Eve teasing. Nah, it doesn’t have anything to do with an apple. Or a snake. But that scenario might be preferable to this one- Eve had control of her body and her choices.
Calladus’ blog today is on Eve Teasing (the Blank Noise Project’s blog explains the problem more fully). I’d never heard it called that before, but I’m familiar with it. Starting at 12, I was warned by my aunts during my visits to India to stay close to them, to avoid men on the street and the bus, because they would try to pinch and fondle and feel me up in passing.
Let me back up a second. For most women, the warning would have been taken as an honest attempt to save discomfort, pain, and embarrassment. But, even though my parents are both from the same hundred-acre village in Kerala (south India), I was born and raised in the States. And, thanks to a truly extraordinary mother, I grew up (hell, still am) mouthy, stubborn, opinionated, outgoing- and, at 12, a tomboy who took those words like a bull takes a flapping cape.
I didn’t, at that age, have any problem scrapping physically, and was utterly unembarrassed at the thought of hitting someone back. You’re going to touch me or my Mom or my aunts when and where we don’t want to be touched?
Okay. Well, I’m a fair person. Turn and turn about. I’ll touch you back. And in a way that you like as little as I did.
On the first shopping trip I loaded up a little bag one of my uncles had bought me (I have 2 brothers and 7 uncles- a little encouragement in the tomboy direction there) with coins and even, when that wasn’t heavy enough, a few rocks from Nana’s yard. I carried it the way Santa Claus carries his sack, slung over my shoulder.
And the first time I felt someone pinch me I hit him with it. Hard.
I heard his gasp- I’d hit when I knew it was unmistakably the right guy- and saw him step away. Well, good. Maybe he’d be scared for a few more days before acting like a degenerate again.
I kept doing that all that afternoon. Sad, really, how many men tried- sometimes succeeded- in feeling me up- or doing the same to Mom or the aunts- how many clear, obvious shots I got. We literally couldn’t take 10 steps without it happening to one of the 5 of us. My arm started getting tired, and I started getting really angry, instead of just taking it as a challenge.
Then the string on my little purse broke. Crud. Who am I, David? These guys definitely weren’t Goliaths, and anyway I’m no good with a sling.
I started using my elbows instead. They actually worked better. Faster response, and if a male was close enough for me to hit, it was pretty much certain he’d been the guy feeling me up.
We stayed in India for 4 months on that visit, 3 the next two visits. I kept refining my technique- long past the time when I quit the schoolyard scuffles and braggadocio. I was doing the same thing in India 5 years ago, when I lived there for a year. Since my fiancé was often with me, I had to deal with it less… but it was still there.
Please understand: I do NOT condone gratuitous violence. But I consider sexual molestation an assault. Whether it’s momentary or not is of no consequence; if I don't know you, then the second you purposefully, uninvitedly and unnecessarily put your hands or any other part of your body on me, you have violated me.
And I'll make certain there’s no repeat of it. If a person assaults me, I’ll do my utmost to make sure that he or she is unwilling or unable to assault me again.
Now comes the Blank Noise Project- a public acknowledgement and declaration that Indian women have the right to walk around in public without being assaulted either verbally or physically. By anyone. Ever.
When I was 12, it would have been unthinkable- my aunts were clearly angry and embarrassed when such things happened to them, but they never acknowledged it in public, or while it was happening. (They tried to restrain me when they realized what I was doing, too, but I wasn’t having with any of that... and I have the sneaking suspicion that, eventually, it became a vicarious pleasure for them.)
It’s true that the right of freedom from verbal and physical assault- based on sex, clothing, location, etc.- is an ideal that very few women in very few countries have yet attained, but the situation in India is far, far worse than it is here. There isn't even a comparison, really. And so the public realization- even more amazing, the forcefully articulated demand- that women have the all rights and dignity of full-blown human beings (in India, that usually still means men), is incredible.
This is wonderful! I never thought this could happen!
3/13/2006 at 14:26
I do not wish them to have power over men, but over themselves. -Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797)
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