We live in a country where exposing your knees can get you molested.
One of the first things I learnt in economics was the concept of a trade off - a certain sacrifice that must be made in order to obtain a particular product or experience. The text book examples were the typical ‘apples and bananas’ kind, and considering I thoroughly dislike both fruits, it wasn’t relevant to me. Until recently.
A trade-off for me became sacrificing a tight t-shirt with something less figure hugging, because the fitted top and skinny jeans combination was too ‘provocative’ to leave the house in; or if I was feeling especially daring, I could experiment with a tight t-shirt and some baggy pants. Sleeveless clothes and shorts? They weren’t even in the equation anymore.
When I was a child, my mother would plead with me not to wear shorts when I went down to play. Unable to process the dangers of the world in my unadulterated brain, my clothes were a constant cause of battle growing up. Finally when I was ten, my innocence was tainted by a waiter who began to touch my legs when I went to play tennis at a nearby court. Still unable to understand his true intentions, I deluded myself into believing he was just being friendly. Until he tried to lure me to the back of the kitchen to ‘get water myself’. Years of vehemently trying to prove my mother wrong disappeared that day. She was right. It was a horrible world to grow up in.
As I grew older, I got smarter. No more skirts or anything that was above my knees. No more spaghetti straps or body-fitting clothes. But that’s when I realized, it’s not about what people see, it’s their imagination that’s the problem.
Girls have every right to dress as they please. Image source: indiatimes.com
Wear ripped jeans but cover up everything else and these people will find a way to fantasize about the single visible slit of skin. Mmm, knees. Wear a bodysuit and these people will hungrily stare at your neck. Oh yeah, the sweet spot at your nape. Even if you walk down the street wearing an oversized shirt and ill-fitting pants, it doesn’t stop them - their voyeuristic x-ray vision is constantly at work, trying to envision what lies beneath all the layers. One gust of wind, and it’s a field day for them. I fear the breeze, I fear the rain, I fear the sun. I just fear.
The reason I said ‘people’ and not ‘men’ is because males aren’t the only prying eyes to blame. I can almost sense the disapproval of some women, hypocritically wearing sarees with their stomachs pouring out of their blouses, if my t-shirt has hitched up slightly. The other day I witnessed an incident on the road where a woman wearing shorts was being ogled at by a man. This shameless man happened to be with his wife. But the shocking part wasn’t the man’s behavior. It was the response of the wife. ‘Agar aise kapde pehnne vali hai, uski galti kya hai?’ (If you wear clothes like this, you can’t blame the man).
Which brings me to the question - are women like her perpetrators of a society like this, or just victims?
Has molestation become the norm? Image source: i0.wp.com
My mother recently went to a party and came to the horrid realization that every single woman in that social setting had been molested at some point in her life. Be it by a stranger, a creepy uncle, or a liftman - almost everyone had a story. We’re living in a world where molestation is a norm, and we accept it and move on because ‘at least it isn’t rape’. Rape is devastating, but that doesn’t make incidents like this justifiable in any shape or form. That’s like saying at least a second-degree burn isn’t a third-degree one.
In an ideal world, it’s easy to make statements such as, ‘I have rights’, ‘I can wear what I want’, and actually go ahead and do that. The ugly truth is that this isn’t a utopian world, and even though I ‘can’ wear what I want, I choose not to…many times.
He’s made 'maafi' a bad word. Image source: webfeed360.com
Today when I read about people like 'Baba Ram Rahim’ (I don’t even know how we can call him that) I realize that my country is not moving in the direction of safety and equality for women. For every individual at a candle light vigil marching our country to a better day, we have a person holding us back, setting cars on fire. Which of the two flames is more powerful?
My name is Tiana, and I am not a feminist. I am just a girl who wants to be able to travel by public transport without having a man masturbating to me and to be able to walk on the streets without every second person imagining what I look like naked.
People will stare. No matter what.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are independent views solely of the author(s) expressed in their private capacity and do not in any way represent or reflect the views of 101India.com
By Tiana Kirpalani
Cover photo credit: YouTube.com