Reclaiming The Streets

“Tu uss aanchal se ik parcham bana leti… toh accha tha. (Since her clothing is often controversial; if only she could have woven a flag out of the ends of your drape.)”

I was 12. My cousin sneaked me into a room slyly and held to me so tight, I couldn’t get away. He pushed me back onto the bed and lay on top of me until I was able to get away. It happened quite a few times. Until obviously, I realized I wasn’t the one who was wrong and I didn’t HAVE TO put up with it.  Years later, when I was a grown-up girl, while out on a friendly date, I was tried being kissed forcibly. Until I got away.  I wasn’t into drinking almost throughout my graduation years, but it was our unofficial farewell party and I took the liberty of drinking fearlessly. On feeling uneasy, I rushed to the washroom. I got out, still tipsy – I see a college “friend” right outside. I don’t like his arm that is around my waist but I am out of balance, so I let it be. Minutes later I see him trying to sneak me away, his hands all over me, until I got away. 

Years later now, I am further grown up and also sensitized. I have men around me, both good and bad. The good ones support me, give me strength in whatever I do, whereas the bad ones call me names, attempt to grope me in crowded places, stare at my breast, letch at me and make pouty faces at me. But, I don’t try to get away anymore. I stare back at them, till they stare away. 

Ok, before someone says this is a only a female point of view, I’ll say that maybe the reason you see more videos about women being the victim in a case like this is because women are MOSTLY the victims?! The percentage of women compared to men, in these circumstances, is extremely different. This is not to say that men don’t deserve to be advocated for as well – of course they do! However, this is being written because it is all about the Bangalore incident, and the many that have happened before and are happening after the incident. It’s appalling, it really is!

Courtesy: AP Photo/ Saurabh Das

I am a feminist, and with all my heart, I want equality – for both men and women. It is not a one-sided feeling. I know patriarchal women and feminist men too. It is not against men, but it is about the patriarchal mindset. Making this an issue of #NotAllMen, besides being mean and troublesome, bothers me a tad bit more because “reacting” to this in that way and judging the women becomes possibly the easiest thing to do.

The other day, I watched a video of two women doing a stand-up comedy, where they admitted to having been molested, and the way people reacted was shameful. We didn’t give them power – instead we pulled them down for being gutsy enough to speak up. And you know what is worse? That even if it was a video of a man and a woman, or a man and another man – people will still complain. Because that is the easiest thing to do, isn’t it? I doubt there will ever be a time where people won’t complain.

I could also easily go out and say that most men only want to talk about how ‘men are the victims too!’ – but do I? No. Because that is beside the point. When it comes to derailing conversations of women, and in discussions about women’s issues, it often becomes an argumentative scenario, and hardly any stringent outcome is reached. Nowhere in the past few days regarding the incident has it been said that men can’t be abused – nowhere has it been stereotyped as ‘all men’.

Apparently, the reason why you don’t see most men talking about this subject is because most men won’t bring the subject up – unless it’s to show how bad they have it against women – as opposed to stepping up, talking about the issue, talking about how toxic masculinity and the society we live in make it impossible for male victims to come forward, and thereby, make it seem like men can’t be victims of abuse, make it so that people believe men can’t be raped.

Have we ever thought why? Because patriarchy is bad for all genders. It might just take us another generation and a few more toxic incidents to register this deep in our heads. We unconsciously or consciously act like what happened in Bangalore this New Year’s Eve was somehow a woman’s fault, and therefore, dismiss our concerns about fellow women and girls. This is on all of us as a society. There are these five small requests I want to make to the men and women of the society, if I may:

  1. Teach your children about consent, without fail.
  2. Understand feminism. It is deep-rooted and favors us all.
  3. Make public places accessible and friendly.
  4. What happened in Bangalore was not just a security issue. It was also a mentality issue. Start working on it.
  5. We know there are a lot of you who mean well for us. Start taking a stand for us beyond social media and words, and come out in full solidarity.

A nationwide movement called #IwillGoOut is reaching out to women across the country. It is a movement for women to reclaim public spaces. We are mobilizing organizations, institutions and individuals to state that we, as women, will go out. We, as girls, will claim the nights as our own. #IWillGoOut is a nationwide march which will be happening on 21st Jan in solidarity with the survivors of mass sexual harassment that took place in Bangalore, this New Year’s eve. We’re a collective of individuals and organisations across various cities in India. Bangalore, Pune, New Delhi, Lucknow, Puducherry, Chennai, Mumbai, Kolkata, Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh, Hyderabad, Silchar are already on it! Check out the event page here. For more information about the movement, write to us at [email protected]

Oh, and my fellow women – phenomenal women – the universe, the streets are just as much ours as theirs. Don’t let anybody take that away from you. More power, more love!

This article was originally published here.

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