Going to the terrace

It was 11PM and I had stepped out to put some things in the common corridor. I got a sense of deja vu and all those memories came flooding back.This innocuous act of stepping out of the house in the middle of the night to go to a corridor/balcony/terrace, I take for granted now and do without thinking twice is often not allowed in India for women.

I have always loved sitting on the terrace and watching the night sky. I remembered people (neighbours etc) telling me on so many occasions to step back into the house because it was considered inappropriate. It used to irritate me that I was not allowed to enjoy something I loved in my own house because people could see me on my terrace. Despite this, I have spent countless hours on my terrace but it reminded me of so many women who do not have that opportunity because their families didn’t let them. A young unmarried girl sitting alone in her own balcony/terrace is threatening to so many people. The only reasons any female would sit alone on her terrace/balcony would be –

  1. She is meeting her lover clandestinely
  2. She wants to attract attention, so she deserves to be harassed

The whole logic is retarded. We have built so many useless rules around women to control their behaviour in every tiny situation. Most of them do not make a difference in anybody’s lives but everybody takes it upon them to enforce these dumb ‘rules’.

Over time, my memory of these restrictions has dulled as I haven’t faced them in years, some even when I was in India though I knew people who did. Other examples of minute freedom not given to women include –

    1. Wearing a proper night dress without petticoat underneath and a dupatta over it
    2. Going braless at home
    3. Going out anytime of the day or night
    4. Cooking or not cooking
    5. Wearing whatever clothes they feel like
    6. Not wearing jewellery
    7. Doing certain things/touching certain things on periods
    8. Staying home alone

These examples may seem trivial when compared to major issues like lack of healthcare, education, child marriage but they are equally important because we deprive women of leading wholesome free lives by controlling them for irrelevant things and chip away at their life quality.

Related Posts:

What is this big problem with Bra Strap Showing?

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

Ek Hindustani ladki ki Izzat.

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

Home most unsafe place for women : A unique court-ordered study by Delhi Police has revealed.
“Make up should be sober and unobtrusive. Translucent dresses are forbidden…”

This Shame belongs to Who?

TO CALL A SPADE A S****

Romanticizing innocence ignorance, chastity and related taboos for women.

It’s Your Fault

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“I am perfectly alright with being ‘unattractive’ to a majority of boys – love is not some job interview where you try tailor yourself to someone’s needs.”

Sharing an email.

Dear IHM,

Please do publish this on your blog if you see fit – I would like some opinions from your readers.

I’m am a 28 year old woman living in Bangalore. I am built rather small – I’m skinny and flat chested. I have short hair and don’t wear make up or jewellery. At the workplace I wear formal shirts and trousers (minus jewellery) when requires. Otherwise, I’m generally dressed in T shirts and jeans/shorts. At the ocassional wedding that I do attend, I wear ethnic clothes but this rarely happens more than once a year.

I like the way I look – I have no desire to change my appearance. I feel unnatural and uncomfortable in dresses/skirts/salwars/sarees/traditionally female clothes. I identify as female and do not have gender dysphoria. I simply enjoy dressing casual. No personal hygiene issues, my clothes are always clean.

However, I’m perpetually at the receiving end of comments from my female friends /co workers/ acquantainces/ relatives/enemies/ etc regarding my appearance.

Typical examples of comments:
“Why are you like THIS? ” (gesturing at my body)
“When are we going to see you in a dress?”
“Why don’t you try some lipstick at least?”
“You look sleepy” (I do not wear makeup, my eyes look like anyone’s normal, unlined eyes)
” Have you ever had a boyfriend?” (said in patronising tone)
“Maybe guys don’t look at you because of your small breasts” (my own sister, flesh and blood)
“Why don’t you get a push up bra?”
“Do you think anyone will want to marry her?” (obnoxious co worker.When I asked her what she meant she said that I looked too “careless”. When I asked if she meant that I looked like I do not cook or clean, she responded with ” No not that…other things.”)
” Come lets go buy you some good clothes” ( gracious offers by random people who think I need to be “taught” how to dress)
” Grow up sometime, be a woman!”

All these comments are generally thrown at me out of the blue – when I’m talking about something else entirely, when I casually mention that I need a new pair of jeans or sometimes just after I’ve complemented someone on their appearance.
They are not presented as suggestions – if i say something like “I like how I look/ I dont want to wear other clothes” , people act like I’m being unreasonable.

Ironically, I’m always the first person to compliment someone on their new clothes or hair, or reassure them when they are needlessly fretting about their weight. Corny as it sounds, I never think people LOOK ugly.. I only see ugliness in behaviour, actions etc.

I understand having to dress a certain way for the workplace – I think it is an unavoidable evil. However I simply refuse to change the way I look in casual settings.

I am perfectly alright with being “unattractive” to a majority of boys – love is not some job interview where you try tailor yourself to someone’s needs. If this means that I am single forever, then so be it – the thought does not bring me the slightest bit of sadness.

However, what is suffering now are all my female friendships. Talking about clothes and appearances seems to be requisite in these, barring some special, rare few.

I generally respond to such comments with a snarky comeback or tell them to mind their own business, but of late I am getting tired. This has been going on since I was 16. In all these years, I have met a grand total of 2 girls (my best friends) who have never asked me to change my appearance.

I love going out and meeting people, but now I dread talking to anyone because eventually the question of my appearance always comes up. Having to be defensive all the time drains the life out of me. When I’m introduced to a new girl anywhere, I automatically shrink away and stop talking. Being unfriendly seems to be the only way to avoid these comments.

How would you suggest I deal with such situations and the associated emotions?
Also does anyone have similar experiences? Does it get better when you get older?

Thanks

Related Posts:

How would life be different if you never had to give a thought to how you looked?

What makes a woman look beautiful?

Does beauty really lie in the eyes of the beholder?

Why do Indian women like to wear western clothes?

The way a woman dresses…

“He said my top was not in line with company prescribed code and that it made him very uncomfortable during the meeting.”

Not Just a Pair of Jeans

“So why do we wear clothes again??”

“He said my top was not in line with company prescribed code and that it made him very uncomfortable during the meeting.”

Dress Codes for women make it easier for misogynists to harass them. Here’s another example. 

This comment reminded me of this post –  He said, “You’re a very beautiful girl, but don’t wear such clothes…”

Sharing a comment from the previous post.

We have a dress code at work and recently have had a number of freshers join the company. It’s IT by the way. So the freshers’ dressing sense is quite different from the older women and raised quite a few eyebrows, male and female. Just because people are not used to seeing such clothes here. So the dress code is being quoted left and right so as to ensure employees adhere to it. A couple of days earlier, I was wearing a kurti, three fourth length sleeve, butt-covering length with jeans. The unfortunate kurti’s neckline had a couple of buttons and one of the buttons came undone during a meeting that i participated in. This was entirely unintentional and I was not even aware of it. The buttons were not revealing anything – my mangal sutra chain was filling the gap the button should have closed and i was also wearing my company tag. There really was no cleavage exposed but after the meeting ended, my manager (male) requested me to stay back and told me that he wanted to tell me that I should watch my dress code. He said my top was not in line with company prescribed code and that it made him very uncomfortable during the meeting. He also added that I should not be offended because he thinks of me as a friend and only wants to tell me ‘as a friend’. My immediate reaction was one of shock and i did not know how to respond. I merely nodded and said thanks in a numb sort of manner, walked right out of the meeting into the restroom to check my top. I found the undone button, pinned it and then added another safety pin on top. But the whole episode has given me a bitter taste in my mouth and I feel really yucky. I also sort of feel this is another kind of harassment. My clothing was well within the dress code. The fact that I had a loose button on a single day that I was unaware of does not make me a violator of the code, does it?

I would like to understand what people here think of the whole sordid episode. Thinking of it still makes me feel so awful. I feel uncomfortable when men with bellies wear jeans with their stomachs hanging all over them.. but does anyone talk to these men and ask them to wear loose t shirts?

Why is it only women who have to watch it?

 

–  Anonymous

Some thoughts: What makes you uncomfortable? Are you able to enforce a ban on it? Why is some people’s discomfort (if any) more important? What would this man have done if he did not have the option of controlling how his colleagues dressed? Say, in a public space? Would he then feel justified in being ‘provoked into sexually assaulting’ her? 

Related Posts:

Not Just a Pair of Jeans

The way a woman dresses…

Women and their unmentionables. Understanding Objectification.

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

If you were this woman would you want to know what your juniors thought of your personal life?

Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Bill

“Such mannequins will excite men and pose a danger to women.”

“So why do we wear clothes again??”

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

“This is how we all do it. We find a corner in the house, where the others can’t see, and then dry them.”

 

“He has decided that we will stop trying to have a child now as he wants things to improve between his mother and I.”

If we truly valued our happiness and our peace of mind more than we valued other people’s opinion of what our priorities should be – how would our lives change? 

Sharing an email.

“I will have a nervous breakdown or sink into depression.  Imagine as an Indian woman… 2nd divorce isn’t an option.”

Hello,

I would like you to post this on your website and I am looking for advice and opinions as I feel just so stuck.

I got married 7 months ago, against my better judgment I fear. This is my second marriage, I was married for 5 years previously but we didn’t have any children. It was a turbulent marriage from start to finish and I was so happy once I managed to get out of it.

I never thought I would marry again, or have children and I was happy to finally have my freedom to see my parents and friends as and when I liked. To dress as I liked to drive my career and just be me.

However, a year after I left my ex-husband I met another man who was just lovely, simple and gentle in nature. Sensitive and caring and just someone I loved being with. I had a boyfriend I was content until he started talking about marriage/wedding etc. He was ready to settle down and he thought he found what he needed in me.

I couldn’t fathom the thought, also he was from a privileged family whereas my were less well off. They were well known in their community and mix with other rich and prominent people in their community. My sisters-in-law is still single and lives at home. My father-in-law retired many years ago, and my mother-in-law is a very backward, narrow minded and traditional woman. She is impressed by superficial things namely money, be it hers or other people’s, she is easily regaled with stories of people with successful businesses. My young sister in law warned me that her mother was superficial, that she didn’t care much for the love between her son and me, and she would only be interested in what people think, about how I dress and behave.

I just fobbed this off as her being a little silly but now I am married into this family and lo and behold, it is true.

It has been a pretty bumpy 7 months. I genuinely don’t like my MIL.  She is old fashioned, narrow minded and VERY petty. She wants to tell me what to wear and when and how I should do things… there is an endless amount of unsolicited advice and criticism and snipping at every turn. I keep my mouth shut because if I don’t it would be pretty unpleasant. I have a temper but I have kept it well hidden from her, I use my husband as a sounding board and he usually understands.

So we live in a joint set up. My husband, my sister in law and mother in law and myself – we live in a big and beautiful house but it isn’t a warm and loving house. Never mind I am here now and I have to make the most of a bad situation. My husband has been troubled by the degree of distance and lack of cohesiveness between his mother and me and he has acknowledged that she is a difficult character and unfair etc (he even said before marriage that if it became unbearable living with her we would move out). It is definitely a different tune now.

She has complained to him about my room, my décor, my lighting, my blinds, my clothes, my jewellery, my personality, my behaviour, my existence essentially. She doesn’t like that I am not from their community and she doesn’t like all the clothes I chose to wear. He has complained about what people will think and that I just don’t look right to go into her society or community dressed as I do.

I should also add that we are older than the average couple; I am 36 about to be 37 and my husband is 38. He has decided that we will stop trying to have a child now as he wants things to improve between his mother and I before we start again. Until I dress and behave how she wants we won’t try for a baby. This has crushed my world and I feel more trapped and stuck than when I was in my previous marriage. I am starting to hate him, I don’t want to look at him and I have to share a bed with him every night. We no longer have long chats and giggle about nothing nor do we hug the night away like a couple in love. It feels destroyed, I feel destroyed and I don’t trust him and never will again.

He says if I do all the things he asks for to please his mother and if she still complains we will move out but this doesn’t make me happy because all I think about is that fact that he has used my greatest desire against me and he is preventing us from having a family. We have had some fertility tests and I am still fine but he has a low sperm count so we’re not even sure we’ll be able to conceive naturally.

What do I do… is it fair that our marriage be contingent on the mood and misgivings of my mother-in-law? Do I give up the dream of having a family of my own?

I desperately need advice as I feel like I will have a nervous breakdown or sink into depression.

Imagine as an Indian woman… 2nd divorce isn’t an option.

Please help, advise and guide.

Sincerely, most desperate

Related Posts:

An email: “I said I would look for second marriage with following conditions.”

When she says she no longer wishes to stay with him, why isn’t her word enough?
Are Happily Married Daughters a status symbol in India?
Feminism has gone to women’s head. Divorce has become like selling onions.
An email: My problem is quite common, but that does not make it any easier to handle.

An email from a Divorcee’s Daughter.

‘His family seems a bit traditional type.I googled “how to behave with in laws after marriage in India.’

An email from a Happily Married Indian Daughter in law…

My husband gives me the usual ‘you have not just married me, you have married my family..’ sermon

“I don’t want such education… I want no career… I want to be loved.”

“Is this really it? the only person I’ll ever find? A sweet guy who has no interests?”

‘What Shri Yesudas said in public is what most of the parents are telling in private.’

I was away and did not see this positive news until Saturday afternoon. The times are changing and it’s good to hear long established lies being debunked.

Thanks for sharing Mr G. Vishwanathjee.

Yesudas strikes a sour note with comments on women’s attire

“What should be covered must be covered. Women should not trouble others by wearing jeans,” K.J. Yesudas, musician, said here on Friday, inviting protests from political leaders, women’s groups and the public.

“They [women] should not try to become like men but must behave modestly,” he continued. The attire, he said, is unbecoming of Indian culture and what lends beauty to a woman is her demureness.

Until recently comments like this were accepted as common sense and traditional wisdom.

So it’s a huge positive that no matter how obviously absurd Mr Yesudas’s comment might seem to some of us, it is still being challenged, discussed and responded to.

Unbelievable though this seems, there are many who still agree with him, and are going to quote him as the final word on what their women should be allowed to wear.

And those who quote him would not just be doing this because they hate women, but because they can’t see what options can their women be permitted.

Many of them sincerely believe that lewd comments or stares (i.e. women failing to avoid attention or disrespect from men) is amongst the worst things they can watch happening to their women, worse than their women being allowed to lose freedom, happiness, and worse than their women not being viewed as people with feelings of their own.

Everything must be sacrificed (by women) to ensure that lewd comments and stares don’t offend those who fail to see who should be outraged and by whom/what.

Because they believe that women should be held responsible for protecting the sensibilities of those respectable people who do not want to watch women being subjected to lewd comments.

This comment is a response to the article in the Hindu.

What Shri. Yesudas said in public is what most of the parents are telling in private. I would like to suggest these progressive people to just remember for a moment of the past as to whether they had ever noticed or felt embarrassed or scared when their daughter or close relatives wearing these dresses were stared upon by strangers or subjected to lewd comments.

I hope the outrage and protests bring to notice that:

1. What should be found objectionable and embarrassing, and should be controlled is the ‘lewd comments’.

Yes it’s difficult to understand after centuries of having heard otherwise.

So let me attempt to explain.

2. Making excuses for the lewd comments also means – that now, after centuries of doing this, we aren’t sure who is the victim:

i.)  the harasser – being troubled by women in jeans, or

ii.)  the women, or

iii.) those who believe they have to take decisions for ‘these women’.

3. All along, the person making ‘lewd comments’ knows he has well known figures commiserating with him. (Some of them are probably justifying their own past and future actions?)

4. Only now since more of us, including women, have a Voice do we learn that women have feelings too.

Suchithra krishnamoorthy, playback singer:
#Yesudas Men shouldn’t be allowed to talk so much and must learn to behave. Y provoke us women into wanting to slap u?

 

5. Though I think misogynists should be allowed to talk – Silence does not change any points of view, Dialogue does.

6. And dialogue also means that we know we aren’t the only ones who can see how absurd it is to defend an obvious wrong, and to blame the one who has been wronged.

Related Posts:

“People will say we encouraged these men to follow us, even though we are innocent”

Not Just a Pair of Jeans

The way a woman dresses…

Women and their unmentionables. Understanding Objectification.

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

“My dad tells me not to wear skimpy outfit when he is around”

“The male community, including myself, needs only 10 minutes, just ten minutes… to send what is called sperm, into the uterus of a female.”

 Gujarat Police urges girls to stop wearing jeans, shorts

This Shame belongs to Who?

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

Yes, I’m a woman, I have breasts and a cleavage, Deepika Padukone slams leading daily.

My skirt is not your license, pervert. – A splash of my life…

What is this big problem with Bra Strap Showing?

Did the posters threatening acid attacks on women wearing jeans surprise you?

 

Dad wears short shorts to teach daughter what she wears is everybody’s business and everybody’s approval proves her great worth.

Dad Wears Short Shorts to Teach Daughter a Lesson, Becomes Online Celeb (Sept 2013)

Thanks for sharing the link Nidaa

Image from here, https://shine.yahoo.com/parenting/dad-wears-short-shorts-to-teach-daughter-a-lesson–becomes-online-celeb-171218029.html

‘Mackintosh decided to give his daughter a taste of her own medicine by dressing just like her. He cut the legs off of an old pair of jeans and put them on. His daughter tried to remain stoic all through dinner and a game of mini-golf, but finally broke when they made a stop for milkshakes, refusing to get out of the car with him.’

He said, “I hope that young women everywhere understand their great worth. I will look like an idiot any day if that point gets across.”

So here are some comments that convey how women are supposed to understand their own ‘great worth’.

Comment 1:

My daughter gets upset when we won’t let her by ‘sexy’ clothing. We tell her modest is hottest. Her body is for her and her husbands eyes only. And hopefully she will find the guy that loves her modesty. We know God has that special someone for her. And as a mother of two older teenage boys they tell us exactly what they think when they see girls with booty shorts on and mid drift shirts they are thinking oh she looks so pretty. They are thinking she is trashy and easy. Thank God they choose modest girlfriends. And treat them like ladies. Love this dad!

IHM: 

Women’s worth. 

1. Why tell a young girl her body is everybody’s business and belongs to her future ‘husband’s eyes only’?  

Here is what Will Smith said, and I agree. 

How can you teach her that you’re in control of her body? If I teach her that I’m in charge … she’s going to replace me with some other man when she goes out in the world. ..She has got to have command of her body.

2. ‘Modest is hottest’ is contradictory – and both objectify women’s bodies and both are meant to control women’s sexuality. 

Eg. Bikini vs Burka: The Debauchery of Women

Why must an adult fit into somebody’s ideas of ‘hottest’?

Who decides what is “‘sexy’ clothing”? The same people who also decide who should not wear this “‘sexy’ clothing”

3. The teenage boys will be disappointed when they realise that many women may not value their approval or opinion. 

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

4. The teenage boys are being given the impression that women who wear short shorts deserve their disapproval. How likely are they to blame women’s clothing for sexual assaults?

5. What if these teenage boys find short shorts ‘hotter’ than modest shorts? WIll they then ‘respect’ the women they are finding attractive, or call them sluts and try to like marriageable women who have been raised to seek their approval? What if the teenage boys are not interested in women? 

Eg. That special combination of beauty and innocence, the pretty inspires men to protect and defend it.

6. Will they judge, blame, shame, control and feel disappointed when they find that many women own their own bodies?  

7. Aren’t the teenage boys being raised with a sense of entitlement? 

Eg. Boy friends are new parents

Another comment:

Just like his shirt says “Best Dad Ever!” Why because he cares about the character and dignity of that little girl he hopes to give away on her wedding day!

IHM: Why make being ‘given away’ in marriage a given in that little girl’s life? 

Comment 3:

When i was a teenager i wore too much makeup. My dad walked past me one day and said…cute girls dont wear makeup. I have not worn makeup since. Funny part is my mom had talked to me about this but it didnt stop me from wearing makeup. This is why we need more GOOD dads in the home.

IHM: A woman’s worth lies in being found ‘cute’ by men?

Comment 4 – Not surprisingly,

I am a single man who admires a woman’s body but I do believe young women in school even university need to mantain decency in thier attire. Showing off all your legs and your butt cheeks is not at all attractive…it’s disgusting !

What makes some teenage sons and daughters grow up believing that women were created to make men’s world ‘attractive’?

How about – You don’t owe prettiness to anyone.?

Related Posts:

“So why do we wear clothes again??”

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

The Miss Italia beauty contest has banned bikinis in favour of swimsuits.

Weird, funny facts about Misogynists.

 And how women’s bodies are different, so they need to be covered for their own safety.

“My dad tells me not to wear skimpy outfit when he is around”

My dad tells me not to wear skimpy outfit when he is around – Link shared by Swarup. 

According to this article, this dad, ‘has enough time to be a doting father and also gives his little girl thoughtful advices’ 

And all the comments agree.

‘which dad will not give this advice…!?’

And some assume the ‘thoughtful advices’ are meant to protect the daughter from crimes.

he is a genuine daughter loving father who wants to see her reason with the truth. Under Indian conditions and under Indian policing infrastructure, judicial system, he is giving her the wisest advise through himself.

This belief is so strong – it is almost as if there has been serious  research, and as if statistics have found that traditional clothing protects women from assaults. Why do we continue to believe and propagate such Rape Myths?

This mindset takes the focus away from the horror of the crime – it makes serious crimes a matter of shame, honor, clothing, timing, social life etc. And that make it difficult for victims to report sexual crimes.

Also consider – if a young woman has been ‘advised’ against wearing ‘skimpy’ clothes, isn’t there a risk that she might blame herself [link] if she is sexually harassed? What if the blaming and shaming silences her?

Yes, Indian conditions are frightening – but lies and myths have not protected women through the centuries. Why don’t we see that this doesn’t work?

Confidence and Awareness are more realistic tools. Equally (or more) empowering is having a Voice.

Also, the understanding that like any other crime, this crime too can only be controlled by putting the fear of the consequences in the mind of the criminal.

I wonder if instead of risking silencing with shame about clothing (or anything else) maybe a doting father would assure his support and love – no matter what.

That alone would be a step towards two of the three most powerful tools, towards Confidence and  towards having a Voice.

Related Posts:

“But, my only motive in life has been my daughter’s happiness which is now in your hands. I beg you, please keep her happy”

At what point should educated, 21st century women who can think liberally for themselves, take responsibility for themselves…

So what could make even the average, selfish, money-minded Indian family welcome baby girls?

Indian family values are good for Indian daughters?

Difficult daughters, easy sons?

What do you think of this mother, and this family?

“This man is openly threatening his daughter and is instigating others to burn alive their daughters.”

These lines sum up the biggest reason for male child preference and skewed gender ratio in India.

Rape and clothing: How it’s all dressed up – A guest post by Praveen Talwar.

“This is how we all do it. We find a corner in the house, where the others can’t see, and then dry them.”

“Here’s what I would tell my future/potential daughter, if I ever have one.”

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

Did the posters threatening acid attacks on women wearing jeans surprise you?

Dad knifes girl for speaking to lover

Refusal to have sex during honeymoon is not cruelty: Bombay high court

Why do we see contradictory judgments on issues of denial of sex by wife or the wife being forbidden from wearing what she likes to wear?

Refusal to have sex during honeymoon is not cruelty: Bombay high court 

 

But earlier in another case in Delhi,

Denying sex to spouse on first night ground for marriage annulment: Delhi high court

[“…the wife’s cruel act of denying sex to the husband especially on the very first night and then not to actively participate in it”]

I think because it is impossible to completely ignore the unfairness in situations that so clearly deny human rights to those being judged. And while, for many, it does raise “…the specter of a man going for long periods without sex even though he’s married!” [Do click and read]

And maybe while some of us may have never really given it a serious thought, we do sense something wrong with any adults being controlled by other equal adults?

Maybe we sense that women’s sexuality and women’s clothing are both used as means to control women’s lives and choices?

Maybe we do see the sense of entitlement in forbidding anybody from wearing clothes of their choice, or from from socializing or making friends of their own choice (let alone having consensual sex)? And then being grateful for opportunities to serve their lords and masters.

Maybe we sense there is more to it? Where does this sense of entitlement come from? Maybe we see slavery in the tradition of some people being kept in dependence so that they can be expected to serve, obey and adjust?

Maybe we do sense it’s wrong (even though many of us never question) how the above is made possible with use of force, violence, threats of murder, social boycott, moral policing, by denial of opportunities to form any preferences/opinions of their own.

So we actually have adults who think controlling what other people wear is not cruelty, wearing what is found comfortable is cruelty.

The spouse here felt it was cruel to deny him the right to control what the wife wore,

The court also ruled that a wife donning shirts and pants to office occasionally and going out of town for office work soon after marriage also would not amount to cruelty towards her husband.

More examples of this same sense of entitlement.

… the wife cited several instances of cruelty…. One of her grievances was that she was forced to wear sari by her in-laws.

“… the wife’s cruel act of denying sex to the husband especially on the very first night and then not to actively participate in it”

So some of us think controlling other people’s lives is not cruelty, while their not being controlled is cruelty.

Related Posts:

Who will benefit from criminalising sexual assaults within marriages?

Would this crime have been reported if he had mercilessly raped her but not sodomised her?

“In my own company in a cosmopolitan city, I know women who were horrified on the First Night.”

A comment- ‘Reverse the gender, and it is marital rape.’

Rapist groom should have waited a little to satiate his lusty desires without problems which he has got into.

His mother filed an affidavit that she works 8 am to 8 30 pm, but does ‘no additional work’ at home.”

“10 years ago, the girl would have been counselled on how to change her dress sense for the boy, how to do as he says.”

As 2013 comes to an end – an email with a positive story.

One of the many ways patriarchal societies maintain social, gender, class, age, wealth  and family hierarchies is by allowing (even encouraging) some members to ‘attempt to improve’ the personal lives and choices (etc) of those who can be coerced to ‘display respect’ by tolerating this unasked for guidance/help.

And who has the permission to ensure that those ‘lower’ in social/family hierarchy stop being their ordinary imperfect selves and come up to their better expectations?

Generally anybody who is older; or who earns or inherits more; or who holds more degrees; or is a ‘ladke wala. Or simply those who others are advised to see as ‘more successful’ – basically most of those who fall in this category.

It seems more of us are, finally, beginning to see the Emotional Abuse in obvious control that the one who is being allowed to ‘improve’ is being given over the life of the one being persuaded to ‘display respect’ by trying to become someone they are not, and probably can never be. 

Hopefully, as time goes, we will hear less of, “It’s for their own benefit.” 

Hi IHM,

I am writing to share a very positive story that I heard on my visit home this year. never thought this will happen, but its in these small ways that the change is happening.
A family friend got engaged to a boy. I heard that within 3 months, the engagement was called off.
I asked my mother for the reason, and she told me this really heartwarming story:
The boy apparently criticised the girl on her dress sense. He made her feel inadequate against his expectations. The girl came home and the marriage was called off, because we don’t want our girl to live with constant criticism. She has to be accepted for who she is.
10 years ago, the girl would have been counselled on how to change her dress sense for the boy, how to do as he says. I was soo zapped to hear this – asking that our girl should be accepted for who she is.. Yahoo!
From,
 Anonymous
Related Posts:

“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 😉