This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by sanika athavale. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

I’m Proud Of How My Friend Chose To Respond When A Woman Tried To ‘Slut-Shame’ Her

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Paraphrasing one of my favourite fictional characters, I’d like to begin this story with a piece of advice to the world reading this –

“Relax people and open your minds. We all fear the things we know nothing about. We fear the uncommon and unfamiliar. Open your minds”

Remember the last time you played on the street, girl? When you danced in the rain without fearing how your top stuck to your body? When you stood up for yourself and did not give two hoots about how your t-shirt had folded up? When you ran on the streets with complete joy and peace?

It’s been two months since I began running recreationally and I can’t remember a day when I wasn’t looked at like a foolish specimen. My clothes, shoes, or red face aren’t the factors that grasp people’s attention because being a woman (a running one, for that matter) suffices.

Becoming regulars, my friend and I have been getting better with our pace and timing, although I’d have to admit that she beats me at this sport very easily. Sometimes when our day’s calendar permits, we go to the National Centre for Biological Sciences Canteen and treat ourselves to crispy dosas, hot idlis, crunchy vadas and the ever-so-satisfying poori saagu.

One such morning, we stepped into the canteen giggling over something, totally unaware of the misfortune awaiting us.

We walked to the ordering counter and smiled at each other with a telepathic nod: idli with green chutney for me and vada with piping hot sambhar for her.

Hey Sans, why don’t you give our order while I just wash the sweat off my face?” she said.

Anything for you, darling,” I teased. Playfully hitting me on the back, she strode towards the common washbasin.

From the moment we walked in, someone’s eyes had been on us. The person was looking at us disapprovingly, watching our every move. Our oppressor, this time, was a woman. Seeing my friend move away, she (who was in her mid-forties) walked in my direction and placed her palm on my shoulder, intending to seek my attention.

Sensing a stranger’s hand on my back, I turned around anxiously.

How may I help you”, I said in a polite yet unaffectionate manner.

Do you understand Kannada?” she asked in a hushed tone with her face looking extremely concerned.

Yes I do, please tell me,” I said immediately switching from English.

That friend of you, ask her to cover herself. There are men here and it isn’t good to wear what she’s wearing.

I took a little longer than I should have to reply. Completely taken aback by the woman’s audacity and backward-thinking, I looked at my friend for a brief moment to understand what had offended her.

My friend, who was wearing a sleeveless sports top with a knee-height pants (I find it pointless to even state what she was wearing, but it may help highlight the dangers of a sexist mentality), when she came back, began wondering what this stranger was doing conversing with me.

It is none of your business what she wears and doesn’t”, I snapped back in a firm manner.

What happened Sans!? What did she say?”, my surprised friend asked me.

Nothing, she’s a stupid person,” I responded.

Now, the stranger was already angry with my reply and but hearing me call her stupid, lit her up in flames.

How dare you call me stupid?” she yelled at me bringing everyone’s attention to the two of us.

You youngsters have no sense how to dress up. Look, look how everyone is staring at you! Shameless girls!”.

Her screaming voice and slut-shaming sentences had begun to boil my blood.

You are nobody to tell us what to do and what to wear, go back to your seat before you regret it,” I said equating her aggression.

Sans, please step back. Let me talk to her,” said my friend pushing me to the side, as she stepped forward to talk to her in the most respectful tone.

Ma’am, please don’t scream. Tell me what the issue is. What’s wrong?

You cannot wear such things and roam around! Have some maana-mariyaada! (self-respect)

But Ma’am, I don’t think there is anything wrong with my clothes.

Are you blind? Look at how much skin you’re displaying.

Ma’am, there are so many people wearing the same kind of clothes.

Who? Who is wearing dirty clothes like you?

If you look around, you’ll find plenty of boys wearing…

Boys! You are comparing yourself to a boy?! Don’t you know that there is a difference between a boy and a girl? Or has your mother not taught you that along with not dressing decently?

Please don’t say such things, am I not like your daughter?” (Still maintaining a humble tone)

Nanna magalu nin thara dagaar illa.” (My daughter isn’t a slut like you)

Ma’am? What are you saying?” she was almost going to cry.

Pulling her back, I came face to face with the woman. If anger could kill, either she or I would not have been alive today.

Gritting my teeth in anger, I said, “We’ll walk around naked if we want to. You must learn how to mind your business and watch that tongue.

You want to go around naked? Great! Why don’t you take all your clothes off right now? Go on, take them off! What are you waiting for?” she began howling again. Now people outside the canteen came in, listening to her words.

Stunned momentarily into silence, I wasn’t angry anymore. I was hurt. Hurt and let down miserably by a member of my own gender. I hung my head low in disbelief.

I am going to complain to the authorities that girls like you and her come here, dress like this and ruin the culture. I’ll make sure they don’t let you in ever again,” she said challenging us.

Raising my head I pierced my rigid gaze into eyes. Taking a step closer, my face a few inches away from hers, I said, “You can complain to whoever you want, you won’t stop us. We’ll come and run like the roads belong to us.

Wait and watch you fool, I will take you…

Before she could complete her sentence, my friend took me by the arm and dragged me away from the spot.

Our breakfast had arrived, but neither of us was in the mood to eat.

With the people sitting in the canteen still staring in our direction, she untied the jacket around her waist and lifelessly began to put it on.

No!”, I grabbed her elbow. “You will not wear this!

But Sans..”, she said almost choking.

No, you won’t. For me, for all the women slut-shamed, for your self-respect, and for humanity, you will not put on that jacket”.

Not wishing to involve herself in another fight, she put her jacket away, exasperated.

We didn’t talk much at the table, that morning. Our usual candid laughter was replaced with dead silence as we reluctantly cleared our plates. Walking out of the canteen, I placed my arm around her shoulders and weakly smiled as though nothing had happened.

Unable to control herself any longer, she cupped her face in her palms and cried till we reached the exit gates.

Will the world ever change?” she murmured.

I was almost about to reply with a confused answer when I realised that she hadn’t asked me the question at all. She had directed it at herself.

The next morning, I met her at the gate.  She was stretching her hamstrings for the 4-mile dash. I had expected to see a change in her dressing style as a post-public-fight symptom, but to my surprise, she was in her regular sportswear.

What’s up!” I said cheerfully as we hi-fived.

Nothing, just a little sleepy.

Great to see that you’re okay after what happened,” I said pointing at her clothes.

I am not going to let people like her change who I am. Although I just feel bad about one thing.

What?” I exclaimed creasing my forehead.

That the woman from yesterday is really missing out on good clothes.

The creases on my forehead smoothened themselves as my lips curled into a broad smile. “I am proud of you,” I thought.

Looking at my amused expression, she grinned ear to ear and took off.

Her athletic figure was sprinting in front of me, adorning the garments she’d chosen for that morning’s exercise.

Realizing that I’d been staring at her with unusual contentment, I answered her in my mind, “yes my love! With people as amazing and determined as you, the world will soon change.

Hurry up slow-poh! ” she screamed nearing the road’s turn.

I’ll be right with you!” I cried out in a voice shaky with emotions as I sprang into action.

You must be to comment.
  1. Veeresh Saraf

    That old dinosaur ought to be put in a faggot-tray to which she and her kind of animals belong. To know that u too were aggressive with her is deeply soothing. These bigots must be paid back on the double and that too with hard knocks. Way to go. A really grt read.

  2. Ngurang Reena

    Can I say, how proud am I of both of you girls. Your article made my day, thank you.

    It is important that we stand up for one’s rights and all the more significant to stand up for your own kinds. I am utterly proud of you Sanika for your brave heart and spirit. And yes, god bless that lady, she will never taste freedom, let alone “good clothes”.
    Best wishes!
    Reena.

  3. Gaurav Sneh

    Yes very well written, it is even more hurful when comes from a woman. I have heard the worse, a girl in her 20s blaming other girls and their clothes as the reason for eve-teasing and shaming the so-called culture. We are 50 percent of the population but still been treated like second citizens for ages. You should have asked that woman to go and be ‘Sati’ in the name of sanskaar.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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