Angry women seem to scare everyone, even when we clearly have a reason to be extremely angry. Stop telling women who face harassment to “CALM DOWN.”
Saturday nights, usually for me are a way to get together with friends and unwind. After a merciless week, and gruelling writing sessions, I really do look forward to some ridiculous humour, and uncontrollable laughter. It is de-stressing and rejuvenates me for the week to come.
And last Saturday evening, we went to our regular pub in downtown Bangalore for just that. With a drink in hand, eight of us (three women and five men) sat on stools in a comfortable circle and jibed, laughed, bitched until we heard a woman shout at someone over and over again.
It took me a while to realize that she was screaming at this middle aged man who had conveniently rubbed his hand against her buttocks, while she stood there talking to two friends, smoking and having a drink. I don’t know what possess a guy to violate any woman like this. I was mighty proud that she fought back, and she was handling it fabulously; hence I didn’t feel the need to intervene either.
Until, I realized all the men with her, her friends, her husband, kept telling her to CALM DOWN! And the molester, aggressively kept advancing at the woman, using words like, “aaayyyy!” pointing at her in a derogatory manner. A bouncer escorted him to a corner near the entrance of the pub, barely five feet away from her. He had an animated conversation with the bouncer, constantly pointing fingers at the woman, and the bouncer (surprise, surprise) nodded understandingly.
I sat there, contemplating, wondering if I should intervene? Support her? After all wasn’t it harassment already that she had been violated? Did she really have to go through having to witness her violator pass obvious comments on her standing among a fleet of curious men? Was she expected to remain quiet and pretend that she has already forgotten it?
Of course she wasn’t, and she didn’t. She again protested and demanded why that man was still in the establishment. Why wasn’t the bouncer kicking him out?
Amidst all this, her husband kept trying to hold her back. I guess that was when I reached my tipping point? It felt unreal watching one woman, fighting for her right to be heard and respected, and being held back by none other than her own husband and friends. Being told, over and over again to CALM THE FUCK DOWN!
Another female friend and I intervened, joining her in the shouting match. Demanding to have the man, who dared to touch her, thrown out. And somewhere in the whole fiasco, I realized that her husband even started shouting at us to CALM DOWN.
He kept saying that he had spoken to the guy. And we needed to CALM DOWN. And all we had to say to him was, “Allow your wife to speak. Allow her to vent out. Allow her to vet the justice he deserved.”
There is unity in numbers, I guess. With the inclusion of a few more women, suddenly the scenario changed and we saw the man being unceremoniously thrown out of the establishment.
We were pulled back by our friends and had the woman come and thank us for our support. And she spent a while defending that she knew it was no mistake. She knew when a man touched her unknowingly and when he did it knowingly. It was sad, because none of us asked her to justify herself.
I told her that it has happened to all of us, and she was great; fabulous, in fact.
We continued our drinks, and gossip; however, post that somewhere in my head, I couldn’t shake off the feeling that perhaps it is not just men like the violator who encroach our fundamental rights. Maybe it is our own male friends or relatives who also unknowingly treat us like fragile beings incapable of sound decisions. Especially at times like these.
This is a message for those men, who love us, who really want to protect us and who don’t get us. We have been exposed to different forms of molestation since we hit puberty or sometimes even before that. We have spent hours crying in our bath, scrubbing our body parts where we have been touched until they turn tomato red. We have come from a state where we feared men to a state where we know exactly what we will do to make sure those monsters don’t get away.
Give us respect by allowing us to speak. And don’t you tell us to CALM DOWN!
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Top image credits Christopher Dombres, used under a Creative Commons license