This read can be helpful too:
Many people, many good people, feel the #metoo movement went too far.
Even some women feel it went too far.
But did it?
As I was reviewing an author’s submission on yet another case of sexual misconduct (including with underaged fans) by a popular musician, a man in a position of power and privilege, it got me thinking about all the women I know personally or otherwise who have been in uncomfortable situations or have suffered sexual violence.
I grew up learning to ignore catcalls, lewd comments, even inappropriate touching on public transport or while walking on the sidewalk. Being constantly stared at and given a full-body visual scan, no matter your age, or what you’re wearing, was as normal as breathing. I simply learned not to look at the people around me. Till today, I don’t register people around me, lest I feel disgusted and degraded by men staring at me.
An incident that happened while I was in college didn’t target any of us girls directly, but one can decide for themselves how violating this would feel. We had a wooded patch of land behind our college and the girls’ restroom had a window facing that patch. One day, I saw a man standing, facing our window, pants down, and masturbating. Not joking. He couldn’t even see us, the window was on the 4th floor of the building and a distance away. All he probably knew was that there were girls in there, as ours was a girls-only college. Just imagine the depravity of his mind, and how violating it was for us.
Another time, I was in a packed public bus, at 4 p.m in the afternoon, I had my backpack on and elbows out, a stance we learn early on, to avoid unwanted touching and brushing of male body parts. When I got off the bus, I discovered a white sticky fluid on my skirt (ankle length, for reference, just in case anyone is wondering). I thought someone had spat on me or spilled something—I even smelled it, but couldn’t figure out what it was. I discovered to my utmost disgust, some years later, what it was. A man had actually masturbated in a bus, packed like a can of sardines, in the middle of the afternoon.
These are a couple of mild experiences girls face, not just in India, but everywhere, as I discovered after traveling and living in North America and Europe, in “progressive” western society.
Growing up in India, I used to think this was an issue endemic to our culture, owning to our still imbalanced gender dynamics and patriarchal society. I sadly realize it is and has been a perpetual pandemic everywhere in the world.
We have “accepted” so many of these behaviors as facts of life that when women start to speak up we get labeled as sensitive and over-reactive. I think it is about time we start reacting. Just because something has been going on for a long time doesn’t make it right.
I respect and admire women who have the courage and conviction to share their stories, however extreme or comparatively minor (it still impacts and hurts the affected person, and doesn’t make it any less horrible). I know I do not have the courage to share any more than what I have shared above.
Boys and girls all need to understand that they have complete autonomy over their bodies in every way. This should be obvious, but obviously, it isn’t.
This brilliant video tackles the issue of consent, simply yet impactfully, with a touch of typical British humor. Many schools around the world use this video in their Sex Ed/Health Ed classes, but everyone needs to watch it, not just young people.
Some gems from the video:
“If they say, ‘No, thank you,’ then don’t make them tea. At all. Just don’t make them tea. Don’t make them drink tea. Don’t get annoyed at them for not wanting tea. They just don’t want tea.”
“Unconscious people don’t want tea.”