The Difference

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Yesterday, walking out of a hospital at 11pm, I had to walk around the building to get to my Dad. The road was empty and three young men walked towards me. My reflex thought was, “How do I escape?” But they walked past me like I was invisible and I realised, it’s in my head. I was not scared because they looked aggressive or scary. They looked like normal young men who I’d probably befriend in broad daylight. What actually scared me was that it was 11pm and I’m a girl who was out past social curfews.

Today I found an article about a journalist who interviewed 100 convicted rapists. One part of the article really got to me – “In the interviews, many men made excuses or gave justifications for their actions. Many denied rape happened at all. “There were only three or four who said we are repenting. Others had found a way to put their actions into some justification, neutralise, or blame action onto the victim.””

The article also quoted her saying how many didn’t know that it was rape because their society hadn’t taught them the difference. It made me think.

I can’t justify rapists due to lack of knowledge. I’m never going to say, “Oh you’re right. Society made rapists do what they did.” No. I know men who wouldn’t do that. They come from the same society.

But we can’t ignore our role in it. My world taught me to be safe after dark. “It’s 8pm, where are you?” is such a normal question to me. “We live in a neighbourhood where people notice. You can’t be walking in so late at night. What will they think of you?” – If I could have a dollar for every time I heard that, I’d be flying private to a penthouse in Manhattan today.

My parents cared so much about the faceless society that they have often chosen what the society would think over my happiness. I tell myself, “Oh I can’t wait to live away so I can live as I please.” But I can’t. My mother’s voice is stuck in my head and so I will continue to live the rest of my life in fear of “What will they think?” The things that make me happy will also make me guilty. The things that I enjoy will also make me scared.

I never stop worrying of the day I would have to explain to my husband about my ex-boyfriend. What do I say? It was nothing? It was a childish thing? But it wasn’t. Yet, if I tell the truth, he won’t marry me. I don’t know how to nod my head yes. What if my husband hates that? What if he hates me?

“Don’t play that sport. Don’t jump so high. Don’t climb walls. Don’t join gymnastics. Careful with the yoga.” Because – WHAT IF MY ENTIRE LIFE, ALL THE MAGICAL MOMENTS I COULD POSSIBLY HAVE WITH THE ONE WHO WILL HOLD ME CLOSE – EVERYTHING VANISHES THE MOMENT MY HYMEN BREAKS BECAUSE OF A REASON THAT DIDN’T INVOLVE MY HUSBAND?

My life has been a series of careful moments to keep myself ‘intact’ for a man I am yet to meet. And in that, I have struggled to find the things I really want to do. Because it’s always about what he might someday want. I have been told repeatedly that having a child is not my choice. It is not a mutual decision. It is his choice. If he wants one, I need to have one. I can’t say No. And that’s part of the problem.

Teach your daughters to be their own people. Let them have their likes, their dislikes. His likes are not her likes. His life is not her life. Even if she’s married, if she wants to say NO, she has the right to say NO. Don’t raise submissives that a man will “want” to marry. Screw him if he doesn’t want someone who knows how to think for herself. EXPECT MORE OUT OF YOUR DAUGHTERS.

My biggest worry today when my father says, “But you’re old enough to be married,” is ‘If I were a guy, I’d be expected to do more with my life.’ Expect them to achieve their own form of personal success. If it’s marriage, good for them. If she comes home crying, don’t send her back to him. Acknowledge her problem. She’s your daughter!

And teach your sons to put it in their pants. Unless a girl – sober and in the right frame of mind – says YES, it automatically means a NO. No excuse they conjure up while sitting in prison justifies a man who enters another’s personal space without their permission.

Don’t tell them they are better because they have a penis. They’re not. Genitalia does not make a human being better. Their behaviour and manners towards another human being does. You expect your daughters to be kind hearted and caring. Expect your sons to be the same. Nothing wrong with him being treated like his sister. “He’s a boy,” is no excuse. It never should have been.

Don’t blind him to the truth by encouraging an ego that doesn’t need to exist.

Teach him that his wife is a fellow human being. She is not made to serve him after a long day. He is not “providing” for her care. That’s someone you employ. Not someone you marry. You can’t teach a man the difference between consent and rape if you tell him that one day he is going to find a girl who has dedicated her entire life to serve him well. She is a PERSON. Not a sex toy he uses as he pleases. Teach him the difference.

And no. That doesn’t mean I’m trying to say, “Oh marriage is terrible. Keep your daughters away from men. Men are horrible people.” Absolutely not. There’s nothing wrong in keeping the people in your life happy. I’m happy when I make him happy. But it can’t be the ONLY reason I’m ever happy. Teach your daughters that.

As a society, mind your own fucking business. Want to talk? Talk about problems that aren’t someone’s daughter having a boyfriend or turning up late. Talk about our screwed up political system. About suicides. About RAPE. And talk loudly. Let your children hear and know what to do and what not to do.

And maybe, just maybe, we might have a better country that way.

NO.

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“‘NO’ is a full sentence.” – Pink, 2016

I made that bold and centre for a reason.

I grew up in a world where “No” is not always an acceptable answer. I don’t mean being a kid at a mall crying for Barbie. But as an adult, when it’s time for a phase in your life you’re not ready for. ‘No’ does not stop my parents from finding me a groom. ‘No’ does not stop our family from expecting us to be pregnant. ‘No’ does not stop them from planning a life I don’t want for myself. ‘No’ is considered disrespectful. ‘No’ is treated like a bad word. ‘No’ is an unacceptable answer.

But that cannot be an excuse.

I watched this video titled “India’s Daughter.” A guy said she was asking for it when she decided to roam around so late in the night with a man. Really? What if that had been her brother? You wouldn’t have known the difference anyway. I have brothers who look nothing like me. Does that mean I’m asking for it?

In the movie Pink, the guy says, “She laughed. She touched my hand. She was asking for it.” You want a woman to constantly control her hands, her face, her smile so you don’t feel irked?

Dress decently or you’ll look like you’re asking for it. Laugh slowly or he’ll think you want him. Reduce that make up or you’ll look too easy. Come home early or he’ll think you’re one of “those” girls.

Why is there so much pressure on one gender to control everything?

Why can’t a guy control his libido and keep it in his pants? Why can’t he control his mind from wandering to places it shouldn’t with a woman who’s simply looking for help? Why can’t he control his hands and not molest innocent people?

For a world that limits women from so many things, we have absolutely no problem placing her front and centre when someone violates her personal space and hide the man behind reasons that shouldn’t even be acknowledged.

Brock Turner. 6 months for rape. 6 months. Because he’s got a life. He’s young. He will never rape again. Really? This is someone who, in his right mind, saw a drunk woman, pushed her behind a dumpster and made the choice to rape her. If those men hadn’t seen him, he’d have gotten away with it. And so he’d have done it again. And again. Until someday, maybe, he gets caught. The court would’ve said the same thing. Because there’s ABSOLUTELY NO PROOF that he hasn’t done this before. For all you know, that girl would’ve also been intoxicated and has no idea he’s the culprit. But ‘he won’t rape again.’

If she says No, irrelevant of how drunk or sober she is, how many men or women she’s with, how late in the day or night it is, you don’t touch her.

If she says No, it doesn’t matter what you think she’s signalling, how you interpreted her body language or what you think she wants, you respect her personal space.

If she says No, whatever it is your friends encourage, whatever you think you’ll get away with and whatever it is you want in that moment, you will keep your hands and your dick to yourself and walk away.

Because No is not just a word. It is not indecision. It is not consent. It is not an invitation.

No is a full sentence.

And it means No.

My Body, My Rules

I went out with my father and we stopped to get some groceries. Due to lack of parking space, he stayed back in the car. After buying the things I needed, while at the billing line, an old man came and stood behind me. The first time I felt it, I moved a step ahead believing it to be a mistake. The second time, I had my doubts and the third time, I felt disgusted.

I assume there are a minimum of 100 women that are groped on public transport everyday, just in my city. With almost every complaint, there comes a statement

“What did you do that provoked the man to touch you inappropriately?”

Every time I hear that question, I want to scream “Yeah, she walked up to him, smiled and told him she wants to get a room and so he touched her and she’s an idiot for standing here and complaining !” Am I the only person that finds that question so insanely ridiculous?

There was a recent article I read about rapes and a woman had commented “Women shouldn’t be told how to dress. Men should be taught to keep their pants zipped up.” I cannot quite agree with her. It is so easy to argue with that statement and talk about how groping doesn’t mean he has his pants down. Does that make it ok? And also, you’ll be surprised at just how many male rape victims there are in this world. Just because it’s not flashing on the news or being printed in big, bold letters in the front page of the paper, does not make it non-existent.

That old man’s hand brushing against my back made me question myself because for a minute I wondered whether my dress was too tight in the back or something was too flashy. Then I stopped and told myself that it wasn’t my fault that he didn’t have the basic decency or common knowledge that he shouldn’t be touching what belongs to someone else without their permission. Because here’s the thing :

I CAN CHOOSE TO WEAR ABSOLUTELY NOTHING BUT MY UNDERWEAR AND WALK AROUND TOWN AND YOU STILL CANNOT TOUCH ME BECAUSE IT IS MY BODY. HEAR ME LOUD AND CLEAR WHEN I SAY, MY BODY ! NO MATTER HOW APPEALING OR UNAPPEALING IT LOOKS, IT BELONGS TO ME AND THERE IS NO EXCUSE YOU CAN GIVE FOR TOUCHING IT WITHOUT MY PERMISSION.

No man or woman would like for me to walk into their house and randomly throw their stuff and break their valuable things and say “Oh well” and walk out. My body is valuable to me. You cannot touch it, feel it or use it without my permission and when you do that and the world finds a reason to blame me for it, I find it ridiculous, absurd and unacceptable !

I keep thinking, what if instead of the old man trying to feel up a girl who is young enough to be his great granddaughter, we both stood in line and I just turned around and slapped him and said ‘Well, your face was annoying me. I needed to hurt it.’ ?!

I’m pretty sure the store would have thrown me out, the general public would have cursed me, cooed to the old man and told him I was a bitch. A gentleman in the corner might even call the cops. “How could you hurt someone for no reason?” But when he did what he did, the woman in the next counter just looked and turned her head away like nothing was happening. Here’s the thing. Even if I’d hit him till he bled, the physical scar would have faded but when someone violates you in a very personal way, the mental scar they leave stays with you.

We have gotten to a point where, when you read “Rape” on the newspaper, you say “Oh again” and turn to the next page. It is so common because the abusers and rapists are never fully blamed. There’s always that small part that questions what the victim did to deserve it. The victims hide their faces in shame and some of them never tell anyone about it in fear of the humiliation they might face through all the nonsense questions.

There are still places in this world where the people around the rape victim say “How will you ever show your face to the world again? You must be so ashamed.” To those people I’d like to say, FUCK YOU ! Not just for being so stupid but for killing any courage that poor human being might have when it wasn’t her or his fault and the one who should be ashamed is walking around like nothing ever happened because of people like you.

To the idiots that say “Yeah, a lot of people get groped on public transport. You have to live with it,” you are empowering the criminals and letting them get away with crimes such as stealing (a person’s feeling of safety), trespassing (a person’s private, personal space), hurting (a person’s emotions) and killing (a person’s self-respect). I think, you, dear asshole, are more to blame than the rapists and gropers.

Once we got home from the store, I told my dad what happened and he looked at me and said, “The next time someone does that, turn around and scream. Don’t let him get away with something like this. These are the people that slowly grow confident that the person on the receiving end isn’t reacting and will someday end up raping some innocent girl that goes his way.”

I couldn’t agree more. Stop their behavior when you still can. Teach the douchebags a lesson they won’t forget. One doesn’t have to be raped to feel violated. Even a brushing hand in a crowded bus feels like a blow to one’s emotions and feeling of security. Scream, shout and drag him to the cops. If someone questions you about how you provoked the groper/rapist, shove their name in there too. Let them all sit together and learn how to respect an individual.

Because the world might find a million reasons to blame you for it or tell you you’ll get over it, but at the end of the day, it’s YOUR BODY, YOUR RULES. 

“I’m Not A Girl Anymore..”

Slowly, with life experiences and baby steps, from high school to university to a working environment and the real world, watching our friends grow into adults, observing our changing needs and desires, understanding our lives changing and learning the ability to accept it – this is how a girl, any girl, must realize that she is no longer a girl. That she is indeed a woman.

But this world doesn’t work like that anymore. In this world, women walk around scared and insecure because they have been pushed to grow up. Because our societies have started perceiving us as women before we could even understand the complex simplicity of that word.

The 23-year-old intern in Delhi, gang raped by a boy who shouldn’t have known that much and men who should have known better.  The number of people who pointed their fingers at her for getting in that bus in the first place. Here’s an idea. Maybe, she didn’t know that much yet. Maybe she was still that little girl who believed that the world was filled with superheroes. That every man was a brother, a father, a best friend. That when they look at her, they would see the child that they can befriend, not the body that they can use.

The 24-year-old techie in Chennai, gang raped. People came up with a million reasons. She should’ve known better than to walk alone in the middle of the night. “She should’ve known better.” Ever think that maybe she needed more time to know better? That maybe, just maybe, she didn’t see what the society saw? But we don’t care. She’s 24 ! She’s a woman who should’ve known better !

That’s the thing. Being a certain age isn’t what makes us women. We don’t turn 21 and suddenly say “OHMYGOD ! I’M A WOMAN !” No. We need time, patience, life lessons and lots of experience before we become women.

And no matter what, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING EVER JUSTIFIES A MAN TOUCHING A GIRL / WOMAN WITHOUT HER PERMISSION.

I’m still a girl. I’m insecure. I walk in fear of who to trust and who to take three steps away from. I accuse every man who looks my way of wrong thoughts. Just because..

I had to endure a doctor move his hand that inch too close, the man on the street wink and make kissing faces, the guy I’ve known since I was two-years-old ask me if I wanted to “go grab a drink after hours” and the society that tells me that all of the above is my fault. Don’t look. Don’t smile. Don’t wear what you want. Don’t do what you feel like doing. And never ever let a man too close, doesn’t matter who he is.

I honestly don’t know if it’s the society’s fault or the men’s. But I do know that something has to change. Drill it into everyone’s brains if we have to but we need to make them understand that while you’re looking at someone you’d like to use, she’s looking at someone she believes will protect her from someone like you..