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Street harassment of women in India takes many forms including the unpleasant leering at women on the roads considered ‘just looking’.
It has happened to me ever since I can remember. It has happened to me, almost everywhere; men and boys looking at me when I stand at the bus stop, when I go to buy vegetables, or when I go for walks.They are forever looking.
Girls and women in our country gradually get accustomed to this ‘Just looking’ thing, hardly complaining and mostly ignoring it. I have seen some bravehearts in public places, question the culprit only to be told, “You think you are very beautiful? Who’s looking at you?” Thus cleverly turning the tables.
In cities like Delhi, it is very common to find men loitering around bus stops during peak hours, just sitting on the benches with nowhere to go and ogling women of all ages and sizes.
It is also very common for bikers and at times men with cars, to halt near a girl’s college and ogle, just like that!
I now live in Pune where most women including me, wear a scarf over our faces, to cheat the harsh sun rays and pollution. But still, I find men staring. I am many a time tempted to ask, “What the hell can you see?”
This ‘Just Looking’ thing has become such a casual thing, that nobody reacts to it any more; may be because looking is largely perceived as being harmless. “He didn’t touch you. He didn’t say anything; so why complain?” This is the advice often given.
But when this ‘Just Looking’ becomes ‘Lust Looking’, it is no more harmless. It can frighten even the most hard skinned girl, when in broad day light and amidst a crowd, somebody scans the girl and her anatomy, with the most lecherous look in his eyes.
It can give you the shivers, when you catch someone staring at you and you stare back to deter him but he becomes even more daring.
When I walk in public places (‘decently’ dressed) and I get scanned, I feel disgusted at the thought, that somebody is enjoying himself at the expense of my dignity. It disgusts me to think that I am being looked at, as a showpiece in some shop.
At those times, I really and strongly feel like looking at him in the eyes and saying,”I don’t get out of my house, so that you can ogle me. I don’t dress so that you can fantasise.”
Where even rapes go unnoticed, how can I be so dumb to even think that this ‘just looking’ thing will move anybody!
But as most crimes are usually planned and hardly spontaneous, isn’t it possible that looking is the first step the perpetrator takes? Why is only physical violation considered rape, when everyday, so many women are stripped of their dignity by those lustful eyes in public places? If looking at fellow human beings is such a normal thing, then why don’t we see women looking at men?
Do not Beauty and Lust, both lie in the eyes of the beholder?
First published at LinkedIN
Top image credit Ahmed Mahin Fayaz (Used under a CC license)
People Enthusiast/Writer/Trainer/Happy Soul
I think this strikes at the heart of the problem — the idea that women exist as sexual objects.
I think it is a part of men’s psychological make-up to look at women, because I have encountered this in various other countries. A part of me suspects that this is men’s way of convincing themselves that all women are sexually available.
The idea that a woman is just a collection of body parts seems to be an integral part of a man’s sexual response. It’s annoying, confounding and makes me believe that men are sex-obsessed 24X7.
This continuous leering and ogling is one of the biggest reasons why I keep my distance from men and can never fully relax around any man, even close family members.
I have attended residential programmes that were women-only and cannot describe how free I felt. The intrusive, lecherous and violating male gaze was absent, and I could focus my emotional energies fully and relax fully.
Unconsciously, I avoid the company of men — even at work, I will sit as far away as I can from a man; to avoid the casual glance down my neckline.
I often dream of a world where my face will be more interesting than my breasts, but perhaps that day will never come, certainly not in India
Why I Kept Quiet When A Man Exposed Himself To Me In Broad Daylight
That (Imaginary) World Where It’s Absolutely OK To Report Harassment
An Open Letter To A Much Younger Friend And Colleague Talking About Sexual Harassment
Time To Raise Our Voices Against Street Harassment, And How
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