I’m often asked why there is such a long gap between my articles. My response is always the same: that I need something to make me really mad, an experience that agitates me enough to write about it. Usually, it takes a while, but I don’t worry much- I know that sooner or later I will have an experience, a conversation that will make me want to tear my hair out.
A couple of days ago, against my better judgment, I got into an argument on Facebook with someone who shared an article on the women’s compartment in the Delhi metro being a “symbol of patriarchy” (*facepalm*).
I found myself explaining why safe spaces for women are necessary, why travelling harassment-free is not a privilege, and how separate compartments are an effective (yet flawed) solution.
What followed was a barrage of mansplaining: separating the “victim” and the “oppressor” isn’t a solution; women need to speak up against harassment. You need to defend yourself.
Wow, really? My little feminine brain would’ve never thought of that.
I was asked why I was getting so angry, after all, it was just meant to be a healthy discussion.
What was just a healthy discussion to him was something I experience every day of my life.
Speaking up isn’t easy when at the age of 16, a random man gropes you outside school, looks you in the eye and walks away like it was nothing.
Speaking up isn’t easy when you’re standing on the footpath dumbfounded after a man old enough to be your father asks you for a blowjob while you’re on your way to the bus stand after college.
Speaking up isn’t easy at the age of 14, when a stranger walks in while you’re alone at your grandma’s house, gropes you and leaves (and yes, this happened in “fully literate” Kerala).
I am angry because every woman I know and spoke to about this article had similar experiences.
I am angry because my sister was sexually harassed in a temple when she was 10 years old.
I am angry because my best friend called me one night, about ten years ago, sounding frantic because a man was masturbating beneath her window.
I’m angry because many of you will read this and go “Not All Men” instead of thinking “Yes, All Women”.
The simple solution of women “speaking up” against unwanted sexual advances gets complicated by the fact that men who violate women probably haven’t been taught how to handle rejection very well.
So I am angry because every time I step out in public, I have to make myself smaller, inconspicuous, just so that I can get to my destination without having my body and space violated.
And that is something that cis gendered heterosexual men will never understand. So no, you don’t get to tell me what to do when I’m harassed. And you definitely don’t get to decide what’s best for women.