During my first few months in college, almost every morning on my way to class I would be approached by at least one person who would ask ‘is it your birthday?’ ‘is today a special occasion?’ ‘are you going out?’ and 99% of the time my answer would be ‘no’. It took me a while to figure out that they were hinting at my ‘over’dressing. That my bold, bright color choices, dramatic eyeliner, shimmering eyeshadow and reddened lips were too much. That I, as a girl, was calling too much unwarranted attention. That I have to be cautious of what I wear. ‘Absurd’ I used to think, until the day I found myself replacing my push-up bra with one that would make my chest flatter. And I realized I too have started being affected by male screening and their scrutinizing gaze.
This is the reality of being a woman in India (and in so many other countries). We as women have to be aware of what we wear because men are watching. Because men’s actions are in direct correlation with how tight, colorful, transparent, short our clothes are. We as women have to dull ourselves so men don’t act on what we wear. And you know what, I call bullshit. And so does this video featuring a poem by Gaya Lobo Gajiwala, because what we wear isn’t a reason to be harassed or violated.
Today my anecdote against these pitiful bigots that use their eyes to undress a woman is simply to look them dead in their eyes, pucker my lips, arch one of my eyebrows and tilt my head; letting them know that I too am looking.