Thursday, November 17, 2011

0 Safe(ci)ty for women

From the place where I board the office bus to my house, its hardly a 2 minute walk. Its a very busy road and it is a challenge to cross over when needed. One of the days, a young boy who must be around 16 years tried to grapple me when I was entering my house gate. Somehow I managed to wriggle out but my screaming was totally dampened by the traffic. There was so much anger that I wished that I had at least slapped him or kicked him. But it happened so fast that I had no time to react! From then on I am quite anxious when a motorcycle or a cyclist comes too near.

I have heard this from friends that Chennai is comparatively a safer city than Delhi and Bangalore.
But is this safety measured only on the number of rapes? Do women feel unsafe only because of rape? What about the stares that we get, the attitude with which men address you and the work culture at office? What about the innumerable instances when you feel helpless and wish you had some supernatural power to attack or curse a man?

I know that Delhi is pretty unsafe but when it comes to Bangalore its not so. I have lived in Bangalore and not had too many unpleasent experiences. I can dress the way I want and not too many people stare at me. There have been instances where men have misbehaved. But when it comes to Chennai, even if I am covered head to toe (extra toppings like duppatta are also added), men find enough reasons to make me feel that I am not covered at all.

There was this taxi guy who used to call out names everyday. He used to stop in front of the bus stand (I used to be all alone in the stop at that time) and lower the car windows and just look at me. I ignored this for another 2 months. But it gave me quite a scare when one day he got down from the car. That is when I informed my parents and my dad had to become my savior for the next few days. Its nothing embarrassing but I hate the fact that we need men to protect us from other men. When I am totally independent this thought arouses some kind of inadequacy.

Then there is office itself. You will find that women have to take pride in covering up. Women who dress in western formals or sleeveless are pulled by managers and advised on how to dress in a better manner. This is what they mean: As a women you are supposed to analyze your breasts and accordingly fold your dupatta in the right size and in a v-shape. This should be put across the shoulders and held using safety pins lest they expose your precious stuff. And if you dont do this you are giving permission to each and every man to ogle at them.It is their privilege since they are men. And you are being provocative.

I noticed the cafeteria lady today. She is using her dupatta like a pallu of a saree - going from the right shoulder onto her hips - similar to how you tie a dupatta during dance practice. But here she is just distributing tokens.

Throughout, the illusion of 'Safety' is provided because you use safety pins, dupattas and have men who accompany you everywhere. Despite all this, if something goes wrong, definitely its because of the woman who is careless in dressing and miss the daily dose of safety pins.


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