

I wondered why I wasn’t crying or falling apart. My shock was tremendous, my disappointment crippled me. Frozen I continued to stand by that door.   7 stations later I get off at Rajiv Chowk. I do not know why I didn’t just get off before. I probably should have. But I felt at that point, perhaps stupidly now that I have hindsight, no fucking force on earth is going to make me feel like a victim, I’m not going to get off, I have as much right to be here as any one of these barbaric men. My knees wouldn’t quit shaking by the way, I felt as if I had no oxygen. I didn’t want to report it. I didn’t want to do anything. I just wanted to be left alone, that’s all I had asked.

Thinking back I cannot still understand how literally the most ridiculous thing turned so ugly. I’m sure you are thinking, why did she do this, why didn’t she just leave, why did she even get in the general coach, what was she wearing, what does she look like to elicit such an incident. And you know what, that’s precisely the whole fucking point. It doesn’t matter what you think might be a cause or a reason. No one, NOT A SINGLE person had the balls to step up and help me. And all these 50 odd men, your regular joes, college kids, engineers going to office shouldering laptops, salesmen and just normal folks commuting.  I have never felt this alone.  And for the record, I’m AGAINST the separate coach for women. It is the most ridiculous solution the government came up with to ensure women traveler’s safety. Segregating men and women will never help anyone develop tolerance and respect for others PERSONAL SPACE.  Thank you for reading.

***
You can also read this story here,

http://doiwrite.blogspot.in/2012/06/in-her-own-words.html

Display of respect to those in power, in Indian culture.

An important part of Indian culture is an expectation of “display of respect” from those who are younger or are considered socially inferior (as in, ladki wale, including the female spouse; employees; some castes, subordinates; anybody who might appear less powerful, etc.)

We express this respect in a huge variety of subtle and obvious ways.

Obedience and subservience are  seen as displaying respect.

Another obvious way of displaying respect is the custom of covering the head or in some cases, the entire face by women, or not making eye contact.

Other ways are adding jee, ma’am, sir; being formal, not being too familiar, not calling the person by their name (even if married to the person). This makes  communication difficult in some situations and relationships.

The one who is being displayed respect can be familiar in some ways like they can ask personal questions and take personal decisions for the one displaying respect.

Disagreeing is seen as disrespectful, having an opinion or humming, whistling, singing, relaxing very obviously (e.g. leaning, sitting with ones feet up, dressing comfortably  etc), or generally being at ease are also seen as disrespectful and inappropriate.

(Just a thought: Maybe – since all women are lower in hierarchy, they may not whistle, or look relaxed in presence of men, or in  public spaces. And if they do they face harassment or being put in their rightful place)

Letting the other person control our lives and choices is seen as displaying respect for them. 

Some of these customs can make day to day life difficult for both, the one who is being displayed respect, and the one who is displaying respect. If one of them finds the need for this display inconvenient, they risk losing respect or being seen as undignified, or they risk being considered rebellious and inconsiderate

The older or the “respectable” person is expected to behave in certain ways. Not being openly communicative, giving instructions (even if ignorant or disinclined), keeping an eye on the respectfulness of those lower in hierarchy and maintaining their own state of superiority often puts them under pressure.

Many Indian in-laws and frequently, traditional husbands too, are not able to have relationships where respect is mutual, because they  must fit into these rules of hierarchy.

This concept of display of respect isolates the one being displayed respect, it also builds a distance between the display-er and the  respected. This also makes the one being displayed respect rather insecure – because they are told ‘follow the rules or be treated disrespectfully’ and strangely we also claim, apni izzat apne haath mein hoti hai.

This also puts the displayer of respect at risk of abuse by the one being  shown respect. (as seen in cases of child sex abuse by teachers, older relatives etc and bullying of ladki-wale.)

Also it seems we believe those who do not behave in certain fixed ways don’t deserve to be treated with respect, because we have no concept of mutual respect and personal space and justice for all and individual rights or freedom and happiness etc for all.

What kind of men are likely to sexually assault women?

Statistics have shown that most rapes/sexual assaults happen to women who are vulnerable, not women who are attractively (‘provocatively’) dressed.

More than 90% rapes are preplanned and the perpetrator is someone known to the victim, an older relative, a teacher, a neighbour, an employee, a landlord etc.

The victim is generally someone who the rapist does not expect to complain or fight back. An easy target. Someone vulnerable or weak.

Amongst rapes by strangers, a meru cab driver who raped a girl working in a bar in Gurgaon; a gang of village men from a village near Noida; rapists planning to make an MMS in a car looking for some victim on a lonely road; upper caste men raping dalit women; custodial rapes; the mob in this video in Gurgaon, these are criminals who knew they were unlikely to be reported, arrested or punished.

Their actions were not provoked after seeing an attractive woman.

In fact most rapists do not expect the victim to complain.

Also many rapists do not see rape as a serious crime, because they have always seen the victim being blamed for being raped (Honor, wrong clothing, being with wrong people, wrong time etc).

The only way to change this is,

1. Those who are charged with citizen’s safety make clear statements that convey that the crime would not be excused or tolerated.

2. Victims be assured that they can report safely. (the police is feared the most).

3. If women start reporting,

4. And if rapes start being taken seriously,

5. If we see more convictions,

– then there would be fewer crimes against women and children. No matter how they were dressed.

But, all the restrictions on women’s life styles and clothing have only made it difficult for them to report rapes, and thus encouraged the rapists.

So, do normal, mentally sound men get provoked into raping women, children or babies if they are provoked by the way the way they were dressed?

And, can men who come from backgrounds where women are respected also get provoked into raping? Does rape begin in a man’s mind and in his attitude towards women? (thanks for this sentence Sangeeta.)

What kind of men are likely to molest or rape women and children?

Related posts:

The night I was not an easy prey.

Bare Statistics of Crimes Against Women in Andhra Pradesh and Delhi : A few questions to the Police Chiefs

When they don’t even understand crime, how are they ever going to begin controlling it?

Of landslides, sixteen cyclists in a bus on a dark and stormy night and of poor news reporting.

On the night of 15th August our bus from Delhi to Kullu stopped on a dark road after the driver got warnings about land slides ahead. There were some tourists and sixteen cyclists in the bus. And lots of conversation. We stayed up all night with no mobile connectivity and endless rain, joking about how the adventure had already begun.  The next morning as the traffic crawled, tea, bananas, makki ki roti and kadhi chawal were bought. That evening we checked into a hotel, waiting for the landslides and traffic jams to clear. (Everybody agreed this reminded them of ‘Mr and Mrs Iyer‘)

Partially cleared landslide from inside the bus

Camera: Sony Cybershot-DSC T90

The bananas we ate came wrapped in this news headline in Hindi.

“Chamba mein premi ne looti aabru” (Roughly translates to – ‘Her lover looted the dignity of a victim.’)

Do you think the Indian media needs a clearer understanding of sexual crimes? Being victim of a sexual crime (or any crime) does not rob a woman (or anybody) of dignity.

I also feel the use of the word ‘lover’ (premi) trivializes the accusations made by the victim who seem to have seen the man as her future husband.

There is serious taboo against premarital sex for Indian women and it seems Sunita (not her real name) would not have sex with anyone but a husband (or a future husband). So it seems this man assured her that he was going to marry her and then for years, found excuses for not marrying her. If what the victim says is proved true, the man could be charged for cheating.

If Raj is convicted he could be jailed. But maybe Sunita would rather the dishonest, manipulative, disrespectful and irresponsible man married her since Indian women are raised to believe that nothing is as important as Getting Married and Staying Married.

And sex without being married, is seen as worse than being married to an abusive man. How do such taboos and values help Indian women?

Should it be legal for media, police and lawyers (etc) to imply that the victim has not only been cheated and exploited but has also lost her dignity?? Aren’t such implications the biggest reason why Indian women and their families don’t report sexual crimes?

Camera: Samsung Galaxy S II

The Confused Friend: As her well wisher would you try to put some sense into her or would you wait for her to realize these mistakes herself?

I am sharing this email from The Confused Friend because I have heard of these concerns about irresponsible feminism’ from a lot of people. Concerns such as these convince women to let the parents choose their partners. Women are told marriage protects them from such situations hence Getting and Staying Married should be every Indian woman’s goal in life.

I know I have been asking for a lot and was harsh also but I think if you publish (maybe as a new post to avoid confusion) this it would help in getting some perspective.
My sincere apologies for coming out very strongly to some of your suggestions. I realise that most of it caused by the first line of my mail. In my sheer confusion I have given the impression that my friend does not deserve to be treated with respect. My friend’s case is not of what I refer to as ‘irresponsible feminism’, my fear is something else here. But before I get to that – My friend’s case is an unfortunate one where her parents thought locking her up would solve the problem, only if they knew it is only accentuating it. We are looking for the best way out of this mess. I know it will take time (maybe a lot it!) but my friend has decided to invest that much time to come out with best possible solution to this problem.

I know of a girl who was happy and normal like many of us. Her parents are doctors who reside in different city. They trusted her to live her life responsibly and let her make her decisions. She was a relationship with a guy which unfortunately did not work out. She got involved with another guy who ‘used’ her in every he can. He shifted city and forgot about her. This lady had so much love that she went there to convince him. That is when she got to know that she was used by the man, which hit her badly in some way. When her friends warned her about the guy, she did not believe them. These were her best of friends in that city and she trusted them during crisis. Now since her parents did not know anything about this situation, they obviously were not in picture. Let us say if they knew and had tried to say the same thing – would she believe them? she did not believe her peers? What if she said ”I know what I am doing and because I am a girl you are doing this to me” (she said similar stuff to her friends) Now she has been thrown out of the PG she used to live in, she is known to have slept with numerous men in office. Her desperation is visible to everyone! Her case may be one of ones but it forces me to think ? This lady is going on to ruin her life and when confronted used ‘ You oppress me’ kind of statements. As her friend/parent/well wisher if you try to put some sense into her or would you wait for her to realize these mistakes of herself or rather have a bad name in her eyes but do something good for her?

When I said draw the line in my mail, I meant for cases like these. I don’t mean to say we lock up this lady. But how do I make her understand feminism is not only about the choices you make? It is about the choices you make and how you learn from them ? When someone restricts you it might not be to oppress you, it could be because someone genuinely cares about you and knows that you are going the wrong way? You can’t always say ‘I am a woman that’s why my choice is not respected.’ Sometimes your choice is not worth respecting.

Please understand I have two contradicting “real life” cases in front of my eyes. Both say the same thing but the context is different. In one I am completely sure that she is ruining her life while in other I am little less sure but I have faith.

Even if Poonam does not run naked, she should be punished?

Model Poonam Pandey’s plan to strip if India beat Sri Lanka Saturday has angered the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) women’s wing which has sought police action against her.

“Indian women are revered and respected since time immemorial…”

How exactly do we show this reverence to women? Please do compare this to how we show respect to everybody else.

Can threats be called ‘respect’?

I have so much respect for you; don’t ask to eat with the rest of the family. Your happiness lies in seeing us enjoy the food you cook.”  Is that respect?

So basically,

If you disagree we can’t respect you.

Don’t try to give your point of view, we won’t be able to respect you…

Little girls earn this respect by respecting the fact that they are always second to their brothers. “What’s wrong with that, don’t they love their brothers?

It’s more like a Terror of Respect.

Do as you are told or else we will not ‘respect’ you.

Dress only the way we permit or else…

Don’t choose your life partner or else…

Let your husband and his family abuse you, or else…

Give us a male heir or else…

Don’t enter the temple, you are impure…

And worst,

Don’t complain if you were sexually harassed, molested or abused or else no respect.

So, when it comes to women, it seems respect is more a means to control than a privilege.

I would say the only kind of respect that matters is the respect we have for ourselves. Or Respect that is given in return of respectequal and mutual. All other forms of reverence and respect are not too far from ‘honor’ and ‘honor killing’ or honor related abetted suicides.

Kelkar objected to Poonam ‘sullying the image of Indian women before the whole world.’ (Read Bhagwad’s objections to granting Poonam such powers)

Another man thinks her actions can sully the name of his caste. So obviously this lawyer believes there are no Brahmin rapists, child abusers  and murderers? Or these crimes don’t insult Indian culture?

“Even if Poonam does not run naked, she should be punished as she not only gave a wrong impression of the (Brahmin) community but insulted Indian culture,” The case will be heard April 5. (Today)

We live in an India where some people can legally express their arrogant, sexist and casteist opinions and offend my democratic and tolerant sentiments. I find it difficult to understand or ‘respect’ such frivolous objections. Are they doing this for free publicity? In a country where rape victims have to wait for years for justice, aren’t such cases a waste of time and resources?

Thankfully we are a civilized, democratic society. Poonam Pandey, Rakhi Sawant and Mallika Sherawat are generally free to ignore these opinions or react (if required) through a civilized, legal process.  No stoning. No anti-blasphemy laws.

And that is something I respect about my country. 🙂

Women who value the respect they have for themselves more than the respect of every wannbe politician, publicity seeker, neighour’s third cousin etc are able to fight back.

Sraboney shared this video where this Pakistani actor Veena Mallik is fighting back against similar allegations. Makes me wonder if hypocrites are the same everywhere.

Why doesn’t this son respect his mother?

The mother complains that the son eats in his room, he leaves used plates on the bed, he leaves the newspapers flying all over the room, he sleeps and wakes up anytime, and he helps with no chores. He once asked his mother what she did all day, since the maids did all the work. He’s 20.

Once when we had dinner with them he asked his sister, one year older to him, to take away our used plates. “Heh, heh that’s your future anyway…”. The mother looked annoyed, but not enough. He wasn’t affected. The sister bristled but she looked more tearful than angry. Mother said he was the one who was going to pick plates when he was married. I laughed (through gritted teeth) and added, “Of course he is only joking, he’s no MCP. He will be a good husband and share chores at home.” Mother gave me dirty looks, her son would never be a Joru Ka Gulaam.

I couldn’t say “Where did he get that idea about her future from? If you ignore him when he insults his sister, how do you expect him to respect other women, including you?”

Moments before that the boy’s father had proudly recounted how the son once punched a classmate on his nose (which bled) because that boy said something disrespectful (or worse) about a teacher. He said such reactions were in their DNA, he had been the same. I said violence could get the child into trouble, but realised they saw violent reactions as err… manly.

Then the father spoke of how he had accepted no dowry. And how shocked his servants, subordinates, colleagues, acquaintances and friends were (many reactions in great details), how they had inspected his house and found no new gas stove, etc. How one of them told him they could have got him “an English speaking wife with a good dowry”.

The wife was listening. So were their children. I said my husband got no dowry either, but we were proud of that. (I didn’t say my husband’s colleagues, servants, acquaintances and friends, and even his family knew he would not listen to such talk.)

He said he now realised that his father in law was not wrong in asking if they had ‘any demands’. Now as a father of a daughter, he was going to ask the same question. The idea of equal rights and responsibilities for the son and the daughter was an unacceptable option here. (I tried). He now feels his “idiosyncrasies were wrong”. He said, in his youth he had found the question about dowry offensive.  He had asked his father in law, if he thought he was for sale.

I didn’t ask if he thought disrespect for teachers was wrong, but disrespect for the mother, the sister, the wife and the wife’s father was fine.

What do ‘Modest’ women have that their ‘Immodest’ sisters don’t…

I read this article that teaches women how to dress modestly. The article recommends that women avoid wearing shirts that show anything below the collar bones, skirts and shorts that go higher than the knees, and tight fitting clothes.

The article says that women must not wear certain kinds of  clothes,  to prevent men (who may not be creeps or bad people) from being tempted to imagining what they look like beneath the clothes.

I am not convinced because I have read of many other men (who may not be creeps or bad people)  who will be attracted to the  sight  of a woman’s collar bones or ankles, or knees, or lips (with or without lipstick) or eyes lashes, or hair or the arc of her back. ETC.

If you read the comment section of “The way a woman dresses…” you will find capris or three fourths are also considered immodest by some men.  Jeans which the article says nothing against are considered suggestive by another commenter.

If you have seen Pakizah then you will know that even the sight of a woman’s feet is enough for some men to be  attracted to them.

Some other men think modesty is in the attitude and eyes, and not in the clothes.

So it does seem that modesty is a subjective term. It seems it is almost impossible for women to fit into everybody’s idea of modesty.

But more importantly how do women benefit from giving up free movement, comfortable clothing, the satisfaction of looking good, sunlight, fresh air, and a lot of personal freedom?

…In other words, what do modest women have that immodest women don’t?

They are told they have men’s respect.

Well, I am sure men’s respect is a very worthwhile thing. But seeing how millions of (immodest?) women are doing very well without this kind of ‘respect’, I really wonder if it’s time women stopped worrying about how men are imagining unprintable things about them, (because they find their clothing immodest) and started living their lives.

Thousands of women, (mothers, students, activists, nurses, athletes, journalists, engineers, construction workers, artists, actors, writers etc) are going about their daily lives without giving a thought to what every Tom, Dick and Harry is thinking when he sees them striding past.  They are all doing fine without fitting into every rikshaw-walla, coolie, clerk, politician, principal, army jawan and dhobi’s ideas of modesty.

I wonder who does a woman’s modesty empower… who do you think?

Related Posts:

1. What women ‘choose’ to wear…

2. Sexual Assault Prevention Tips Guaranteed to Work.

3. She does not ‘ask for it’.

4. Provocatively Dressed.

(who may not be creeps or bad people)