I dread picking up the papers these days. Or checking my reader feed. Or FB.There’s a knot in my stomach. Jaws clenched. In anger and fear. For the injustice of it. For being a woman. In today’s world.
Reminders, that I’m just a second class citizen. As much as I try to ignore it or prod on with determination. As much as ‘society’ shrugs it off. It does exist.
Why are there so many women on the streets they ask. Dont you have anything better to do? Why all this fuss about this 1 rape? Many more are brutalised much worse, each day. “She was asking for it”. “They were asking for it”. It’s a woman’s place.
Would you trade your life for mine? For a woman’s?
Would you be able to take the pain, the humiliation, the anger, the helplessness, each day? And still shrug it off. plaster a smile on your face and do what it takes to keep your family together.
You dismiss me, us, women, as emotional, paranoid, flaky. You say we’ve got too ‘modern’.
Tell me – can you live my life?! Do you have the courage? Do you have the strength? To live a single day in my shoes.
YOU HAVE NO CLUE!!!
You have no clue what it’s like to live in constant fear and subjugation. And then pretend that everything is normal. I’ve struggled to find the right words, for what it means to be a woman, in today’s world. And failed.
Maybe, just maybe, it may get into your head if I use a cricket example. You’ve struggled to make it to the team. But just before going onto the pitch, they tie your right hand, to your back, with an invisible magical thread that you cant free yourself from. You cant tell anyone. No one can see. You struggle to hold the bat with one hand. You struggle to keep your balance as you run to catch the ball, and then you struggle to catch the ball. The spectators, your team mates, shake their head in disbelief! Hold the bat with both hands! Cant you run properly! Dummy – you’re supposed to catch the ball. They jeer at you, laugh at you, label you an incompetent wacko. Once you’re off the field, back in your small room somewhere, the thread disappears. No one sees the bonds, no one sees the torment. They see parts of the struggle, and label you a whacko, a failure, not ‘good’ enough. And then ofcourse, they say you asked for the shame, the ridicule. You’re no good. You deserve to be kicked out. See how you performed on the field, after all the faith we put in you… and this continues. Each time you step on the field. Until you give up. Until you accept, that they are right. Until you’re willing to toe the line. And live, by their rules.
I’ve been silent. I didnt blog about it. I didnt FB about it.
This incident. Nor the previous ones. Each time FB, youtube, twitter, the blogosphere were all abuzz about the rape, harassment and other such cases, I’d drop off the internet.
Because it hurt too much. It frightened me too much. The vulnerability. That it could’ve easily been me. Each of these bring back memories. Of being groped on a bus. Of being stared at and followed on the streets. A long list of unnerving tales that my husband, brother, or parents would not like to hear. If they did, they may just turn around and tell me, that I probably brought it on to myself. They wont understand. Why I NEED to LIVE my life, inspite of all that. Why I CHOOSE to be ME. Rather than sit at home with my head covered worshipping my husband and family.
I’d like to be human. I’d like the freedom to be human. To be ME. To be a woman.
Without being marginalised, trivialised, dehumanised. Without having to struggle and ASK for respect. Without having to ask for and push for being treated fair, being treated as an equal.
But I dont have the heart to put them down in writing like she does.
I dont have the nerve to write this A Letter To The Guy Who Harassed Me Outside The Bar
My list extends beyond Ritu‘s. Though I was probably born some 20 yrs later.Reading her list brought back unpleasant memories of growing up. Those were the rules my mom brought me up by. Multiplied by a 100. I’m still struggling to unlearn it. “Do not laugh loud” “Do not speak up” “Do not voice an opinion” “Do not talk to boys”. ‘inocuous’ statements. You wont understand the impact it has on eroding a little girl’s sense of self, unless you’ve felt the pain yourself. What remains after you’ve drilled out all of that? An empty shell willing, na eager, to serve.
This incident, is not just about a single rape. Or a single woman. That’s just the visible part of the problem. She’s already said it better -:
“This dehumanization of being, steady erosion of self-respect, the constant looking over your shoulder no matter where you are”
“I saw pictures of these young girls standing their ground getting beaten up, screaming in the cops’ faces. Learned pundits question why. What is the point of this protest anyway? What do they want? It’s a pity they can’t even see this basic point. They want to be treated as humans again. I read about the rape in Delhi and the anger in me has refused to go away. Memories of those years of harassment came flooding back. If you’re a woman in Delhi, you’ve been groped and violated five times a day since you were eight. Since you were too young to even know what breasts are and what they can do to men. My years in Delhi exacted a heavy price from me. I’d instinctively step back when a man entered my personal space. This instinct finally started ebbing away after I moved to Pune. Even there, I’d instantly be on my guard, alert and tense, when a man looked over my shoulder as I worked on the laptop. This was because of Delhi and it took years for it to go away.”
“This steady erosion of self-respect“. That’s what happens to women over the years. It’s unseen. You stay silent. We stay silent. For the most, we dont even notice. The constant gaslighting. Or we ignore it.