Thursday, March 08, 2007

International Women's Day

Picture taken in the GH, IIT Kanpur

Over at the Blank Noise Project, it is action heros time! Support the movement and make the streets a better place.

Last year, I wrote -

"I am surprised that women don't screw men over whenever they get the chance (some women do but not all) because men (again, not all men) screw them over (pun intended) all the time."

A year later, I still wonder about it all and a year later, I look at how much the Blank Noise Project has progressed. People like Jasmeen and Annie are putting in a lo to effort to spread awareness and I hope that their activism is actively making the changes that we ought to see in our society.
Some time ago, there was a call for activism in bangalore and even though I volunteered for it, I could not turn up at the last moment. I want to do my bit to the efforts of these fine women because I feel strongly about this.
"Eve teasing" is such an harmless little term, isn't it? The "It is just a bit of harmless fun"s and "don't take it seriously"s are pretty common justification for this. In a larger feminist picture, how serious is the problem of "eve teasing"? How important is it for the empowerment of women? How is it going to the contribute to the liberation of women?
I think it is very important. How many women would go to work if they could travel without fear and their fathers/husbands did not impose restrictions on their movements (of course, the fact that they impose restrictions is itself a problem)? How many women are likely to get a quality education when the centre of education - the university or the college - is away from home, perhaps, in another city? How many job opportunities would open up to women if they could travel long distances on the public transportation without harassment? How many women would be inspired to be independent and be confident of thinking for themselves if they could walk on a street alone without being bullied and thus being confident of being alone and looking after oneself, much like we men get to be? How many men would start respecting their female colleagues for being good at their jobs because they had the option of choosing the one they were most interested in and not because it was closer to their homes or the hours were normal?
I could go on and on like this but the essence of the issue is that I believe that safer and "eve teasing"-free world would make it easier for women to be empowered and thus accomplish the primary goal of the feminist movement.
This year, I hope to contribute more than my words. Let that be my International Women's day resolution.


Anonymous said...

Good to see the motivation. But it seriously pisses me off when you presume that 'most' people think of "Eve teasing" as an harmless little term. As far as I can tell most people (in India) don't and it IS considered a crime in most of the society. Spreading much message can only make women paranoid of rest of the world.

Unmana said...

Lovely. I do not agree with the anonymous commenter above. Much of the problem is that sexual harassment is not enough of an issue. Let's hope we can help change this.

Madhat said...

@Anon: You are right. It was presumptuous of me to speak of what 'most' people think but don't you think the term 'eve teasing' itself simplifies what it really is - sexual harassment?

@unmana: I agree.

Anonymous said...

(same anon as above, henceforth anon1). I see your point (both unmana and madhat). I feel that most crimes get their household names through media (especially newspapers) and Indian newspapers do seem to trivialize sexual harassment. Having said that I still believe that most people in India would look down upon 'a-person-guilty-of-sexual-harassment' with the same severity as 'a-person-guilty-of-eve-teasing' or vice versa . No data. Just gut feeling.

Also there is certainly some truth in that sexual harassment is not as sharply defined as, say, murder even if it causes severe damage to victim's psych and may be as condemnable . Delineating appropriate behavior from inappropriate is harder compared to telling whether someone was murdered or someone broke into your house (more so because there is no third party/video camera recording each and every event). This often may (and probably does) lead to some kind of 'benefit of doubt' in favor of the accused even in the most obvious cases of harassment.
(btw there is some problem with publishing comments here, one has to submit twice/thrice to get it working, please delete if see more copies, thanks).

Laurie E. said...

There's a VAST difference between the most-used meaning of "considered a crime by most of society" and what it really means.

The most-used meaning is that if you asked people, "Do you consider X a crime?" most people would answer, "Yes, I consider X a crime."

That means absolutely nothing.

How you know if society really considers something (X) a crime: When X happens, everything stops until it is dealt with. The police come, the perpetrator is made to repair the damage they have done, the victim is cared for by all. No one makes excuses. No one says, "but not my son/brother/cousin/friend -- he's not really like that." No one says that he didn't mean any harm. No one says the victim shouldn't have been walking peacefully down the street minding their own business.

So in the fake, lip-service, meaningless way, society in my country considers eve-teasing behaviors a crime, but not in any real way, not in any way that isn't just a show. From what I've been reading though the Blank Noise Project, other countries have the same problem.

And perpetuating meaningless uses of "but we do consider it a crime" just feeds the problem.

Laurie from the USA.

Madhat said...

@Laurie: I could not have put it better. Thanks!

@Anon1: About sexual harassment not being well-defined, I don't think it needs to be. As far as I am concerned, it is just any unwelcome action as per the woman concerned. And the onus of finding out what is unwelcome and what is ok is on the actor because he is responsible for what he says or does.

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