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Street harassment is a daily affair. But should we let it be? Shouldn’t we speak up against it? We must, for the the sake of our next generation, says the author in this post.
Stuck in a traffic jam on my way to work today, I looked into the rear-view mirror of the car to find a man sheepishly smile as he caught my eyes and then, slyly winked at me – his smile slowly growing into a grin. As my blood began to boil, I looked into the mirror again to find him staring back at me, proud of his deed, confident that I could do nothing to him.
The fact is, I could not get myself to get out of the car to give him a piece of my mind. Although my brain had many ideas around how I can do that, I did not have the courage to do any of it. I tried to justify my lack of reaction to myself, without much success, through all the reasons I gave myself; all the while knowing that I was trying to fool myself.
I said so many things to him under my breath, kept thinking of all the words I wanted to use at him, how much I wanted him to feel ashamed of how he made me feel. At the same time, I wanted him to learn compassion and understand that he derived at his devious pleasure at the cost of my mental peace and comfort. I was uncomfortable and fidgety in my own car, with all the windows rolled up and the doors locked.
As the traffic moved and the man slipped ahead from the next lane, he made sure he gave me a last glance as he crossed me, and surprisingly I did not have the courage to stare back at him, but just a peek from the corner of my eye! Honestly, this is probably not the worst thing I have ever experienced, nor was there any evident danger to me at any point with me locked in my car and the river of cars and people around me, waiting for the traffic to move to get to work. What was surprising was my paralysis with fear. For, there have been times when I have told men to back off, glared back and at times, even spoken up for other women. Whenever I heard about women’s harassment, I always knew I would fight against it. It wasn’t really a choice or an option, that was what had to be done. And now, when I had to raise my voice for myself, my courage failed me.
I am honestly mad at myself. More than at him. For I pity him more; he knows no better. But what about me? I have no justification for being too scared to look him in the eye and show him he didn’t succeed in his disgusting show of bravado!
But along with anger, there is a thought that consumed me. A thought I am sad to admit. That when the time comes, I will be too scared to have a girl child, when it is a daughter that I had always hoped for.
I am scared for the world I would bring her into.
I am scared for the wandering eyes I shall not be able to protect her from.
I am scared for the filthy touches I will not be able to keep her away from.
I am scared for the dirty comments I will not be able to muffle.
I am scared for the people who will break her faith in men.
I am scared for the chauvinistic-world she would have to live in.
I am scared for the fears she might feel.
I am scared for the freedom she would not be able to experience.
I am scared for the dangerous world I will bring her into.
I am scared for the fears I have and I might pass onto her.
And, I am scared for I might not be able to keep her safe.
My fears are that of many mothers. And I am sure many would also tell me that my fears, although justified, should not result in such desires. But the more I think about it, the more I am unsure of myself after my morning encounter.
Recent media reports highlighting the ideas like ‘women have no place in our society’ and that ‘girls should not come out of the homes after 6.30 in the evening’ make me wonder if we are really progressing as a nation? Recent diktats on what girls should wear, or the places they should visit, the people they should be seen with, the books/movies they should be allowed to watch, amongst others, have really made me reconsider my desires to bring up a girl child in such a society.
I cannot assure my child the freedom and safety that my parents assured me. I might fearfully curb or bind some of her liberties. I will be scared to allow her to freely experience all that I have been lucky enough to experience during my days and so much more. For the world that we live in today scares me by being far more regressive and intolerant of women’s freedom than earlier. I am unsure of the future of this society and of what a large chunk of its members think women should or should not be allowed to do.
I am angry at this world. I am angry with its inhabitants. I am angry for the freedoms being curbed. I am angry for the opinions being imposed. I am angry for the opportunities being lost. I am angry for the fears being generated. And I am angry for the thoughts it has fuelled in me.
And with this anger in me, I resolve that I will not let them change me. I will not let them make me give up on my yet-to-be conceived little girl. I will fight. I will speak up. I will talk so loud that these people cannot be heard. I will make so much noise about how wrong they are that they will think twice before voicing their thoughts. I will make them shudder to even look at me and my little girl again. I will get out of my car and make a noise at the next guy who cheekily catches my eye in the mirror the next time. I will start with him. But I will not stop. I will fight for my little girl. I will fight to bring her into a world that I want for her. I will fight to keep her safe and free!
Image of four girls via Shutterstock
A dreamer, traveler and an avid reader, who refuses to be bogged down by day-
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