Monday, January 29, 2007

Nameless. Faceless. Piece of Ass.

I usually do not post about my experiences of sexual harrassment or molestation. The one post that I did on something related was this, and a bit here. But tonight, I think I need to rant.

I don't remember a time that I have stepped out of my house and then come back again without having been subjected to a single suggestive or obscene remark or a lewd gesture or a pointed song or a grope or some such attempt. And it all counts, it all matters, it all adds up as I live my life everyday, live with the fact that I have a female body.

My first recollection of being made to feel uncomfortable by a man is of a man on the bus licking his lips and winking at me. I was in class three, then. Then there was the time when I was in class six, and a man at Howrah station grabbed my breast while passing me by. On another occasion at Howrah station, when my mother saw a man approaching me with his hand outstretched and about to make a grab, she swung a bagful of coconuts at him; he ran, once he'd recovered his balance, and got lost in the crowd. And on another occasion, when a man brushed his hand across my crotch, I hit him across the back with my umbrella, making him sprawl on the footpath; satisfying. But the number of times that I have reacted is not even a fraction of the number of times that I have been abused. And yes, it is abuse. When I say that I have never stepped out of my house without being subjected to some kind of incident or the other, merely because I have a vagina, I mean it seriously, without exaggeration.

Every woman who has travelled via public transportation has had at some point or the other had an erection pressed into her butt, a hand squeeze her breast as it reaches for the door, been stripped down to her skin with eyes. Which might of course beg the question whether every man who uses public transport in Calcutta subjects someone or the other to such treatment, but thankfully that is NOT the case, and nice men do exist.

Yesterday, while I was walking down Jodhpur Park, a man walked past, jabbing his elbow into my breast. Less than a minute after, a tall man looked down at me, wrapped in my huge sweater, and muttered 'chodon'. A few months ago, at the engineering side of campus, a man—presumably a student
followed me for a while and tried breathing down my neck and whispering to me until I turned around and accosted him; he took fright and ran away. The week before last, three boys—teenagers, not even grown men—cornered me in a dimly lit corner of an empty-ish street that leads up to my house and tried asking me what my name was; they went away when I told them to fuck off and kept walking, but I don't know what I would have done if they hadn't done so; I was gripping my knife in my pocket, but I doubt whether I would have been able to use it, or whether it would have been in any way effective against three people bigger and stronger than me; I don't use that stretch anymore. And a couple of years ago, there was the Ambassador that passed me by on the street, and three men stuck their heads out of three windows, and waggled their tongues out at me and made groping gestures in the air.

And tonight, as I was walking home from the bus stop—two blocks before my house—I was turning a corner when two men on a bicycle overtook me, and the one who was riding pillion smacked me on the butt. And there was NOTHING that I could do. I shouted. But it was pretty pointless, as the cycle simply whizzed past me and turned another corner, and disappeared out of sight. They didn't even turn around. I didn't see their faces. They didn't see mine. Isn't it nice when you're just a piece of ass and even your face doesn't need to be looked at? The only thing I know about the men is that the one who did it was wearing an orange t-shirt, and the other one was wearing black. They could be anyone. It was humiliating, and I was so fucking frustratingly helpless. I came home in tears. The first time in many many years. This is not the worst experience of its kind that I've had, but I think I have rarely been so helpless, felt so impotent.

It is NOT about what a woman is wearing. It is NOT about what she's doing. It is NOT about who she is with. It doesn't make a damned bit of difference what she looks like. Piece of ass, tits, a pussy. That's all that matters.

I know all the safety measures. Don't walk alone. Get somebody to drop you home if it's late. Be alert. Be confident. Avoid certain streets. But how many streets must I stop walking? HOW many? And must I?

Nameless faceless men—to whom I am just a nameless faceless body—how I hate you all.